Colorado native Jeff Hunt was kicked out of his state’s senate gallery for wearing a “Pro-Life U” sweatshirt. “Pro-Life U” is the soon-to-be trademark for the Centennial Institute, a think tank based out of Colorado Christian University (CCU), of which Hunt is the director.
Under “gallery rules” on the Colorado General Assembly website, it does not say that political messages on clothing are prohibited, and Hunt told The Federalist that he was not aware of a rule against political apparel. However, the Colorado Sergeant at Arms who escorted Hunt out of the gallery showed Hunt a small sign outside the gallery that does say expressing “political statements” is not allowed in the gallery.
The supposed rule, however, has not been equally enforced in the Colorado State Assembly. In January, a group of students wearing anti-2nd Amendment apparel was allowed to sit in the gallery unbothered.
“It takes about five minutes to Google and find that there’s plenty of other examples of people wearing political apparel into the Senate gallery,” Hunt told The Federalist. “It seems bizarre that on one hand, they’re allowing a more liberal progressive worldview to be able to speak freely, but then the conservative worldview is not … It definitely doesn’t seem to be fair and equitable.”
The Federalist reached out to the Colorado State Assembly to ask why its alleged rule against political apparel is not on the state assembly website and why it has not been equally applied but did not hear back.
Hunt was visiting the assembly for “Pregnancy Resource Center (PRC) Day,” where he, other volunteers, and Pregnancy Resource Center staff were working to “dispel common misinformation and myths about pregnancy resource centers, and educate Colorado lawmakers and the public about the good work they actually do.” PRC Day was created in response to Colorado Democrats’ push for legislation that “would censor and restrict” the work of pregnancy resource centers.
Hunt’s shirt did not represent the crisis pregnancy center. It was, again, representative of CCU’s Centennial Institute. “I explained to [the Sergeant at Arms] that [my ‘Pro-Life U’ sweatshirt] is our university name. This isn’t just a political statement. This is our identity and CCU’s identity, and we have submitted a DBA — a Doing Business As — and a trademark on this. And I’m just representing our university here.”
Hunt’s appeals did not matter, though, and he was still asked to leave. Hunt believes what happened to him is an issue of the “Constitutional right to free speech,” and he pointed out that the Supreme Court ruled bans on political apparel in polling places violate the free speech clause of the First Amendment.
“If you can [wear political apparel] in polling places, then it seems rather bizarre that you can’t have it in a public place like the Senate gallery, where it’s open to the public and should have free speech protections.”
According to Hunt, his original tweet about the incident was deleted by Twitter for several hours without a warning or reasoning provided. Shortly thereafter, Twitter restored the Tweet but did not explain why it was reposted or why it was deleted in the first place. “It was really weird,” said Hunt.
Ultimately, Hunt wants Colorado to allow freedom of expression in the state capitol, and if there are going to be rules, he wants them to be fairly applied to everyone of all political beliefs. “I think it’s unfortunate that the state feels it’s necessary to restrict free speech in this way,” he said, “and also give certain speech privileges that others don’t have.”