An evangelist who preaches at campuses nationwide has lost his initial bid to speak at Murray State University in western Kentucky.
A judge ruled Monday that the school’s campus speech policy requiring speakers to obtain on-campus sponsors is legal.
James G. “Brother Jim” Gilles, of Symsonia in western Kentucky, sued the university in 2006, claiming that MSU deprived him of his rights to free speech and to exercise his religion by rejecting his requests to preach at the Curris Center a high-traffic area frequented by students and visitors.
Gilles asked for an injunction suspending the school’s sponsor requirement.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Russell said in his ruling that the requirement is not a burden for Gilles.
“If Plaintiff obtains sponsorship by a student organization or a university department, he is free to speak on campus,” Russell wrote.
Gilles contends that he was not required to have a sponsor before 2004 and that MSU officials are arbitrarily enforcing the student handbook’s solicitation policy.
Since 1981, the year Gilles says he found God while attending a Van Halen concert, the Pentecostal preacher has traveled across the nation to speak at dozens of universities and state capitals.
He’s fought speaking restrictions at other colleges, including the University of Missouri, Virginia Tech, and Vincennes University in Indiana with some success.
The Alliance Defense Fund, a national legal organization founded in part by Christian group Focus on the Family, was representing Gilles in the lawsuit. Nate Kellum, senior legal counsel for the group, declined immediate comment on the ruling. Gilles did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
A message left for Bob Jackson, associate vice president for development and governmental relations at Murray State, was not immediately returned.
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