Tag: First Amendment

My Statement Regarding the Abuse of Harassment Codes on Campus


Today I addressed the United States Commission on Civil Rights to talk about the role that federal law and regulations have played in encouraging campus speech codes. Here is my testimony:

If you had told me before I started working at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, the leading defender of free speech rights on college campuses, that I would routinely battle the startling misapplications of harassment codes to punish speech that is clearly protected by the First Amendment, I probably wouldn’t have believed you.

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In light of recent attempts to delegitimize conservative speech — from the firing of Brandon Eich to the string of attacks on conservative commencement speakers and their subsequent withdrawals, did you ever fantasize about what you would like to say to those college grads if you got the chance? No need to do so any […]

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Harvard Gives the Devil More Than His Due


VeritasShieldTonight, Harvard University will host a “black mass” at Queens Head Pub, a space beneath Memorial Hall usually reserved for hangouts over pints of 1636 Ale. The Harvard Extension School’s “Cultural Studies Club” has decided to put on an “historical reenactment” of Satanic worship, purportedly only simulating the desecration of a consecrated host. It is unclear exactly what the “reenactment” involves, but, as a mockery of the Holy Mass, it is unavoidably an affront to Catholicism and every Catholic in the Harvard and Cambridge communities. If a consecrated host is used (and despite administrators’ assurances it will not be, it is difficult to say for sure), this would be an extremely grave and troubling event for Catholics anywhere. It would be, quite literally, a physical assault on Jesus Christ.

Despite the fact that the event comes precariously close to an horrific offense against God, it is hard to take these Harvard Satanists too seriously. The “Extension School” is just what is sounds like — an entity far from the heart of the Harvard community, originally designed to give locals around campus a chance to attend classes. It is absurd that a group of a few Extension School students have been allowed to represent “Harvard” as an institution here. Also, the event will feature a talk by Harvard Kennedy School lecturer (not professor), Christopher Robichaud. If you’re interested in writings by Robichaud, you’ll only find him published in volumes of Superheroes and Philosophy, Supervillains and Philosophy,  Superman and Philosophy, Batman and Philosophy, Iron Man and Philosophy, X-Men and Philosophy, and Game of Thrones and Philosophy. Comical indeed. Satanic worship may be the least of our worries when it comes to the Father of Lies, who is at his strongest when he tempts souls by an almost imperceptible influence, not by agents wearing spooky masks while they attempt to vivify gargoyles. 

St. Thomas More wrote that “the devil . . . the proud spirit . . . cannot endure to be mocked.” And G.K. Chesterton: “Satan fell by force of gravity, by taking himself too gravely.” Good reminders, since this is about Satanists being “recognized” as legitimate in the public square — and they deserve no such recognition by any decent society. That view may not sit well with the secular libertarian streak in today’s conservatism, let alone with liberalism’s devotion to multiculturalism for its own sake. But the fact that the First Amendment may permit certain activity (and we’re very close to courts recognizing Satanism as religion for free exercise purposes) does not legitimize that activity — it does not make it good or worthy of our respect and association. Just ask the NBA about why it banned Donald Sterling.

Misguided Priorities on First Amendment Fights


Yesterday, in Town of Greece v. Galloway, a 5-4 majority of the Supreme Court upheld ceremonial prayers at the start of a town’s board meetings, as noted in Adam’s earlier post. Two thoughts occurred to me while reading the decision.  

First, I continue to be impressed at how much effort both sides put into fighting over simple, symbolic signs of religion that do not come remotely close to running afoul of the Establishment Clause. It is hard to believe that the Town of Greece — or any of the many cities and states that have been sued over similar religious symbolism — is trying to found a mandatory state religion of the kind commonly seen in Europe.  

SCOTUS Decision on Legislative Prayer Doesn’t Go Far Enough—Adam Freedman


Yesterday was a good day for religious liberty at the Supreme Court, where five justices beat back an attempt to declare prayers at town meetings unconstitutional. It could have been a great day, however, if only the Court had accepted Justice Thomas’ invitation to declare the Establishment Clause completely inapplicable to state and local governments. But I’ll get to that in a minute.

The decision in Town of Greece v Galloway  involved a small city in upstate New York (Greece) in which town board meetings open with a roll call, a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, and – brace yourself – a prayer given by a rotating selection of local clergymen. Two town residents sued, arguing that the predominately Christian nature of the prayers (reflecting the composition of the local clergy) violated the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. The Court’s liberal bloc (Breyer, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan) would have banned the town’s prayer tradition, relying on a dominant theory in many earlier cases that the First Amendment prohibits any government action that might appear to “endorse” religion. 

SCOTUS Campaign Finance Ruling: Right Outcome, Wrong Reasoning


Yesterday, the Supreme Court occasioned much gnashing of liberal teeth by striking down one more piece of the federal campaign finance laws. At issue was the fact that, while the law limited an individual’s contributions to any candidate to $2,600 per election, it also sets a ceiling of $48,600 in cumulative giving to candidates.


A Debate on Free Speech


I recently accepted an invitation from Jeffrey Rosen at the National Constitution Center to talk with my University of Chicago colleague Geoffrey Stone about the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in New York Times v. Sullivan, establishing the standards by which reporting about public officials can be considered to be defamation or libel.

In this conversation, we discuss whether this was a positive step forward for the free press or whether it needs to be revisited. Hear the debate below:

Protip from Dartmouth Student to UCSB and Stanford: Run Over Free Speech with Your Car — Greg Lukianoff


Being offended is what happens when you have your deepest beliefs challenged. And if you make it through four years of college without having your deepest beliefs challenged, you should demand your money back.

I have been saying that in speeches on campus for more than a decade. Even though the line often gets a laugh, the idea that students have a “right not to be offended” seems more entrenched on campus than ever.