Category: Free Speech

Vermont Man Causes Controversy Over One-Finger Salute To City Officials

Facebook: Ted Pelkey

We previously discussed the sometimes thin line between free speech and a nuisance.  The latest such controversy has arisen in Westford, Vermont where Ted Pelkey decided to make a statement after city officials refused his permit to build an 8,000 square foot garage on his property. His response was a single finger salute to  the Westford Selectboard and Development Review Board.  This is not the first such salute piece to prompt legal questions over its display.  Notably, the Vermont Supreme Court recently ruled that ugly is not a nuisance.

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“Don’t Mess With Santa”: Texas Town Could Face Free Speech Challenge Over Santa Protest

Aaron Urbanski
Aaron Urbanski

There is an interesting free speech case emerging in Cleburne Texas where Aaron Urbanski was arrested after protesting in front of the St. Mark United Methodist Church against its Christmas event.  Urbanski, 31, was screaming that Santa is not real and was arrested for criminal trespass.  It was a remarkably obnoxious and disrespectful act by Urbanski and other protesters, but much will depend on where the protest was held in front of the church.  If the arrests were due to the content of the protests rather than its location, a serious free speech issue could emerge.  For this part, Cleburne Mayor Scott Cain simply declared “Don’t mess with Santa” — a statement that could be cited by the defendant in a first amendment challenge to his arrest.

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Columbia Students Shutdown Comedian For Joking About Race and Sexual Orientation

200px-ColumbiaNYUCoat.svgWe previously discussed how the attack on free speech on campuses around the world has led to even comedians being banned for insulting or disrespecting any group.  Many comedians are now avoiding gigs at universities to avoid controversies. The latest such example occurred at Columbia where a fairly typical skit led to stand-up comedian and former “SNL” writer Nimesh Patel being forced off stage by students upset that he made jokes about race and sexual orientation. Continue reading “Columbia Students Shutdown Comedian For Joking About Race and Sexual Orientation”

Egyptian Actress Faces Incarceration Over Wearing Revealing Dress To Film Festival

Egypt is again showing the world that it is regressing into medieval religious orthodoxy under the enforcement of Islamic values through criminal laws. The latest victim of religious orthodoxy is actress Rania Youssef who may go to jail for wearing a revealing dress.  That’s right, she is facing criminal charges for wearing a dress at the Cairo Film Festival.  Just for the record, I hate the dress.  But that is a stylistic matter. The case is an attack on free speech and what is most disturbing is that it is the work of two lawyers who seem to relish being vehicles of repression and intolerance. Continue reading “Egyptian Actress Faces Incarceration Over Wearing Revealing Dress To Film Festival”

Temple University Refuses To Fire Professor Dumped By CNN For Anti-Israel Comments

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Temple University professor and CNN contributor Marc Lamont Hill caused a stir after he spoke before the United Nations and made pro-Palestinian statements that critics claimed were thinly veiled calls for the elimination of Israel.  CNN promptly fired Hill and many at Temple University demanded that the media studies professor also be fired.  Temple correctly stood firm on the free speech rights of faculty to speak out on such important but controversial issues. While disassociating itself from the merits of the commentary, the university stated that “we acknowledge that he has a constitutionally protected right to express his opinion as a private citizen.” Continue reading “Temple University Refuses To Fire Professor Dumped By CNN For Anti-Israel Comments”

Christopher Newport University Takes Stand For Free Speech

300px-CaptChristopherNewportStatue01We previously discussed the courageous stand of my alma mater, University of Chicago, against the growing speech codes and “safe spaces” in campuses around the country. Purdue University also took a stand in favor of free speech in adopting “the Chicago principles.” Now, Christopher Newport University (a university that I have long admired) has joined the ranks of free speech institutions with its own statement rejecting speech controls and regulations. The statement below states that “Although the University greatly values civility, and although all members of the University community share in the responsibility for maintaining a climate of mutual respect, concerns about civility and mutual respect can never be used as a justification for closing off discussion of ideas, however offensive or disagreeable those ideas may be to some members of our community.” Bravo CNU Bravo.

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Rutgers Reverses Ruling Against Professor Who Wrote About Hating All White People

downloadWe have been discussing the often inconsistent approach taken to controversial statements or postings of students and faculty at our universities and colleges.  The latest such case involves Rutgers University history professor James Livingston, who stated in a post that he hated all white people and wanted them out of his neighborhood.  The school has now cleared him of all wrongdoing and that is a victory for free speech. However, it is not clear if the same result would have occurred if the content of the hateful message were directed at blacks or minorities.  The concern is the inconsistency of a content-based approach to such sanctions.

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UCLA Refuses To Cancel Pro-Palestinian Conference Despite Pressure From Politicians and Activists

4929447497826304UCLA has departed from a disturbing trend toward speech censorship on campuses and refused to yield to demands to shutdown a pro-Palestinian conference, including demands from Congressman Brad Sherman and the Los Angeles City Council. In demanding the action, both Sherman and the city council have shown again a rising anti-free speech trend coming from the left — similar to the devastating rollback in Europe. Continue reading “UCLA Refuses To Cancel Pro-Palestinian Conference Despite Pressure From Politicians and Activists”

Hate “Incidents” Soar In England From Dog Poop To Disputed Tennis Line Calls

Metropolitan_Police_FlagI have been a critic of the alarming criminalizing of speech in Great Britain through hate speech laws.  Such laws create an insatiable appetite for greater and greater speech regulation and create a sense of empowerment among citizens to silence those with whom they disagree.  The most recent statistics from the Metropolitan Police for 2015 and 2016 seem to confirm those concerns.  The over 2,500 alleged “hate incidents” in just that one jurisdiction show a vast array of everyday gripes being reported as hate crimes from a dog pooping near a house of a disputed tennis match.  Hate speech arrests have according to one account risen by 900 percent and now involve thousands of such cases each year.  Nine people a day are being detained.

 

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DOJ Filing Mistakingly References Sealed Criminal Charges Against Assange

US-DeptOfJustice-Seal_svgIn a truly astounding misstep, the United States Attorney’s Office in Eastern Virginia filed a document that referenced an indictment against the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange.  The filng in an unrelated court filing seems to confirm that charges are pending or planned against Assange but the Justice Department will only say that  “The court filing was made in error.” The charges would raise serious first amendment questions over whether it is a crime to publish hacked emails if you were not a party to the hacking.  Wikileaks maintains that it was performing a journalistic function.

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CNN Files Challenge To Suspension Of Acosta’s Press Access

A couple of days ago, we discussed the prospect of CNN suing the Trump Administration over the suspension of CNN’s Jim Acosta’s press credentials after a flair up in a former press conference with President Donald Trump and the refusal of Acosta to surrender the microphone.  CNN has now filed its  lawsuit and it is basically the claims that we anticipated with one addition: a claim that the move violated the Administrative Procedure Act.  As I have said from the outset, I strongly oppose the move by the White House, even though I feel that Acosta went too far in the press conference.  However, I still remain a bit more cautious than many commentators on what is being described as a slam dunk of a case. Continue reading “CNN Files Challenge To Suspension Of Acosta’s Press Access”

Mosques Demand Twitter Bar Any Tweets By Geert Wilders

Freedom_of_SpeechSome 144 Turkish mosques in the Netherlands are demanding that Twitter bar any tweets from conservative politician Geert Wilders due to what they alleged are hateful and disparaging comments.  As many on this blog know, I hold to a robust view of free speech protections.  I tend to oppose censorship through both governmental and private means.  This is no exception. It has nothing to do with Wilders’ views.  I remain committed to the view that the best way of dealing with bad speech is good speech — not the censorship or criminalization of case. Continue reading “Mosques Demand Twitter Bar Any Tweets By Geert Wilders”

Poll: One In Three College Students Believe Violence Is Justified To Stop “Hate Speech”

Online survey of 800 full-time undergraduates conducted by McLaughlin & Associates and sponsored by Yale University’s William F. Buckley, Jr. Program found that a startling number of colleges students believe that violence is justified to silence what they consider to be hate speech.  Today we discussed an FSU student arrested for battery in a confrontation with conservative students.  I will be having a debate at Rice University over calls for schools and government to outlaw hate speech.  As with many in the free speech community, I have been opposed to such criminalizing of speech. Continue reading “Poll: One In Three College Students Believe Violence Is Justified To Stop “Hate Speech””

FSU Student Charged With Battery In Confrontation With Campus Conservatives

Unknown-7Florida_State_University_seal.svgWe have seen an increase in physical assaults on campuses in the last few years as some students and professors seek to harass or silence those with opposing views.  The latest example comes with the criminal battery charge filed against FSU student Shelby Anne Shoup.  She was captured on videotape as they threw chocolate milk on conservative students and kicked over a sign for Ron DeSantis.  Notably, it was the FSU police who made the arrest.  Notably, we also discussed a poll today showing that one out of three college students believe that violence is justified to stop what they consider to be hate speech.  The incident raises a tough question whether such an offense warrants a criminal charge, though it is possible for a court to allow an expungement for some types of misdemeanors in the case of first offenders.

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College Students Win Prize For Halloween Outfits . . . And Mandatory Diversity Training

imagesI recently wrote about the growing controversy over Halloween costumes on campuses and beyond over allegations of cultural appropriation.  Various colleges have cracked down on costumes deemed inappropriate or insulting or culturally appropriating. There is little consideration of the free speech concerns over such regulations or the differing views of cultural appropriations theories.  There is little question that many of these costumes are insulting and inappropriate.  The question is the role of universities in policing good taste and punishing those students who fail to meet often ambiguous standards.  The latest such controversy of students facing discipline can be found at the College of Charleston where members of the softball team cross the line of the Halloween etiquette.

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Res ipsa loquitur – The thing itself speaks