Friday, November 30, 2007

Law Student Sues: Suspended for Pat Robertson Photo on Facebook

Some televangelists just don't get law student humour.

Associated Press reports that Adam Key, a law student attending Regent University, a private University founded by 700 Club host Pat Robertson, is suing the school after he was suspended for posting a picture on his Facebook profile that depicted Robertson in a rather embarrassing pose:

HOUSTON — A law student who was suspended after posting on the Internet an unflattering photo of televangelist and school founder Pat Robertson sued the religious leader on Thursday, claiming violations of his rights to freedom of religion and speech.

Adam Key posted a picture in September on his Facebook Web page of Robertson, who is the founder and president of Regent University, a private Christian school in Virginia Beach, Va.

The photo shows Robertson making what appears to be an obscene gesture. The second-year law student copied it from a YouTube video in which Robertson scratches his face with his middle finger. Key said he didn't manipulate the image, which was taken straight from Robertson's long running television show, "The 700 Club."

Key said he was told to take the photo down.

"Clearly the picture was of him scratching his face. That's why it's funny," said Key, who filed his lawsuit in Houston federal court. "Pat Robertson, a public figure who makes ridiculous statements, got caught in a ridiculous position and that was my whole idea of putting it up there."

Key, 23, said he took down the photo but then wrote an academic critique about religious freedom of speech concerning the picture and posted it on a university e-mail discussion group. Key was expelled from the school for violating the school's obscenity policy. His punishment was later changed to a one-year suspension.

Judy Baker, a spokeswoman for Regent University, said neither the school nor Robertson would comment about the lawsuit or Key's case, citing student privacy issues,

A second AP article adds additional background:

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Houston, states the university, in Virginia Beach, Va., violated Key's rights guaranteed by the 5th and 14th amendments as well as his freedom of religion, assembly and speech included in the First Amendment.

...The suit, which names Robertson and the university, seeks repayment of tens of thousands of dollars Key paid in school costs during the 18 months he attended the university, said Randall Kallinen, his attorney.

The suit states he had no notice of the suspension and no hearing where he could state his case.

The is yet another example of the many, unforseen legal and cultural implications of Facebook and other social media.

- Garry J. Wise and Annie Noa Kenet, Toronto

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