COOKEVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) – The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has responded to a statement made by the president of Tennessee Tech University. The president’s statement comes after a video surfaced of a drag scene in the compound in early September.
The controversy started when Landon Starbucks tweeted a video of a drag show that took place on stage at the Tennessee Tech campus. In the video, Starbucks claims that young children give money to the actor and that the show is “to make fun of Christians.” She called out the university for allowing the show, which she believed was “inappropriate for young audiences”.
Tennessee Tech President Philip Oldham subsequently issued a statement saying the university would begin a full investigation and suspend the organization on campus from hosting additional events during the investigation.
In a letter to President Oldham, FIRE said punishing the student group for staging the drag show violated the First Amendment, which prohibits the university from investigating or punishing protected expression.
“Drag shows, or the student group’s support for them, constitute expressive behavior. Freedom of expression enshrined in the First Amendment ‘does not end in speech or writing,’ FIRE said in a letter to President Oldham. “While authorities may enforce content-neutral regulations that may affect incidental expressive conduct, they cannot restrict expressive conduct ‘because it has expressive elements.'”
FIRE said in the letter that the cancellation of the student groups’ events had no intention of “unlawfully stifling the right of students to express themselves.”
WSMV4 contacted the university for a statement but did not receive a response.
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