The state may soon be heading to court after a program featuring a white nationalist was booted off the Texas A&M campus, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
Organizer Preston Wiginton, who has threatened legal action, says he filed a complaint with the ACLU over cancelation. If he argues that his First Amendment rights were violated, South Texas College of Law Professor Gerald Treece thinks he's got a shot.
"I applaud A&M for wanting to avoid violence, but just on straight First Amendment law, I just don't think the school can engage in viewpoint discrimination," he tells Newsradio 1200 WOAI.
The school announced late Monday that they were canceling the event at Rudder Plaza on campus on September 11 because of concerns about the safety of its students, faculty, staff, and the public.
"Texas A&M’s support of the First Amendment and the freedom of speech cannot be questioned," the University said. "On December 6, 2016 the university and law enforcement allowed the same speaker the opportunity to share his views, taking all of the necessary precautions to ensure a peaceful event. However, in this case, circumstances and information relating to the event have changed and the risks of threat to life and safety compel us to cancel the event,"
Texas A&M changed its policy after December’s protests so that no outside individual or group could reserve campus facilities without the sponsorship of a university-sanctioned group. None of the 1200-plus campus organizations invited Wiginton nor did they agree to sponsor his events in December 2016 or on September 11 of this year.
Treece says the Supreme Court has made it clear that "secondary effects" cannot be used prohibit free speech. He thinks the school's lawyers could argue that they have the same power as cities, which use zoning laws to restrict sexually oriented businesses.
"The reason governments can regulate adult theaters or bookstores are because they attract crime," he explains.
That tactic has not been tested for non-sexually oriented businesses, which could make this case a first.