Campusreform.org and Watchdogwire are reporting that a math professor at Brevard Community College (near Cape Canaveral, Florida) required her students to sign a pledge that said, “I pledge to vote for President Obama and Democrats up and down the ticket.” After school officials received a complaint from a concerned parent, the professor hastily requested leave without pay, and the officials granted it, pending an investigation. Maybe they’ll find she was teaching them something about Electoral College math.
It is a gross violation of a students’ constitutional rights for a professor at a government school to require students to sign a pledge to vote for a certain political candidate. This would violate the students’ right to vote for the candidate of their choice, as well as violate their freedom of speech right against compelled speech (being forced to say something you don’t really believe). Back in 1943, the Supreme Court ruled in West Virginia v. Barnette that a public school cannot force students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Similarly, a professor cannot force students to pledge to vote for a certain candidate.
In a similar case several years ago, ADF filed a lawsuit against Missouri State University when school officials punished Emily Brooker for asking her social work professor for an exemption from an assignment to write her state legislators and urge them to support a bill that would legalize adoption of children by same-sex couples. Emily could not in good conscience support the bill, so she asked the professor to give her an alternative assignment. The professor filed academic charges against her, and subjected her to a brutal interrogation about her beliefs. ADF sued on Emily’s behalf, and she received a very favorable out of court settlement in that case.
What amazes me is that any professor at any university would even think it was a proper pedagogical technique to force students to pledge to vote for a certain political candidate, or to write their lawmakers to support a specific piece of legislation. A professor should be knowledgeable about the basics of the Constitution, and the Constitution protects each individual’s freedom to vote for whom he chooses, and to speak or not to speak for a particular cause.
If you encounter any problems like these ones, please contact us at Alliance Defending Freedom.
This post originally appeared here.