Alliance Defending Freedom has filed suit in federal court on behalf of Maggie DeJong, a graduate student at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville. The law firm says she was punished with three “no-contact” orders in February after students complained about the views she expressed in class and on social media.
"In short,” says ADF attorney Gregg Walters, “she's suing the university because universities cannot discipline students for their political and religious viewpoints, and that's what happened with Maggie DeJong.”
The school, which is part of the Southern Illinois University system, has approximately 12,800 students on its campus. DeJong was enrolled in the school’s art therapy counseling program, where ADF alleges her conservative-leaning political and religious views were unwelcomed and where three students eventually complained to the school. Urged by the offended students to take action, the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity issued three no-contact orders – apparently on behalf of each student – on February 10.
By February 23, however, ADF attorneys were pushing back. The university received a letter from ADF claiming the school had failed to cite a university policy DeJong had violated. Not only had the university failed to follow its own policy, which promises a grievance process, the ADF letter states, barring DeJong from “indirect contact” with the complaining students meant the graduate student was being barred from classroom discussions in which the other students were present. That disrupted her schooling and violated her rights, ADF insisted.
It is not clear from the controversy if university administrators concluded DeJong had crossed a line in expressing her views, meaning the school learned she was berating her classmates, but it no secret that non-closeted conservatives are vastly outnumbered on most college campuses where right-wing views are considered “hate speech” and “microaggressions," and are treated as such by left-wing professors and administrators.
ADF, meanwhile, insists the university all but admitted DeJong was innocent because the no-contact orders were rescinded days after the law firm’s letter arrived. When ADF pressed further and demanded documents related to the no-contact order, the school dropped its investigation of DeJong, ADF also alleges.
According to Walters, ADF filed the lawsuit on behalf of DeJong because unwanted political views should not be subject to discrimination by a public university.
"Maggie didn't violate any rule, any law, or any regulation,” he tells AFN. “And if it can happen to Maggie, it can happen to anyone going off to college."
Student groups such as Students for Life, Turning Point USA, and Young America's Foundation know firsthand that happens every day.
6/6/2022 - First paragraph revised for clarification.