A Maryland college student has filed a lawsuit against her community college after school officials denied her request to start a conservative club on campus — a choice that she said infringes on her First Amendment rights.
Moriah DeMartino, a 22-year-old political science major, said the fight with HCC began after she requested to launch a Turning Point USA chapter at Hagerstown Community College and was told by college administrators that if she wanted to start a group that was conservative in nature, a club specifically for Democrats would have to be started at the same time. The email to DeMartino also said that students cannot “start new clubs that duplicate the purpose and mission of existing clubs,” according to a blog post on Turning Point USA’s website.
According to HCC’s website, the public college’s only other political clubs include the Spectrum Club with a mission centered around LGBT issues, a National Organization for Women club that DeMartino said is more left-leaning and a general political science club.
Despite her numerous efforts and a letter from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education to get HCC’s administration to have a change a heart regarding a policy that DeMartino and FIRE called “unconstitutional,” the school does not seem to be budging. So DeMartino decided to sue using a private lawyer — a decision that she told TheBlaze was difficult to make.
“My ideal outcome would be that they reverse their policy and openly and willingly accept other students on campus for their views — whether it be political or not,” DeMartino said in an interview with TheBlaze. “I just want every student to see what’s going on on campus and realize that they not just have their rights, but can take legal action if they have to if it comes to that.”
“It has been a very overwhelming and stressful situation, but I know it has to be done,” DeMartino said.
In a statement to TheBlaze, Turning Point USA’s founder Charlie Kirk called the school’s decision “censorship, pure and simple.”
“Turning Point USA is a non-partisan group that educates students on fiscal responsibility. We are not partisan and our mission cannot be combined with other political groups,” Kirk said. “Hagerstown Community College is playing political games and we have had enough.”
The mission of Turning Point USA, according to its website, is to “identify, educate, train and organize students to promote the principles of fiscal responsibility, free markets and limited government.”
DeMartino said she wasn’t able to submit a formal application to start the club as she was denied before she could even do so.
“I don’t understand how they can deny me whenever I hadn’t even put in an application,” she said.
The political science major said she has seen support from her peers — some of who have told her unequivocally that they would join the Turning Point USA chapter if it was allowed on campus — and faculty, although she said she was aware that some faculty members were afraid of supporting her outright as they could face repercussions or even lose their jobs.
But for now, DeMartino is standing by her decision which she said was reaffirmed by the number of organizations that exist simply to help students fight for their rights on public college campuses.
“Mostly my priority is my free speech right, is what it comes down to,” she said. “I don’t believe [HCC] has a right to tell a student, ‘we can’t have a political club on campus because it’s duplicating.’”
HCC did not respond to requests for comment from TheBlaze over the weekend.