A west suburban community college has agreed to pay $132,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by members of an anti-gay group who claimed their right to free speech was violated when they were not allowed to pass out fliers on campus.
Wayne Lela and John McCartney of Heterosexuals Organized for a Moral Environment alleged they were not allowed to pass fliers out to students on Waubonsee Community College’s Sugar Grove campus, even though they did not violate any college rules.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court on July 16, 2014, claimed Lela contacted school employees in January 2014, asking if H.O.M.E. could pass out fliers titled, “The Uncensored Truth About Homosexuality” and “Gay Activism and Freedom of Speech and Religion.”
The college denied the request in a letter, saying it “consistently limits campus activities to events that are not disruptive of the college’s educational mission,” the suit said.
In a statement Friday, Waubonsee said the group had asked for unrestricted access to its Sugar Grove campus, which the college denied.
Waubonsee settled the suit on June 3 and agreed to pay $132,000 in attorneys’ fees and damages to Lela and McCartney, according to a statement from the plaintiffs’ attorneys.
Under the settlement, Lela and McCartney will be allowed to hand out fliers to students as they enter the student union, according to the statement. Additionally, they will not be required to sit behind a table while handing out fliers as previously required.
The college said the settlement was reached through federal mediation, and allows the group to enter into a Facility Use Contract, which is the same procedure required of other visitors seeking use of campus property.
“We are pleased that a mutually agreeable resolution to the campus access issue has been reached,” said Jim Sibley, college spokesman. “Waubonsee has always been, and will continue to be, committed to full compliance with the law.”