A student at the University of Hawaii filed a lawsuit on Thursday claiming her First Amendment rights were violated when she was ordered to stop handing out copies of the U.S. Constitution to fellow students.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii, claims an administrator ordered plaintiff Merritt Burch and another student to stop approaching students to hand out the copies. Burch is in the HU Hilo chapter of Young Americans for Liberty.
Both Burch and her friend, the complaint alleges, were at an outdoor event featuring other student groups who were distributing literature from various tables set up for that purpose. Burch claims she left her table and approached other students, and an administrator told her and her friend to get behind their table.
Burch then claims she protested about her rights and the administrator dismissed them.
A week after the incident, another administrator allegedly told Burch and fellow student Anthony Vizzone that if they wanted to protest, the proper place would be in the university’s “free speech zone.” The administrator also allegedly said, “This isn’t really the ‘60s anymore” and “people can’t really protest like that anymore.”
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education is assisting in this lawsuit as it did in the case of a California student who also was ordered to stop handing out copies of the Constitution, which occurred on Constitution Day. His lawsuit was settled in late February.
“So far this academic year, students have twice been prohibited from distributing the Constitution on a public campus, less than four months apart. That is absolutely unacceptable,” said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff.
“The First Amendment is not optional at public colleges—it’s the law. Enforcing restrictive ‘free speech zone’ policies that prevent students from passing out copies of the Constitution is impossible to justify,” Lukianoff said.