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McGlone v. Cheek

From August 2011 to February 2014
University of Tennessee, Knoxville (Public college or university)
Knoxville, Tennessee, United States

Identity of Speakers

  • John McGlone
    Faculty/Staff
    Other

    John McGlone was a Christian minister who frequently traveled to public universities to share his beliefs with students.

Additional Information

  • Incident Nature:
    Other
  • Incident Responses:
    University administration invoked formal speech code in response to incident
    Litigation
  • Incident Status:
    Settled
  • No protest Occured
  • Was Speech Code incident

Summary

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, maintained a policy that stated that required people that were unaffiliated with the University to obtain a University sponsor in order to use open areas of the campus for the purposes of expression.

John McGlone was a Christian minister who frequently traveled to public universities in order to share his beliefs with students. In 2008, McGlone began visiting the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in order to preach to students on open campus areas.

On August 25, 2011, McGlone told University officials that he planned on speaking on campus, as he had done five times before without incident. In response, the University’s Dean of Student Affairs, Maxine Davis, and Associate Dean of Students, Angi Smith, informed McGlone that he would not be permitted to speak on the University’s campus unless he obtained a University sponsor. They stated that sponsorship must be provided by “a registered student group, organization, staff, or faculty.” However, when McGlone reached out to the University’s Assistant General Counsel, Matthew Scoggins, Scoggins informed him that sponsorship could be provided by students, faculty, or staff.   Despite reaching out to ten Christian student organizations, McGlone was unable to secure a University sponsor and thus did not return to the campus.

On August 23, 2011, McGlone filed suit against various University administrators under 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201 and 2202 and 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988, alleging that the University’s sponsorship was unconstitutionally vague and thus violated his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. McGlone filed a Motion for a Preliminary Injunction, which the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee denied, finding that the policy was “well delineated.” The district court then granted the defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. On appeal, the Sixth Circuit reversed the district court’s ruling, finding that the University’s policy was not “well delineated” as it was unclear whether an outside speaker needed to be sponsored by a registered student organization or merely a registered student. The case was settled on February 2, 2014, after the University agreed to amend its policies and Jimmy Cheek, the Chancellor of the University, agreed to pay McGlone $75,000 for infringing on his First Amendment rights.