Writing for Reason, Alex Thomas describes the recent decision by North Carolina State University to amend their campus speech code. In the past, the code “require members to get permission before handing out information about their organization.
As detailed by Thomas, the student group Grace Christian Life argued the policy was “not only unconstitutional but also being unequally applied,” leading the group to file a lawsuit against NC State in April, 2016. The organization’s suit “noted that numerous student groups engaged in similar activities without receiving university permission.”
The lawsuit was settled when the university agreed to change its policy. As a result, student organizations are now allowed to perform “non-commercial solicitation” without prior permission from the administration.
Requiring an organization to obtain a permit to dispense information is a particularly concerning form of censorship because it stifles free speech before speech has even been expressed or heard by an audience. This kind of censorship is often referred to as “prior restraint,” and nearly every jurisdiction in the United States considers it unconstitutional.