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SAGINAW NEWS: Delta College Interferes with Distribution of Christian Newspaper

January 9, 2007

Saginaw, Michigan – January 9, 2007

Editor claims harassment
by Darryl Q. Tucker

Vox Veritas staffers hope that distribution of Monday’s newspaper to Delta College students occurs with no further interference from campus officials.

The Christian newspaper’s editor, Heston Glenn, 19, of Midland said Delta administrators and police have harassed employees of the free student-operated newspaper since October when they tried to distribute it.

Delta officials said the problem is improper distribution of the papers, not their content.

“We never had a problem with freedom of speech,” said Susan J. Montesi, Delta dean of students and interim vice president. “We encourage diversity in thought. This is not an issue as far as I’m concerned, as long as they distribute it correctly.”

Montesi said the students broke campus rules by leaving the papers at sites around campus. Rules state that students can hand out papers to other students but not while classes are in session, she said.

Glenn sees the situation differently. He believes Delta officials harassed his staff and allowed distribution of Vox Veritas — which means “the Voice of Truth” — only after threats of a lawsuit claiming First Amendment violations.

Delta publishes a student newspaper, the Delta Collegiate. People pick up copies from stacks in authorized receptacles at various spots around campus.

Glenn, an economics major, has published Vox Veritas monthly since October.

He said he and members of his editorial board had problems with Delta administrators and police in distributing the first two issues.

In the first incident in October, Glenn said police told Vox Veritas staffers they could not pass out the paper. They ceased doing so, he said.

“We didn’t want to make a big deal about it,” Glenn said.

But then he researched the student body rule book and the First Amendment and concluded he could distribute the paper on campus.

In November, police harassed Managing Editor Rachel Butts, 17, and Editorial Board member Paul Boothroyd, 18, during distribution of the second edition, Glenn said.

Police told Butts to either stop passing out the paper and leave the campus or go talk to an administrator. Butts said the officer did not give her a reason when she asked why she had to stop handing out copies of the paper, Glenn said.

The officer confiscated 200 copies of the paper, and Butts went to a Delta official and said she planned to seek legal advice, Glenn said.

A Delta police captain confronted Boothroyd, but a short time later allowed him to hand out the 35 papers he had, Glenn said. Boothroyd also went back to the police office and retrieved the 200 papers taken from Butts, Glenn said.

The third incident was a December exchange of words between a Delta Collegiate employee and Vox Veritas staff, but the situation ended peacefully, Glenn said.

Glenn said he contacted the American Family Association’s Center for Law & Policy based in Tupelo, Miss., and attorney Bruce W. Green wrote a five-page Dec. 20 letter threatening Delta with a lawsuit if Delta did not allow the students to distribute the paper.

“Based on our firm’s initial review, it appears that the constitutional rights of Mr. Glenn, Ms. Butts and others involved with Vox Veritas have been violated,” Green, who also serves as vice president of the law center, wrote to Delta officials. “I am writing in the hope of a resolution short of federal litigation.”
Glenn’s father, Gary Glenn, heads the Michigan Chapter of the American Family Association, a national group that champions family values.

“We don’t have any desire to hurt Delta,” the younger Glenn said. “We would apologize if we made a mistake.”

Glenn said he and his staff did not make any mistakes when passing out the papers.

Midland, Michigan – January 7, 2007

New student paper causes stir at Delta College
by Angela E. Lackey

A small student newspaper at Delta College is causing a First Amendment debate and charges of harassment. Vox Veritas is a student-funded and student-operated newspaper with a Christian perspective. The paper’s name means “the Voice of Truth.” The first issue was published in October 2006, and two more issues followed, one each in November and December.

Delta College already has a student paper – The Delta Collegiate. Heston Glenn, an economics major, said Vox Veritas was started to fill a different niche. “The (Collegiate’s) story content is dry,” said Glenn, 19. Vox Veritas’ student staff said they encountered problems with both Delta police and administrators while passing out the free newspaper, and also were harassed by Collegiate staff. Glenn said the first incident happened in October. The Vox Veritas staff were told they were not allowed to pass out the paper.

Vox Veritas staff again passed out the paper on Nov. 6. Freshman Rachel Butts, 17, is one of Vox Veritas’s staff and was there that day. She said they were told to stop or the police would be called. “We knew our First Amendment right,” she said. “I just started passing out papers again.” Butts said Delta’s policy also allowed them to pass out the newspaper. The policy states in part that materials may be distributed without approval in Delta’s areas of public passage such as commons, hallways and sidewalks, as long as it doesn’t “interfere with normal college activity or routine.”

Leslie Myles-Sanders, Delta’s attorney, agreed. “We welcome student expression of their beliefs,” she said. Myles-Sanders said the problem was with how they distributed the paper. “They were piling things here and there around campus,” she said, adding students need to take responsibility for the materials they are passing out. Myles-Sanders said the students met with a Delta administrator, who explained the policy to them. She said she thought that settled the matter.

It didn’t. Vox Veritas retained attorney Bruce Green of the American Family Association’s Center for Law & Policy. Glenn’s father, Gary Glenn, heads AFA-Michigan. According to Glenn, Delta College agreed to allow the students to distribute the paper after being threatened with a lawsuit. As far as the alleged continued harassment, Myles-Sanders said the Vox Veritas staff has not filed a complaint. She said she wasn’t able to reach anyone at the Collegiate because most students are still off campus for winter break.

The newspaper last was distributed a couple of weeks ago. Paul Boothroyd, 18, was one of the Vox Veritas staff at all three incidents. “We’re conservative activists. Not troublemakers,” he said. Vox Veritas next will come out sometime this month. Boothroyd will help pass it out this last time, then he leaves for the Marines and basic training.

You can read the Saginaw News article here.
You can read the Midland Daily News article here.

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