University of Idaho Loses Major Free Speech and Religious Freedom Case

The University of Idaho has lost a major free speech and religious freedom case after a federal judge ruled in favor of three Christian law students at the College of Law. Judge David Nye granted a preliminary injunction in favor of the students who objected to “no contact orders” issued against them. A faculty member, Professor Richard Seamon, was also made the subject of such an order.

Here are the facts from the opinion:

On April 1, 2022, the law school at the University of Idaho held a “moment of community” in response to an anti-LGBTQ+ slur that had been left anonymously on a whiteboard in one of its classrooms in Boise, Idaho. Students, faculty, and staff from the law school gathered in front of the Moscow, Idaho, campus to express support for all students.

Plaintiffs were present at the event. Plaintiffs Perlot, Miller, and Alexander are law students and members of the University’s chapter of the Christian Legal Society (“CLS”). Plaintiff Seamon is a professor at the law school and the CLS faculty advisor. At the event, Plaintiffs gathered in prayer—with members of their society and others—in a showing of support for the LGBTQ+ community. After the prayer concluded, Jane Doe approached the group and asked those present why the CLS constitution affirms that marriage is between one man and one woman. Plaintiff Miller explained that CLS adhered to the traditional biblical view of marriage and sexuality—including the concept that marriage is defined as being between one man and one woman. Jane Doe expressed her opinion that the Bible did not support such a conclusion. Miller explained further that the Bible defines marriage as between one man and one woman in several places and that it condemns homosexuality—along with all other sins. Plaintiff Seamon purportedly affirmed Miller’s explanation of CLS’s position on marriage.

According to both sides, the parties then parted ways without further comment. Shortly after the event, Plaintiff Perlot left a handwritten note on Jane Doe’s carrel. The note read—in its entirety: “I’m the president of CLS this semester. Feel free to come talk to me if you have anything you need to say or questions you want to ask. I’m usually in my carrel: 6-034. over by the windows. Peter [smiley face].”

A few days later, on April 4, 2022, Plaintiffs Perlot and Alexander attended an event with other students regarding the American Bar Association’s accreditation of the law school. According to Plaintiffs, Jane Doe and others raised concerns about CLS and its members—namely that they held religious beliefs that were bigoted and anti-LGBTQ+. Plaintiff Alexander then spoke up, defended CLS, and stated that the biggest instance of discrimination he had seen on campus was actually against CLS and the administration’s failure to timely recognize and register it as a group.

That same day, several students staged “walkouts” for two of the courses taught by Plaintiff Seamon—seemingly in response to his participation at the event on April 1. Also on April 4, Defendant Lindsay Ewan—Deputy Director of OCRI— interviewed Miller about the events that took place during the law school’s community event on April 1. Three days later, on April 7, 2022, Plaintiffs Perlot, Miller, and Alexander received no-contact orders from OCRI. Apparently, Jane Doe reported to OCRI that Plaintiffs’ actions at the events described above left her feeling “targeted and unsafe.” The no-contact orders prohibit Plaintiffs from having any contact with Jane Doe unless they receive advance permission from OCRI. The orders apply on and off campus, do not have termination dates, and state that “[a]ny action deemed to be in violation of this no contact order will be taken seriously and considered retaliation. Further action may be taken by this administration as a result, which could include suspension or expulsion.”

Plaintiffs apparently tried to resolve these issues with the University themselves and then with the aid of legal counsel, but to no avail. This lawsuit followed.

The record is very troubling in the failure of the law school to afford greater protection and respect for the views of this faculty member and these students.

On free speech, the court noted that not only were these plaintiffs exercising protected rights but:

The disparity in Defendants’ approach is what bothers the Court most about this case and leans towards a finding that Defendants’ actions were designed to repress specific speech. Jane Doe approached CLS members at the community event on April 1. She asked them a question. And critically, her question was not “what do you believe on this topic,” but “why do you believe the way you do on this topic?” In other words, Jane Doe knew (at least to some degree) what members of CLS believed on the subject of marriage.15 That she did not agree with the answer Plaintiffs provided is, therefore, not surprising. What is surprising, however, is that Plaintiffs have suffered certain consequences for expressing their personal viewpoints at this event, while Jane Doe has not—even though she expressed opinions contrary to Plaintiffs’ sincerely held religious beliefs. Certainly, there is nothing in the record at this point to suggest that Plaintiffs went to the event to cause disruption or to target certain people.

The court also noted that “Plaintiffs’ right to ‘free exercise’ includes not just the right to believe, but the right to exercise their faith. It encompasses the right to ‘profess whatever religious doctrine one desires,’ Emp. Div., Dep’t of Human Res. v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872, 877 (1990), and to “communicat[e]” those teachings to others, Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church & Sch. v. EEOC, 565 U.S. 171, 199 (2012) (Alito, J., concurring).”

It is distressing to see the lack of support for the expression of these viewpoints at the University of Idaho. However, these students and Professor Seamon have secured a major win for free speech and religious expression. I hope that the University will heed the opinion and not appeal in the interests of these core constitutional rights.

102 thoughts on “University of Idaho Loses Major Free Speech and Religious Freedom Case”

  1. The taxpayers of Idaho will have to foot the bills for this. I wish there were a way to make the various deans, faculty and administrators pay out of their pockets when they discriminate. I’ll bet we would see less discrimination. It’s easy to gamble when you’re betting somebody else’s money.

  2. Liberals are all mentally ill……that’s why logic and facts don’t make sense to them…poor little halfwits

  3. It’s truly astonishing to me that these, “Can’t Understand Normal Thinking” people are allowed to get this far. The audacity that one would need to acquire a lawyer to avoid jail time or fines for simply expressing their views is, as I’ve said, astonishing. It makes one wonder how some could claim to be “liberal” while at the same time contesting the liberty of speaking freely. In what world can anyone consider themselves to be “liberal” while simultaneously attempting to punish that first and foremost liberty we have?

  4. It’s absurd the amount of few but loud “Can’t Understand Normal Thinking” people getting this far in any argument to the point where one must acquire legal representation in an effort to protect one’s liberty. How truly anti-liberal of the so called “liberals”

  5. Mr. Turley, would you please begin the appropriate historival comparisions of these same situations in US history. Most recently the 1950s

  6. The Judge well reasoned this Order. He was an Obama appointee. Who would have thunk it? Get a million dollar settlement each fellows.

  7. 100 Year Old Veteran Breaks Down Crying: “This isn’t the Country We Fought For”

    1. Sorry.

      America has been “fundamentally transformed” into a s——- country by illegal aliens, past and present.

  8. The Left is a totalitarian movement. They are not content for everyone to tolerate them. They demand that they agree with them in thought and deed…or face punishment.

    Jan Doe walked up to a group of people and began questioning their religious beliefs. Stop for a moment and think how this would have turned out if she’d marched up to a Muslim organization and interrogated them on their views on marriage and sexuality, and then subsequently condemned Islam and got a no contact order against them, entirely based on their religious beliefs.

    Not everyone is going to agree with absolutely everything you say and do. Not everyone is going to like what you wear, and how you live your life. This is OK.

    The persecution and harassment of conservatives and Christians, especially, has been an ongoing problem on university campuses across America. This is a prime example.

    The CLS group had prayed in support of the LGBT community. They were aggressively questioned on their religious beliefs, and when it came out that they disagreed with gay marriage and homosexuality, they were harassed. Their entire crime appears to amount to voicing a different opinion.

    We need to resist this forced compliance by the Left. Be brave, speak your mind, and perhaps through repetition, we can teach some of these activists that tolerance goes both ways.

  9. @svelaz

    Sure, you may support freedom of speech as a principle of law but I am quite certain that you would be one of the first to doxx, destroy, suppress, and/or get fired anyone who disagrees with your “woke” progressive views.

    What was the old joke in the USSR? The USSR has freedom of speech but not freedom after speech.


  10. Let me see if I understand this. A LAW student was afraid because people talked to her about their beliefs and got a LAW school to order no contact restrictions on other LAW students.
    This future CHAMPION of the LAW would appear to lack the INTELLECTUAL FORTITUDE to represent clients in ADVERSARIAL proceedings, no?

    1. Excellent synopsis Chief – I want to also point out that the Headline describes this as a loss for the University and Free Speech – it is actually a major WIN, for freedom of speech, as the article states in the last paragraph. Clearly the headline author has an agenda that corresponds with the LGTBQ+ communities desire (in this instance) to repress Christian thought and speech.

  11. Leftists are the bigoted, thuggish, lying, treasonous, self-aggrandizing, racist, pedophilic thieves of our lives, our liberties, our freedoms, our vote and our country.

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