Court Revives Preacher’s Challenge to U. of Tennessee’s Speaker Policy

An evangelical Christian preacher’s lawsuit challenging the University of Tennessee at Knoxville’s policy requiring outside speakers to obtain sponsorship can go forward, a federal appeals court has ruled.

The preacher, John McGlone, filed a lawsuit in 2011 asserting that the university’s sponsorship requirement was unconstitutionally vague. A federal judge in Knoxville disagreed and granted the university’s motion to dismiss the case last year.

But in a ruling on Friday, a unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit revived Mr. McGlone’s case. “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,” wrote Judge Boyce F. Martin Jr.

The ruling sends the case back to the lower court, instructing it to grant Mr. McGlone’s request for a preliminary injunction blocking the policy’s enforcement.

Last year the same court also ruled in Mr. McGlone’s favor in a lawsuit he had filed challenging Tennessee Technological University’s policy on outside speakers. That university has since changed its policy, narrowing how much advance notice it must be given, according to the Associated Press.

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