Tag: Free Speech

Curt Schilling and Logical Fallacies


CurtSchillingTweetFormer star major-league pitcher and current ESPN broadcaster Curt Schilling found himself running afoul of proper online sensibilities today when he tweeted (and then deleted) a picture comparing Nazis to contemporary Islamic extremism.

Naturally, outrage followed, particularly from Gawker Media’s Deadspin, which referred to Schilling as a “big idiot.” (Watch out, Oscar Wilde!) As expected, Schilling was savaged in the comments, and the discussion quickly turned to how Republican presidential candidates are roughly as extremist as Islamic terrorists.

What most pointedly caught my attention was the casualness with which critics changed the analogy that was being made by the graphic Schilling tweeted.

Oregon: Bakers’ Statements to National Media Were “Unlawful”


Most of us probably assume that if legal charges are filed against us and we consider them unjust, we have a First Amendment right to raise a ruckus in the press. But last week’s controversial Oregon cake ruling suggests that some public officials are not so sure about that.

Last week, the Commissioner of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, Brad Avakian, ordered Melissa and Aaron Klein of Sweet Cakes by Melissa to pay $135,000 in damages, primarily for emotional distress, to a same-sex couple it had turned down for a wedding cake (earlier). In addition, the ruling ordered the Kleins to

Standing Up for Global Academic Freedom


Next week, I head off to the United Kingdom to talk about global threats to free speech and academic freedom. As the Index on Censorship describes in its latest issue, there are many threats to academic freedom and free speech worldwide. However, as I write in my newest piece at The Huffington Post, it’s important to remember that these freedoms are also in trouble here at home in the United States.

College and university administrators are punishing professors’ freedom of expression left and right, even when it’s off-campus speech on their personal blogs or social media accounts. For instance, my organization, FIRE, has been closely following one major ongoing case at Marquette University, where a professor is facing termination for publicly criticizing a graduate student instructor who told a student not to oppose same-sex marriage in a philosophy class discussion.

The Great Progressive Rewind: The Left Is in a Word War


Note: I should clarify this title, lest I invite confusion: the Left is not so much fighting an intellectual war through words, but one against words. And in this context, words mean spoken words, thoughts, or symbols.

From inane trivialities to proper comedic etiquette to authoritarian speech codes, the Left is deserting an expansive view of free speech that it once nourished during the Progressive Era. Where its forbearers defended with a vigorous voice a more fundamental right to free speech — particularly for those whose opinions were outside the mainstream of American political thought — the modern Left seeks out problematic views and quashes them. Whether inventions of First Amendment exclusions, punishment of climate heresy, or shaming of non-PC humor, the Left finds a new scourge on an almost weekly basis, oftentimes buried in American culture’s most innocuous places.

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Down and down the memory hole we go.  Where we stop, nobody knows. I was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia.  Despite growing up in the capital of the Confederacy, and later attending Washington & Lee (as in “Robert E.”) University, I have never owned, flown, or worn a Confederate flag, nor have I ever desired […]

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Little Church Bests Local Bureaucrats at Supreme Court


ReedChurchSign2In a unanimous decision Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that freedom of speech trumps the whims of local bureaucrats. Reed v. Town of Gilbert also provided a victory for religious expression as the plaintiff represents a small church in the Arizona community.

Clyde Reed is the pastor of Good News Community Church, a small Presbyterian congregation that uses innocuous temporary signs to advertise its weekly service. Since the church doesn’t own a building, it meets in various rented locations around Gilbert, a Phoenix suburb.

Reed ran afoul of ruler-toting compliance officers because the town specifically restricted the size, location, number, and duration of signs promoting “religious events.” Curiously, the Gilbert Sign Code is far more permissive of signs that are deemed ideological, political, or for homeowners’ associations.

Watch Me Testify Before Congress About Free Speech on Campus Today at 2:00 p.m. [LIVE STREAM]


shutterstock_225535513My organization, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), has been fighting to protect freedom of speech on college and university campuses since 1999. Throughout my career, I have seen countless examples of campus speech codes—absurd, often unconstitutional restrictions on the free speech of college students and professors. From restricting free speech to tiny, out of the way “zones” to overbearing “harassment” policies, campus speech codes come in many forms but have far-reaching consequences.

It is with great honor that I share with you that today I will address the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice to talk about speech codes and the general state of free speech on America’s public college campuses.

Please tune in to the live webcast at 2:00 p.m. EDT today using this link.

This Probably Counts as a Macroaggression


Christina Hoff Sommers is probably the sharpest writer and thinker on modern feminism that we have on our side of the fight — which means that she must be resisted and declared an Enemy of the People.

When Sommers went to speak to a group of Republican and Libertarian students at Oberlin College last month, a coalition of fragile porcelain dolls concerned students posted — I am not making this up — “A Love Letter to Ourselves” (probably a serviceable title for any document produced by this cohort), calling Sommers a “rape denialist” because she has questioned the assertion that one in five women on college campuses have been sexually assaulted (Yes, it did include trigger warnings).

The Nature of Defiance


MuhammadThere is an argument about Pamela Geller’s cartoon contest, favored by Bill O’Reilly as well as by many garden variety liberal pundits, that goes like this:

Of course the right to free speech is sacred and the murderers who wish to infringe on that right are vile criminals. Our vigor in the defense of free speech, however, (equally obviously) does not mean that we agree with the speech we are defending. The cartoons that Geller assembled are insulting to 1.5 billion, predominantly peaceful Muslims around the world. We can judge Geller offensive or (as Bill O’Reilly does) “stupid” for deliberately mocking the religion of the benign majority just in order to taunt the violent minority.

I can embellish this argument.

Fight Like Hell for the Right to Draw Muhammad…Then Choose Not to


“Words are like eggs dropped from great heights; you can no more call them back than ignore the mess they leave when they fall.”– Jodi Picoult

Let’s get something straight up front. For every terrorist attack, the blame belongs with the attackers. I don’t blame Reagan for the Beirut bombing in 1983, I blame the terrorists. I don’t blame Clinton for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, I blame the terrorists. I don’t blame Bush for 9/11 or Obama for the Boston Marathon bombing. I blame the terrorists.

The First Amendment for Dummies


Most of us have some ritual to help bring us to full alertness in the morning.  Since it is not socially acceptable to run an IV drip of caffeine directly into your blood stream, most people settle on coffee as their delivery method.  I prefer a shot of adrenaline in the morning courtesy of the rage induced by reading the left-wing commentariat.

Take this morning as an example. The left has never been particularly fond of the Bill of Rights, but usually avoids blatant calls to abridge First Amendment protections on speech. Not today. The LA Times, for example, is wondering where free speech ends and hate speech begins. For the Time’s edification, I have included a handy Venn diagram. The yellow circle represents hate speech, and the blue circle represents the applicability of free speech protections.

The Libertarian Podcast: “Hollywood, Washington, and Transparency”


Are some companies so powerful that the public should have a right to know about their internal deliberations? That’s the argument WikiLeaks offered up when they decided to publish the entire archive of the Sony emails that were hacked last year. In this episode of The Libertarian podcast, Professor Epstein looks at the legal recourses that are available when information that was intended to stay private goes public; the limits of First Amendment protections for people who’ve stolen privileged information; and what it means to live in a world where your every e-mail could someday be newspaper fodder. Listen in below or subscribe to The Libertarian via iTunes or your favorite podcasting app.

A Safe Space for Free Speech


WRMC3o0uI’ve made a concerted effort of late to avoid falling into the trap of believing that the current generation of young people is any more problematic than young people of the past. History is replete with examples of elders lamenting the inferiority of their progeny. If every generation were truly more worthless than the last, society would have come crashing down long ago. Determined to break me of this best practice are the editors of Georgetown University’s school paper, The Hoya.

In a piece that is nearly indistinguishable from a recent Onion parody, the editors explain that though college should be a place to promote free expression and a plurality of views, those views really should be in line with the consensus as they see it.  The malefactor whose presence sparked this piece is none other than traitor to her gender and serial safe-space violator, Christina Hoff Sommers.

Giving voice to someone who argues that statistics on sexual assault exaggerate the problem and condemns reputable studies for engaging in “statistical hijinks” serves only to trigger obstructive dialogue and impede the progress of the university’s commitment to providing increased resources to survivors.

Two Acts of Free Speech


A bit over a week ago, some pupils at Valdosta State University engaged in a protest centered on walking and stomping on the US flag — a flag Americans have been maimed and have died defending, a flag symbolizing the very freedom of speech that allows protesters to desecrate the flag as part of their protest.

Yes, desecrating our flag is a despicable act, but that’s what gives power to a protest of this sort. The act is an expression of political speech, and it is legitimately protected as such.

Must Read: University Ex-Admin Alleges She Was Pressured to File False Harassment Claim Against Faculty Critic


Ever since FIRE launched its Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project last summer, I have been telling everyone to keep an eye on the Chicago State University case. And last week, we were able to learn a little more about why the Chicago State administration needs more public scrutiny. As the Chicago Tribune reports:

The president of Chicago State University tried to pressure a high level administrator to file false claims of sexual harassment against an outspoken professor to help the college try to silence him, according to court documents filed Thursday as part of an ongoing lawsuit. In a sworn statement, LaShondra Peebles, the college’s former interim vice president of enrollment and student affairs, said before she was fired that President Wayne Watson pushed her to accuse Phillip Beverly of sexual harassment, though Peebles said she was never harassed.

FIRE’s Worst for Free Speech Spotlight: Brandeis University


And now for the final installment of my Ricochet-exclusive spotlight on FIRE’s “worst” list for campus free speech in 2014. For my third and final spotlight, I want to introduce readers to the single college that has made the worst list more than any other college (finally edging out Syracuse University, which is a twotime recipient of this dubious honor). Here’s the entry for Brandeis:

Brandeis University

FIRE’s Worst for Free Speech Spotlight: Marquette University


And now for the list you’ve all been waiting for: FIRE’s “10 Worst for Free Speech on Campus” list for 2014. While the phrasing of that title may seem a little odd, we changed it from “Worst Colleges for Free Speech” this year because sometimes outside institutions are major threats to collegiate free speech. For the second year in a row, the Department of Education is likely the biggest threat to free speech on campus. You can brush up on the details in my December 2014 Ricochet post entitled Campus Speech Codes Decline, But Federal Government Threatens to Impose Censorship Codes at 100% of Colleges.

But I wanted to bring Ricochet readers’ attention to a handful of “winners” in particular. One of the most urgent cases here is the one still going on at Marquette University:

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This morning, following on from my post yesterday about speech, social media, and college campuses, I came across this gem.  A professor at Berkley – in the social work school, no less – recently told his students that    [T]he Black Lives Matter movement “needed to stop scapegoating the cops” and shared statistics to argue black-on-black crime is the […]

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