Adam Key, Free Speech, Law Schools, Regent University School of Law, Religion

Regentgate: ATL’s Exclusive Interview with Adam Key (Part 1 of 2)

Adam Key Adam M Key Regent Law School Above the Law blog.jpgLate last night, we conducted an interview (over instant messenger) with Adam Key, a 2L at Regent University School of Law who’s now engaged in a public battle with the law school administration over free speech issues. For background on his story, in case you haven’t been following it, see here and here.
We enjoyed our conversation with Adam Key, who impressed us as a highly articulate, intelligent, and thoughtful individual. Here’s the first half of the interview; the second will appear this afternoon.
Thanks for agreeing to chat!
You’re totally welcome.
What’s the current state of play between you and Regent? The last we read, they were making you undergo this mental health evaluation.
The current state is that Regent has suspended me and banned me from campus pending a forced psychiatric evaluation, but only by a physician approved by them. This move is reminiscent of tactics used by Hitler and Stalin to discredit those who opposed them with legitimate arguments by declaring them insane.
Wow, so they pick the physician? Seems pretty dubious. But are you going to agree – what choice do you have?
That’s correct. Keep in mind, this is the same school that published law review articles relying on sources like Paul Cameron, the man kicked out of the American Psychological Association for deliberately falsifying data in order to further his cause. I would gladly consider an evaluation by a legitimate psychiatrist that is entirely unaffiliated with Regent.
However, as I have repeatedly emphasized, I will undergo this psychiatric exam after Regent forces Pat Robertson to undergo one. Truly, what’s crazier… disagreeing with the administration, or hearing voices that tell you about hurricanes that don’t happen, and the impending apocalypse?
Ha, excellent line (re: Robertson).
Yeah, I can’t believe Pat thinks I’m crazy.
More after the jump.

But this does seem like a situation with loaded dice. Are you ready to be expelled over this?
I am willing to take this as far as necessary to defend free expression. If Regent decides to expel me, they will send a resoundingly clear message that they are not a legitimate academic institution and never will be. In The Culture of Conservative Christian Litigation, Dr. Hans Hacker mentions an interview with Jay Sekulow about Regent, in which Sekulow says that he worries about Regent students’ future as attorneys because they are incapable of thinking like the opposing side. If Regent expels me, this fear will be realized.
In terms of coverage of the controversy, what facts or themes do you think have been overlooked?
A lot of people have missed the point about my First Amendment argument. I realize that Regent is not a state actor and I never tried to imply that it was. My First Amendment argument rests on ABA Standard of Accreditation 211(c), which states that religious law schools are permitted to enact policies “only to the extent that these policies are protected by the U.S. Constitution” and that they must be “administered as though the First Amendment of the United States Constitution governs its application.” Regent, as an ABA school, agreed to this policy and thus cannot enforce anything that infringes on the free speech rights of students.
A fair point. Any indication that the ABA might follow up on this?
I’m filing an official complaint with the ABA.
And what about your possible lawsuit – what’s happening on that front?
I’m currently preparing to file suit
What’s the basic gist of the lawsuit?
Regent’s also been leaking my private information. [M]y former roommate has been posting on almost every blog and new story about this that I have had previous incidents with Regent and that they were monitoring me because of that.
[He] is an inquiry counselor for Regent and as an employee of the university, FERPA applies to him as well. It would be the same if the Dean or Pat had been releasing my private information. The basic gist is breach of contract, inducement to fraud, etc., as well as the privacy issue.
Are you representing yourself? Or maybe you could find a public interest group that might take on your case?
I have an attorney, though until we file, his name is staying out of the press
Okay, let me play devil’s advocate. It’s no secret that Regent is conservative, founded by Pat Robertson, etc. Why did you decide to go there, when there are so many other law schools?
I decided to go to Regent because, at the time I applied to law school in late 2005, it was the only ABA accredited Christian law school. Others schools like Pepperdine (which I also got into) and Baylor have religious affiliations, but are not “Christian law schools,” per se. I didn’t go there because of Pat Robertson, I went there because I wanted a legal education balanced with a Christian perspective. Instead, I’m getting an education in how evil so-called Christians can be to those who are different from them.
It does seem that Regent has thrown a fit over this. Do you regret your decision to go to Regent?
Honestly, I don’t. For all the horrible things that have happened at Regent, there are a lot of good things going on there. Despite the general impression people have of the students, Regent law has some of the brighter minds that I’ve met. It really could be a great law school, if only the faculty would stop bowing to the will of Pat and respect the diversity of student opinion instead of rejecting it.
Why do you think Regent is flipping out over this? Why can’t they just laugh it off – or ignore it – and move on? Isn’t this making them into a bit of a laughingstock?
Regent is all about image. They have a certain idea of what Christians should look like – i.e., Republican – and totally reject everything else. Anyone who is different is a threat and they try to crush it in order to preserve their appearance.
The problem is, what they’re doing has backfired. When the picture was only on Facebook (and was only up for a few days), maybe a handful of my friends even saw it. Now the image they were trying to get rid of has been broadcast internationally, and in the process, the administration has been exposed for its fascist policies.
One factual question. News accounts seem very focused on the Facebook thing. But did you also send the photo out over the university listserv?
Yes, I did send it out over the listserv. In fact, the media has largely missed that part of it. When I was originally threatened about the Facebook picture, I was told to take it down because it was not in an academic context. I wrote an academic critique of the school’s policy on obscenity as being overly broad, citing examples from Jesus, John the Baptist, and the Apostle Paul that would be banned by their policy. I sent this critique out over the listserv, along with the picture.
Then, even though I met their standard of an academic context, I was threatened with sanctions including suspension and expulsion if I did not publicly apologize for criticizing Pat and university policy and promise to never do it again.
So you turned to the listserve after you were threatened about the Facebook posting?
Correct. Honestly, I might have been willing to apologize over the offense caused by the picture, but I was not going to cede my right to express disagreement with Pat or the university. Our right to criticize our leaders is fundamental, both as Americans and as Christians.
I have an easier time understanding their concern over what goes out over their listserv. But what business do they have policing student Facebook pages? And why would they bother — don’t they have better things to do?
You would certainly think they would have better things to do than troll through Facebook accounts looking for objectionable expression. They feel that their Code of Conduct covers our entire lives, both public and private, and that we must submit to their massive inspection at any time. By that logic, Regent could show up at my house and demand to search through my things to make sure I wasn’t in possession of any literature they didn’t like. This past summer, I published a book critical on megachurch Pastor Joel Osteen. If Regent’s theory holds true, they could demand I apologize for publishing the book if they found it objectionable.
As far as their listserv, it is used for student debate topics all the time, and the university doesn’t attempt to censor those students. It was the viewpoint, not the listserv, that they found objectionable.
The rest of the interview will be posted in the afternoon. So check back soon!
Update: The second half of the interview is now posted here.
Earlier: Regent Law School in the News Once Again
Regent Revisited: Tattooed Dude Suspended Pending Psychiatric Evaluation

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