DENVER — A former football player at a Colorado university has sued his alma mater for prohibiting him from including a Scripture citation on his donor nameplate.
Michael Lucas formerly was a defensive tackle for the Colorado School of Mines until his graduation in 2003. As the school is planning on building a new athletic facility, Lucas desired to donate.
The university offered to place the names of donors on nameplates that would be displayed in the facility’s new locker room, and the plates could include a message or a quote. According to Lucas’ attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), no restrictions on content were provided.
Lucas presented his donation and included the text that he desired for his nameplate: “Colossians 3:23” and “Micah 5:9.” However, he was soon told that his request could not be accepted because one of the Bible verses uses the word “Lord”—even though the plate would only cite the verses and not contain the text of the Scriptures.
Officials with the Colorado School of Mines then informed Lucas that the plates couldn’t use the words “Lord,” “God” or “Jesus” and couldn’t reference any Bible verses that contained the words. They stated that it would be a violation of the First Amendment to do so.
But Lucas has now filed a federal lawsuit contending that the university’s actions actually violate his First Amendment right to freedom of speech.
“The United States Constitution prohibits the government from treating religion with hostility or from excessively entangling the government with religion,” the formal complaint reads. “The censorship of Mr. Lucas’s religious speech—while permitting similar, but nonreligious, private speech from other members of the public regarding the same and similar subject matters—also constitutes viewpoint discrimination, which is unconstitutional in any type of forum.”
Lucas is seeking an injunction against the university’s policy and a declaration that its restrictions are unconstitutional.
“Public colleges and universities should encourage, not shut down, the free exchange of ideas, especially in a forum like this. The school initially imposed no restrictions—or even guidelines—on the type of message a donor could include, and contrary to what the school is arguing, the First Amendment protects—not restricts—a simple reference to a Bible verse,” ADF Legal Counsel Natalie Decker said in a statement.
“It’s patently ridiculous to argue that a Bible reference that doesn’t include the text of the verse is somehow inappropriate simply because someone might look it up and see that ‘Lord’ is mentioned there” she said.