University settles suit over distribution of religious tracts

NEW ORLEANS — A lawsuit filed after a Messianic Jew was blocked from distributing a religious tract at the University of New Orleans because it might offend some people has been settled.

The American Center for Law and Justice, which filed the suit on behalf of New Orleans missionary Michelle Beadle, said on Aug. 16 that UNO had revised its policy regarding free speech on campus and agreed to permit Beadle to distribute her tracts.

At issue was a tract that asserted that almost any subject is acceptable for polite conversation, but one statement still triggers an angry response from people: “Jews should believe in Jesus.”

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The suit, filed last year in federal court in New Orleans, alleged that university policy, which requires religious material to be presented to a university official for approval, lacked sufficient guidelines for determining whether the material could be distributed.

ACLJ senior counsel Stuart Roth said religious material distributed on the campus no longer must be reviewed.

“We had a governmental official who, in their sole discretion, was given sole authority to decide what First Amendment activities could take place based solely upon that official’s opinion of what might offend someone. That’s been eliminated,” Roth said.

Roth said that some people might find Beadle’s tract offensive, but “that’s exactly why we have the First Amendment, so people can speak on issues that might be controversial.

The university did not have an immediate comment.

Beadle is not a student at the university, but that fact did not affect the case, Roth said.

“People are normally allowed to go on public campuses and engage in protected free-speech activities,” he said.

UNO agreed to pay $25,000 in attorney’s fees, Roth said.


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Associated Press, USA
Aug. 17 2004
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Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday August 18, 2004.
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