Miami school faces lawsuit over literature distribution

\nFLORIDA -- Five students at Miami-Dade Community College are\nsuing the school for prohibiting them from handing out written\nmaterial on campus, saying the college's literature distribution\npolicy violates their right to free speech.

The students attempted to distribute business cards with the\nnumber of a local Christian organization written on them in July.\nThey were approached by a security officer who threatened them\nwith arrest and called a local police officer. The police officer\ninformed the students that the college's literature distribution\npolicy barred them from passing out the business cards.

According to the policy, students who wish to distribute literature\non campus must fill out an application form identifying themselves,\ntheir organizational affiliation, the purpose of the distribution,\nthe start and finish of the distribution and its location. They\nmust then submit the application to the student life director\nat least seven days before the distribution takes place. Mat Staver,\nan attorney with the Liberty Counsel, is representing the students.\n

"The policy violates the First Amendment because it requires\nprior review and the review of content prior to distribution,"\nStaver said. "It delays the distribution of literature. There\nare a number of Supreme Court cases that say in order for speech\nto be effective it has to be spontaneous, and if you can't give\nout the information and you have to wait up to a week to get approval,\nthen today's news is tomorrow's bird cage carpet."

Staver said the case is expected to go to trial in early spring.

reports, Winter 1999-2000