University Forced to Pay Christian Student After Silencing Her
Southern Illinois University (SIU) has reached a settlement with a Christian student, Maggie DeJong, who filed a lawsuit claiming that the university had silenced her conservative political views. The settlement, which amounts to $80,000, was announced by DeJong’s legal team at Alliance Defending Freedom.
Maggie DeJong, a graduate of SIU’s art therapy counseling program, alleged that the university punished her for expressing her conservative views, following complaints from other students. She claimed that the university issued “no contact” orders against her without providing any specific allegations or violations of laws, policies, or rules. The orders prevented her from engaging in any form of communication with the students who had complained about her views.
Attorney Mathew Hoffmann of Alliance Defending Freedom emphasized that public universities cannot punish students for expressing their political and religious viewpoints. He asserted that Maggie, like any other student, is protected under the First Amendment and has the right to respectfully share her personal beliefs. Hoffmann expressed satisfaction with the settlement, highlighting that SIU has agreed to take necessary steps to comply with the law and the U.S. Constitution.
As part of the settlement, SIU has committed to revising its student handbook and policies to ensure that students with varying political, religious, and ideological views feel welcome in the art therapy program. Additionally, three professors will undergo mandatory First Amendment training. These measures aim to foster an environment that embraces true diversity of thought and speech.
Throughout her time at SIU, DeJong frequently expressed her conservative perspective during class discussions on topics such as race relations, religion, and censorship. Her views were not limited to the classroom; she also posted about them on her Instagram account. Some of her notable positions included her pro-life stance, her defense of Kyle Rittenhouse, and her criticism of Critical Race Theory.
The settlement between SIU and Maggie DeJong signifies a victory for free speech on college campuses and serves as a reminder that public universities have a responsibility to protect the First Amendment rights of their students. By revising its policies and providing First Amendment training to professors, SIU aims to create an environment that encourages open dialogue and respects diverse viewpoints.
SIU Chancellor James Minor acknowledged the settlement but urged people to look beyond sensationalized media reports and headlines. He emphasized SIU’s commitment to protecting First Amendment rights and stated that the university does not have policies that restrict free speech or endorse censorship.
The settlement between SIU and Maggie DeJong highlights the importance of protecting free speech rights on college campuses. It serves as a reminder that universities should foster an inclusive environment that welcomes diverse perspectives, including conservative viewpoints. With the revisions to policies and the implementation of First Amendment training, SIU aims to ensure that students like Maggie DeJong can express their beliefs without fear of retribution. This settlement sets a precedent for other universities to prioritize free speech and embrace true diversity of thought and speech.