Preacher wins 1st Amendment Rights lawsuit against UT

9:36 AM, Aug 6, 2013   |    comments
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By Brian Haas, The Tennessean

A federal appeals court has ruled in favor of a south-central Kentucky preacher who said the University of Tennessee violated his First Amendment rights by barring him from speaking without approval.

John McGlone, a preacher with Pinpoint Evangelism ministry, has fought the university since 2011, when it told him he no longer could speak on campus without sponsorship from an official student group. He sued the university in federal court, but lost.

McGlone appealed and, last week, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the university's policy was inconsistent and unfair. By requiring sponsorship, the court ruled, the university "opens the door to arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement."

"In addition to failing to ensure fair notice to the citizenry and to set out a clear standard for enforcement, the University's vague sponsorship requirement threatens to chill speech," the court wrote.

University officials did not respond to requests for comment on the ruling Friday and Monday.

McGlone said he was thankful for the court's decision.

"Now, I look forward to UT Knoxville applying some fair standards to allowing outside speakers on the public university campus," McGlone wrote in an email to The Tennessean. "For the last three years UTK has not been open to me. I have missed many students over that time to whom I could have ministered the truths of Jesus Christ and the Bible."

It's the second favorable ruling McGlone has received from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals against a university. In May 2012, the appeals court ruled that Tennessee Tech in Cookeville violated his rights when it kicked him off campus. The college had said McGlone wasn't welcome to speak because he didn't get approval two weeks in advance and disclose what he planned to talk about.

And he isn't done fighting.

On Monday in Franklin, McGlone has said he will make his case appealing a $10 noise fine and $76 in court costs for speaking at 2012's Main Street Festival with an amplifier.

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