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College of Charleston student group sues, alleging censorship and discrimination

College of Charleston.
College of Charleston. Flickr

A group of students have filed a federal lawsuit against the College of Charleston for allegedly violating their right to free speech.

The lawsuit, filed by South Carolina Politics Club and members Jeremy Turner and Adam Gainey, alleges the College of Charleston repeatedly refused to recognize the group — which describes itself as “student-led” and “non-partisan” — as an official, registered student organization. Without that designation, the group is unable to reserve space, invite speakers or access school funds, according to the complaint, filed Tuesday.

A spokesman for the College of Charleston declined to comment, as the college does not comment on pending litigation.

The college denied the South Carolina Politics Club’s application because it is too similar to other, non-partisan, political student organizations, according to the complaint. When the club appealed the decision, the university told members in order to become a recognized group, it would have to either change its views or assimilate into another, existing group at the College of Charleston, according to the complaint.

Alliance Defending Freedom, an Arizona-based nonprofit that represents First Amendment cases throughout the country, is representing the club.

“Their ability to communicate their message...hinges on them being a recognized student group,” said Tyson Langhofer, an attorney at Alliance Defending Freedom who is representing the club. “This lawsuit is really about making universities the marketplace of ideas again.”

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