Anti-discrimination policies and the First Amendment

Why public Illinois colleges allow H.O.M.E onto their campuses

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Anti-discrimination policies and the First Amendment

Students and the members of H.O.M.E. debating on their beliefs about the LGBT+ community.

Students and the members of H.O.M.E. debating on their beliefs about the LGBT+ community.

Kristen Flojo

Students and the members of H.O.M.E. debating on their beliefs about the LGBT+ community.

Kristen Flojo

Kristen Flojo

Students and the members of H.O.M.E. debating on their beliefs about the LGBT+ community.

Juan Castillo, Staff Writer

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Heterosexuals Organized for a Moral Environment (H.O.M.E.) visited the Elgin Community College campus to hand out flyers and speak to students about their beliefs regarding homosexuality on Oct. 24-25 in Building B. H.O.M.E. has visited the ECC campus multiple times in the past, and their presence on campus regularly angers and upsets several members of the student body and faculty.

ECC is not the only school to experience this either. Waubonsee Community College denied H.O.M.E’s request to hand out flyers on their schools campus in 2014. According to Amanda Geist, the Executive Director of Marketing and Communications at WCC, the denial came after the group’s previous visits had been deemed too distracting to the school’s learning environment.

“Their presence in our school became increasingly disruptive to our mission of providing our students with an education,” Geist said. “So, we then decided to not allow them on our campus any longer.”

Similar to WCC, visitations from this group on the ECC campus had previously often ended with loud arguments and shouting matches between students and the members of H.O.M.E.

After the group’s access to the WCC campus was denied the group contacted the Rutherford Institute who then filed a lawsuit against the school over a claim of a violation of their first amendment right to free speech. The lawsuit was settled on Jan. 21, 2015. In the settlement, the school agreed to allow the group on the campus every other year for the next 10 years. The school also paid a total of $132,000 in fees.

After the settlement of the lawsuit, the school’s general policy on solicitations and tabling stayed the same, but the students and faculty of WCC took a different approach on how to handle the visitations from the group and any others like them.

“One of the things I noticed [that was] different about their last visit on campus was that students turned to a professor for help,” Geist said. “He helped guide them on how to have difficult discussions with people with opposing views and engaged in a more constructive discussion with his students.”

ECC’s policy is generally the same as all other public colleges and universities in Illinois. The school cannot legally deny access to H.O.M.E. regardless of their beliefs or ideals.

“The college has an obligation, under the Illinois Constitution and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, not to discriminate against groups seeking to engage in speech activities on campus based on the content of their message,”  said Toya Webb the Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at ECC. “Discriminating in such a way would also be inconsistent with the college’s interests as an academic institution in fostering an environment that promotes freedom of expression.”

According to Webb, although the school still upholds and enforces its anti-discriminatory and anti-harassment policies, it cannot deny anyone their right to speak their minds. This is why for the past several years, ECC students have received an email blast from school officials letting them know of any of H.O.M.E.’s upcoming visits and informing them that while the school has to legally allow the group on campus, the school itself is not promoting any of their ideas or beliefs.