Adam Key alleges in a suit filed Nov. 29 in U.S. District Court in Houston that Regent University breached contracts with him by suspending him from law school. The suspension came after Key posted an image on an Internet site of television evangelist Pat Robertson, the university’s founder and president, with his middle finger extended. Key, a Harris County resident, alleges, among other things, in his original complaint in Key v. Robertson and Regent University that the university sent him materials touting its students’ involvement in religious and civil liberties cases and its accreditation by the American Bar Association. “The materials clearly indicate that he would enjoy religious liberty and freedom of speech,” says Houston solo Randall Kallinen, who represents Key. To be ABA accredited, Kallinen says, a university must meet standards for ensuring students' First Amendment rights. Key also alleges in the complaint that university officials threatened disciplinary action against him unless he removed the Robertson finger picture, which the officials called obscene, from the Internet site. As alleged in the complaint, Key immediately removed the photo -- a still picture taken from a YouTube video -- and posted on a Regent e-mail discussion group an academic critique on freedom of speech with regard to the Robertson picture. University officials then suspended Key from law school for two years without providing notice or an opportunity to be heard, according to the complaint. Kallinen contends the officials’ action breached their contract not to discipline Key if he pulled down the finger photo. Regent University spokeswoman Judy Baker declines comment, noting that the university has not been served with the suit. U.S. District Judge Samuel B. Kent is assigned to hear the case.
-- Mary Alice Robbins