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Controversy brews as KVCC restricts Christian group on campus
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) Controversy is brewing on a West Michigan college campus as a religious organization says its rights are being restricted.
It concerns the Gideons International at Kalamazoo Valley Community College.
The Christian organization, best known for handing out bibles, says administration is keeping them away from students on the Texas Township campus by restricting them to one area.
Two years ago, Kalamazoo Gideons say they passed out 3,000 New Testament Bibles to KVCC students.
Last year we only distributed 1,200 and it looks like this year we're probably not going to be able to distribute that many, said Robert Froman, President of Kalamazoo Gideons Southwest Camp.
In 2012 the colleges policy changed, restricting non-student run organizations to a designated area while on campus.
The Gideons are now placed by the front flag pole near the parking lot, away from entrances.
They say handing out bibles away from this area would get them kicked off campus.
We do believe it's a restriction on our rights, both on free speech and the freedom of religion, Froman said.
The Gideons' attorney protested the restriction by tethering himself to the flag pole Wednesday afternoon.
He said theyve never encountered rules like these at any other public university or college in Michigan.
Our next action, which I have advised their attorney, is to file an action in federal court to enforce our rights, said Roger Bus, the Gideons attorney. This is not private property that they can limit free speech.
The men say they're being targeted because of their religion.
But the college says it wants to keep visitors in one place.
The facilities use policy is the same for every group. Any group that wishes to be on campus can consult the policy and be advised of the guidelines, said Linda Depta, the KVCC Director of College Relations.
Depta also said the Gideons have enough access to students seeing as theyre placed by the main entrance.
The Gideons hope this can help anyone who wants to have their voice heard.
Anytime you stand up to the bully, you make it easier for the next guy to come along and do what they'd like to do, Froman said.
Bus said they hope to reach an agreement with the college before taking this matter to court.