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PRESS RELEASE: Heartland Institute Experts React to Arrest of College Students Distributing Constitutions at Public College

January 23, 2017

"The students at ... are heroes of the movement to protect free speech on America’s college campuses, and they should be applauded for their refusal to accept the mandates of a clearly tyrannical college administration." - Teresa Mull

declaration of independence

On Wednesday, January 18, the Alliance Defending Freedom – representing Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), a nationwide student group advocating pro-liberty policies, and two students – filed suit against Kellogg Community College (KCC) in Battle Creek, Michigan, for violating students’ First Amendment rights. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, alleges three YAL students were arrested and forced to spend the night in county jail in September 2016 for handing out pocket-sized Constitutions and speaking to students about government reform “in an open, generally accessible area” on campus without first receiving a permit.

According to the suit: “When Mrs. Gregoire, Mr. Withers, and three associates sought to engage interested students in conversation about freedom and liberty on campus, Defendants claimed that they were impeding students’ access to education, even though they were not blocking sidewalks, impeding access to buildings, or pursuing students who were not willing to converse. When Plaintiffs politely informed KCC officials that they planned to continue to exercise their First Amendment rights, Defendants arrested Mrs. Gregoire and two of her associates, jailed them, and charged them with trespassing, charges that were quickly dismissed.”

The following statements from education policy experts at The Heartland Institute – a free-market think tank – may be used for attribution. For more comments, refer to the contact information below. To book a Heartland guest on your program, please contact Director of Communications Jim Lakely at and 312/377-4000 or (cell) 312/731-9364.

“College campuses are no longer the bastions of free thought and expression they once were. Riddled with ‘safe spaces’ and ‘trigger warnings,’ U.S. higher education is becoming increasingly unsafe for those, regardless of political ideology, who support open discourse. As the arrests at Kellogg Community College show, it’s not even safe to distribute copies of governing U.S. law anymore.

“The students at Kellogg Community College are heroes of the movement to protect free speech on America’s college campuses, and they should be applauded for their refusal to accept the mandates of a clearly tyrannical college administration.”

Justin Haskins
Executive Editor
The Heartland Institute

Mr. Haskins is a former member of Young Americans for Liberty.

“Such an assault on free speech would be shameful under any circumstance, but the fact that it happened to students trying to inform their classmates about the liberties the Constitution protects makes it all the more appalling. This incident is another on a long list of institutions violating the rights of students whose views don’t conform to the politically correct mold. If such behavior is left unchecked, the rights and freedoms we enjoy as United States citizens will quickly become a thing of the past.”

Teresa Mull
Research Fellow, Education Policy
The Heartland Institute
Managing Editor, School Reform News

“Arresting students for passing out copies the Constitution at an institution of higher learning – under the guise of obstructing learning – shows just how much higher education has failed American students. These school officials and officers need to relearn the Constitution, especially the First Amendment. The Constitution should be required learning, not obstructive learning.”

Lennie Jarratt
Project Manager, Center for Transforming Education
The Heartland Institute

“Having taken over college and university administrations decades ago, higher education administrators fear and hate any dissent. They hold the power, and they are not going to give it up without a fierce fight. Their use of police to suppress knowledge of the Constitution and harass those who profess respect for it should send a chill down the spine of anyone who believes in freedom.”

S.T. Karnick
Director of Research
The Heartland Institute

Article Tags
Constitutional Reform
Justin Haskins is an executive editor and research fellow at The Heartland Institute. @JustinTHaskins
Teresa Mull is a policy advisor for education at The Heartland Institute. @SchoolReform
Lennie Jarratt is the project manager for the Center for Transforming Education at The Heartland Institute. @LennieJarratt
S.T. Karnick is the director of publications for The Heartland Institute.