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University to undergo free speech training, pay $80,000 in settlement for allegedly issuing 'no-contact orders' against student, instructing peers to report her 'harmful' Christian, political views
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University to undergo free speech training, pay $80,000 in settlement for allegedly issuing 'no-contact orders' against student, instructing peers to report her 'harmful' Christian, political views

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville will pay $80,000 in a recent settlement agreement with a graduate student who accused the school of wrongfully issuing "no-contact orders" against her and instructing her peers to report her "harmful rhetoric."

Maggie DeJong and Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit against the school after the student claimed she was discriminated against for sharing her Christian and conservative political views.

Three of the school's professors have been ordered to undergo First Amendment training as part of the settlement agreement. Additionally, the university has been required to revise its policies and student handbook to protect students' political, religious, and ideological views.

In February 2022, school officials issued "no-contact orders" against DeJong after some of her peers reported her comments about religion, politics, critical race theory, Black Lives Matter, Marxism, censorship, COVID-related regulations, and the criminal justice system.

Students accused DeJong of "harassment" and "discrimination," claiming her rhetoric had "harmed and offended" them, according to the ADF's lawsuit.

Examples of DeJong's so-called "harmful rhetoric" included social media posts where the student shared others' quotes, including one from January 6, 2021, that read, "Storming the US Capitol is a set back for our cause. It undermines the purpose of the PEACEFUL protest. To the very small minority of protesters trying to break into the Capitol, please stop. We are better than this; we cannot destroy this country like BLM riots!"

DeJong also shared a quote from pastor and author John MacArthur: "Those who dare to take an unpopular stand, declare truth in a definitive way — or worst of all, express disagreement with someone else's teaching — will inevitably be marked as troublesome. Compromise has become a virtue while devotion to truth has become offensive."

DeJong was prohibited from having "any contact" with the peers who reported her and was never allowed to defend herself.

In a Wednesday statement, ADF legal counsel Mathew Hoffman said, "Public universities can't punish students for expressing their political and religious viewpoints. Maggie, like every other student, is protected under the First Amendment to respectfully share her personal beliefs, and university officials were wrong to issue gag orders and silence her speech."

"As a result of Maggie's courage in filing suit, SIUE has agreed to take critical steps to comply with the law and the U.S. Constitution and move closer to accepting and embracing true diversity of thought and speech," he added.

SIUE Chancellor James T. Minor noted that the school is "unequivocally committed to protecting First Amendment rights and does not have policies that restrict free speech nor support censorship," Fox News Digital reported.

"For decades, universities have embraced the challenge of vigorously protecting free speech while at the same time creating a safe learning environment for the expression of diverse views," he continued. "Protecting these two principles can create tensions. For example, while the First Amendment protects free speech (no matter how offensive), it does not protect behavior on a campus that creates a pervasively hostile environment for other students. We accept that balancing these two deeply valued principles of free speech and a safe environment, in real-time, represent inherent complications for administering prudence."

Minor encouraged people to "see beyond the sensationalism of clickbait, media reports and headlines in search of a more complete understanding of the facts."

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Candace Hathaway

Candace Hathaway

Candace Hathaway is a staff writer for Blaze News.
@candace_phx →