University Student Challenges “No Contact” Order as Religious Discrimination
Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville graduate student Maggie DeJong received three “No Contact Orders” in February from the university, prohibiting contact and indirect communication with three of her classmates. These orders are now being scrutinized for religious bigotry, DeJong charging that expressing her Christian beliefs is the basis for the orders’ violation of her right to free speech.
A letter from legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) cites the No Contact Orders which dictate DeJong must not have “any contact” or “indirect communication” with the three named students and infringe on her “ability to participate in her educational experience and exercise her First Amendment rights.” In a Daily Citizen interview with ADF, senior counsel Tyson Langhofer said DeJong has been repeatedly singled out by her professors and fellow students and criticized for open expression of her beliefs as a Christian. But the No Contact Orders were the first formal complaints made against DeJong. ADF alleges that religious bigotry underlies the orders.
The University’s Office of Equal Opportunity, Access and Title IX Coordination (EOA) issued the three No Contact Orders. The Office is tasked with complaints and concerns relating to all forms of unlawful discrimination, including sexual harassment and assault. The orders from the EOA to DeJong were nondescript, explaining the restrictions imposed saying “upon information and belief that interactions between yourself [and the other students] would not be welcome or appropriate at this time.” Normally, No Contact Orders relate to reported incidents of sexual misconduct. Following the ADF’s response the No Contact Orders were rescinded by the university on February 28.
Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville is noted for its Center for Spirituality & Sustainability, facilitating open dialogue. The Center’s campus building, designed by R. Buckminster Fuller, is a local landmark and is open to all for prayer, worship and spiritual discussions with all faiths.