Firm to review IRCC's policies on student groups
January 19, 2005
FORT PIERCE â€" In response to an on-campus Christian club's cries of censorship after it was prohibited from showing the controversial Mel Gibson film "The Passion of the Christ," Indian River Community College officials announced Tuesday they would conduct a thorough review of policies regarding student groups.
The review will be conducted by constitutional attorney Sid McKenzie of the Holland and Knight law firm, based in Tampa. IRCC officials said they would give McKenzie as much time as needed to review the campus' policies for potential legal landmines.
"The review will last as long as it needs to last," said Henri Sue Bynum, associate dean of arts and sciences at IRCC. "We want a complete review to make sure we're striking a proper balance between providing appropriate standards for the college and, at the same time, respecting the rights of students."
The policy assessment also was the result of an unrelated incident that occurred last semester, when a small group of students used the university's Blackbox Theatre to recite self-authored pieces about Jesus and sexuality. University officials received several complaints that the material was highly offensive, said Johnny Moore, vice president of student affairs.
Officials said they made a mistake in letting the group perform and will look closer at applications for use of the campus' facilities.
"We have a procedure for use of the theater ... including looking at the appropriateness of the material," Bynum said. "I believe that this production wouldn't have occurred if we had followed those policies."
Representatives of the Christian Student Fellowship at the college's main campus in Fort Pierce, who attempted to show "The Passion of the Christ" on campus two months ago, said they were pleased to be working with officials on revising policies.
"Discussion right now is good, because we can actually get our points out to the media and to others," said IRCC freshman Demarr Bell, representing the Christian group. The movie "could change people's lives, just like it did for me."
IRCC officials said they were talking with attorneys in case the group follows through with threats of legal action. The group alleges the university violated their constitutional rights of free speech and religious freedom by banning presentation of the movie.
Moore said officials' decision to ban the movie was in accordance with university policy not to show any R-rated film, which includes "The Passion of the Christ."
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