Statement on Columbia State’s Violation of First Amendment

FRANKLIN, Tenn. (June 20, 2013) – David Fowler, President of The Family Action Council of Tennessee, made the following statement in response to an incident at Columbia State Community College and the implications on First Amendment rights:

The recent letter from Alliance Defending Freedom to the President of Columbia State Community College demonstrates the kind of hostility toward First Amendment rights that exists in the counseling-related fields of study in our state’s public colleges. It is also a prime example of why the Tennessee House of Representatives should join the state Senate in passing legislation to protect the constitutional rights of students in our public colleges in counseling-related fields of study.

It is outrageous that the lead faculty member in the Psychology Department at Columbia State Community College forced her students to wear rainbow ribbons outside of the classroom in support of homosexual behavior in order to receive class credit. Worse yet, she also instructed them that, if asked, they were to explain that they were showing support for the homosexual community and its political agenda. It is a classic case of government-coerced speech.

To the state Senate’s credit, it overwhelmingly passed legislation last year that protected the First Amendment rights of students in our public colleges who must fulfill a counseling internship requirement in order to graduate. The bill allowed a student counselor to have a client referred to another counselor if the goal to be achieved by the counseling would force the student counselor to violate his or her strongly held religious beliefs.

The situation at Columbia State demonstrates the kind of hostility by liberal faculty members in our public colleges that exists towards those who do not share their political and social views. It should provide the state House of Representatives all the proof it needs to join the Senate by passing House Bill 1185 next year.

House Bill 1185, sponsored by Rep. John DeBerry (D-Memphis), is pending before the House Education Subcommittee. The companion bill, Senate Bill 514, was sponsored by Sen. Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald) and passed the Senate in March by a vote of 22 to 4.