A newly released video shows a Clemson University official admitting he told a man to stop praying on the school’s campus because he wasn’t in a “designated free speech area” and hadn’t applied to engage in “solicitation.”
The school is defending the official, arguing it would actually have violated the Constitution to not stop the man’s prayer.
The video shows a confrontation between Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) member Kyra Palange and Clemson official Shawn Jones, shortly after Jones allegedly halted a public prayer session by telling the organizer he needed a permit for his action.
According to Palange, the lead-up to the video happened as follows:
I was walking across the grassy area near Fort Hill after class at about 3:15 when I saw someone sitting in a folding chair. Next to him was another folding chair with an 8×10 sign that said PRAYER. I approached him and we sat down to pray for a few minutes. When we finished, a man from the university approached us and said he could not be praying there because it was not a ‘designated free speech area’ and presented the person who was praying with a form for the procedures for applying for ‘solicitation’on campus. He told him he had to leave.
After the interaction, Palange followed the school official and recorded a brief one-minute exchange between the two.
In the video, Jones confirms that the man had been ordered to file a permit to hold his prayer event in a given area.
“With him not being a student or faculty or staff, he has to go through the proper procedures in order to [do this] … this is not a designated free speech area,” Jones says in the video.
Clemson officials strongly dispute the claim they’re suppressing any kind of religious expression. (RELATED: Clemson Knew Hate Crime Was Bogus, Didn’t Tell Anybody)
“Many members of the Clemson family pray regularly on our campus without incident,” spokesman Mark Land said in a statement given to The Daily Caller News Foundation. “The university does, however, make a distinction between individuals and groups affiliated with the university and those that are not for the purposes of holding gatherings and events.”
The praying man, Land said, was not affiliated with a campus group, and he was allegedly soliciting because he had put up a sign inviting passersby to join him in prayer. Land also argued that the school’s action was directly in accordance with the Constitution, because the school was not giving the man a special exception from school policy because of the content of his speech.
Students and recognized school groups, Land said, are never restricted to free speech zones for their expression.
Still, Clemson has been accused of having overly restrictive free speech policies. The school has a Red Light rating (the lowest) from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which rates schools on their free speech policies.
YAF, which first released the video, was very critical of the claim the school was stopping improper solicitation.
“If an American wants to exercise their religion, they should be able to do it regardless of whether or not they are in a ‘designated free speech area,” spokeswoman Emily Jashinsky said in a statement sent to The Daily Caller News Foundation. “And silently offering prayer to anyone who wants to take part is not ‘solicitation.'”
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