VICTORY–AFL Secures Justice for a Christian Student Suspended for “Hate Speech” Because He Shared the Bible on New Jersey College Campus

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, America First Legal (AFL), along with co-counsel Jonathan F. Mitchell and Wally Zimolong, secured a stipulated final order for Kombe Sefelino, who was suspended and removed from campus at the County College of Morris (CCM) for sharing the Bible on campus. 

AFL sued CCM in March of last year after complaints to college administrators that Mr. Sefelino criticized homosexuality. The college issued a written warning declaring Mr. Sefelino’s reading from the Bible was “hate speech” that “demonstrated a bias against the LGBQT+ community.” The warning also told Mr. Sefelino that his statements violated New Jersey law. 

Mr. Sefelino refused to self-censor in response to these threats and continued to teach the Bible on campus. After Mr. Sefelino repeated the Bible’s teachings on homosexuality, the college pronounced him guilty of “preaching hate speech on campus in reference to homosexuality and homosexuals” and suspended him for eleven days. Incredibly, CCM—a public taxpayer-funded institution bound by the Constitution’s free speech and religious freedom guarantees—threatened to expel him if he continued preaching from the Bible. Without evincing any sense of irony, the college’s letter states: “We accept everyone here. There is no place for bias at CCM. You should think hard about whether this is the best environment for you.”

Today’s Stipulated Final Order secured justice for Mr. Sefelino:

  • The Final Order finds that “[i]n imposing a weeklong suspension on Sefelino and by removing him from campus for engaging in public speaking and exercising his freedom of speech while on campus, the College violated Sefelino’s rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, as alleged in this suit.”
  • CCM agrees to permit Mr. Sefelino to re-enroll without penalty; to “revoke and expunge any and all disciplinary actions or adverse actions” that it took in response to his preaching; and allow him “to make up and applicable or outstanding academic work” to ensure he will not be penalized academically for having to withdraw from registration last year. 
  • Finally, CCM “shall permit Sefelino to speak or preach in any public area of the College’s campus, including preaching from the Bible, as well as any related content that Sefelino chooses in order to exercise his [F]irst [A]mendment right.” and pay him “compensatory damages of $35,000,” as well as attorneys’ fees and costs totaling $45,880.20. 

America First Legal is proud to have represented Mr. Sefelino and vindicated his rights in this case. 

Statement from America First Legal President Stephen Miller:

“America First Legal is proud to have won this important legal victory for free speech, vindicating our client’s rights, wiping his academic record clean, obtaining an admission of wrongdoing from the defendants, and ensuring just compensatory damages for what our client has so wrongly suffered and endured. Let this be a lesson to those colleges who would trample on the rights of Christian students — or anyone who would trample on Christians in America,“ said Stephen Miller.

Read the Final Stipulated Order here.

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