Colorado University Yanks Free Speech Over Bible Reference

Removed all donor nameplates to "purge any trace of free expression from the facility.”

For its new athletic facility, the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado, initiated a program that allowed donors to be honored with a personalized plaque featuring their name and a short inscription. 

Donations came in and the nameplates went up; some said, "Give 'Em Hell," others, "OK Gentlemen, it's time to gird your loins," and "Take your whiskey clear." But when a former football player wanted to include two Bible verses on his, the school rejected the idea, citing violations of the First Amendment.

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) group sided with 2003 alumnus, and former defensive nose tackle, Michael Lucas in bringing a lawsuit against the school. But on Friday, the case was dropped because CSM suddenly decided to abolish the fundraising program entirely and proceeded to remove all of the installed nameplates.

“Public colleges are supposed to be a marketplace of ideas, but the School of Mines has indicated it prefers anti-religious hostility,” ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer said. “It’s ridiculous and sad that the school felt the need to punish everyone who participated in the program simply because it could not stomach a Bible reference on one plaque – a reference that was not even going to include the text of the verses.”

CSM President Paul Johnson sent a letter to inform the other donors of his decision and offered a transfer of their funds to another nameplate program that will not include personalized messages. As ADF pointed out, "Although the original program allowed individuals to express a personalized message on their nameplates without any stated restrictions, the school oddly claims in the letter that it didn’t intend to allow 'individual expression.'”

ADF Senior Counsel David Hacker explains:

The school initially imposed no restrictions – or even guidelines – on the type of message a donor could include, and contrary to what the school argued, the First Amendment protects – not restricts – a simple reference to a Bible verse in this context. Because the school apparently feared a simple Scripture reference would be like asbestos on the locker room walls, it decided to purge any trace of free expression from the facility.

Lucas made a donation of $2,500 and wanted his plaque to include "Colossians 3:23 and Micah 5:9." CSM objected because the Colossians verse referenced "the Lord."