Student Sues Tenn. College for Strict Faith-Sharing Policy

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Copyright Associated Press

A Pellissippi State Community College
student is suing the school for violating his First Amendment rights.
The Knoxville, Tenn., college has prohibited Mark Dew from speaking
about his faith and handing out free religious literature on campus.

Campus police told Dew, 44, he could not
“preach” and distribute literature because sharing one’s faith
is prohibited under the Tennessee Board of Regents’ “solicitation”
policy enforced at the college, which requires individual students to
apply three weeks prior to speaking or dispensing literature and then
pay a $30 fee.

“Christian students at public
colleges shouldn’t be deterred from sharing their beliefs because
of burdensome, unconstitutional policies,” says Casey Mattox, legal
counsel for ADF, which filed the lawsuit on Dew’s behalf. “First
Amendment-protected rights never come with a price tag or waiting
period, and college students don’t lose them simply by walking onto

The lawsuit contends that Dew was
acting peacefully and “sought to engage in discussion of his
religious beliefs and distribution of free literature about his

A PSCC police officer warned Dew in
October that speaking about his faith and handing out religious
literature on campus was prohibited under a “no soliciting” rule
enforced on campus, even though he wasn’t selling anything.

School officials informed Dew a month
later that he could not speak about his faith or hand out Christian
literature because he was an individual and not part of a recognized
student group.

According to, however, Dew
was still censored even after he connected with the Pellissippi
Collegiate Ministry, a Christian organization that had approval from
Pellissippi to hold a limited number of religious functions on
campus. A school official informed Dew he could speak about his faith
only during specific ministry events.

A different campus security officer
approached Dew in the spring semester, yelling and forcefully
commanding him to cease his activities because of the “no
solicitation policy.”

Andrew Fox, an ADF attorney and lead
counsel for Dew, sent a letter in February to school officials,
stating that the policy requiring individual students to submit an
application 14 business days in advance before charging a $30 fee—if
accepted—is a violation of student rights protected by the First
Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. An attorney for the Tennessee
Board of Regents defended the policy, claiming that it was
“reasonable and viewpoint neutral.”

Dew applied three weeks
ahead of time and paid the $30 fee so he could share his faith Wednesday
during the first full week of the summer semester.

Photo used for illustration purposes only.

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