Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Attorney Praises Plaintiff's Courage, Calls Washington College's Policies Some of "Worst Ever Seen"

AIW spoke with Alliance Defence Fund (ADF) attorney Heather Hacker about the significance of the recent free-speech victory in the Spokane Falls Community College case. Ms. Hacker said while some might think this was just a case involving a few students and a small community college somewhere in eastern Washington, "it's definitely much bigger than that".

She said that's not only because the policy changes they secured apply to the entire Community Colleges of Spokane district, but also because the details of the ruling send a message for any nearby university systems as to how they would fare in court if they attempted something similar against their students.

She also pointed out that it's not just a victory for pro-life or Christian students, but for all students. "Spokane Community College officials are now much more aware of the Constitutional rights of their students."

"Unconstitutional on their Face"

Ms. Hacker also told AIW that this was one of the most egregious cases of free speech violations she has ever seen. "The facts of this case were unbelievable," she said.

"The policies even before they were applied were already some of the worst we've ever seen, but the fact that the college went ahead and applied them was incredible."

She pointed out that they knew they were on solid legal ground from the outset, since the judge enjoined the policies orally at the preliminary injunction hearing. "These policies were unconstitutional on their face."

In the end, it was a total victory. "Every policy we challenged they agreed to change," said Ms. Hacker. "We felt it was a complete win."

All this raises the question as to what GOP Attorney General Rob McKenna was doing spending six months defending these outrageous policies. Ms. Hacker confirmed that McKenna, who was ultimately the defendant in the case, had the option of ceding the argument at the outset and not mounting a defense, which would have saved the taxpayer's lots of money, and the plaintiffs lots of stress.

Mr. McKenna's strategy for currying support for his future political ambitions with the base of the Republican Party remains confusing at best.

"Takes Courage"

Ms. Hacker also praised the bravery of the plaintiff, Beth Sheeran. "It takes courage to stand up to your university. You've got to be brave to do this." Despite the extreme nature of the unconstitutionality of the college's policies, legally "we couldn't have brought this case if Beth hadn't stood up for her rights," she explained.

These policies had been in place for some time because no-one else had challenged them, through self-censorship and fear.

"It's just going to get worse and worse if no-one challenges these kinds of restrictions," she added, pointing out that all Christians should be concerned, because ultimately it means a loss of ability even to share the Gospel.

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