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  • December 02, 2007
    By Wendy Kaminer
    By Wendy Kaminer

    Friendly, occasionally funny, less doctrinaire than many of his fellow conservatives and more approachable than the authoritarian Rudy Giuliani and robotic Mitt Romney, Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee is the right wing preacher/politician/presidential hopeful that some liberals are learning to like.

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  • November 30, 2007
    By Harvey Silverglate

    By Harvey Silverglate

    I was reminded of the convoluted mish-mash that First Amendment law has become (thanks, in large measure, to courts not taking seriously the First Amendment's admonition that the legislature "shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press") after I read Geoff Edgers' article in yesterday's Boston Globe

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  • November 20, 2007
    By Harvey Silverglate

    By James F. Tierney

    Two weeks ago, Harvey Silverglate blogged about a federal Magistrate Judge, Wayne Brazil, who overturned a “civility code” at San Francisco State University on the grounds that it targeted speech and expression that falls under the protection of the First Amendment. (The case was brought by the officers of SFSU's College Republicans, who were investigated under the civility code when students complained they had insulted Muslims by stepping on the Hamas and Hezbollah flags -- which contain the word “Allah” in Arabic script -- during an anti-terrorism rally.

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  • November 19, 2007
    By Wendy Kaminer
    By Wendy Kaminer

    Coerced speech is as much an affront to liberty and human dignity as coerced silence. In extreme cases – think of prisoners of war or terrorism reciting “confessions” dictated by their captors – the affront is obvious. But it’s easy to overlook the abuses occasioned by routine impositions of political orthodoxies on people either too disadvantaged or too craven to challenge them.

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  • November 15, 2007
    By Harvey Silverglate

    By Harvey Silverglate

    H. L. Mencken, late in life, allowed himself to be interviewed by a young reporter from his hometown newspaper. The interviewer asked the grand old curmudgeon, "why, if you find so much that is unworthy of reverence in the United States, do you continue to live here?" Mencken answered the query with another question: “Why do people visit zoos?” Well, living right smack in the middle of the zoo that Harvard has become in its dotage, I now understand Mencken’s reasoning perfectly.

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  • November 15, 2007
    By Harvey Silverglate

    By Harvey Silverglate

    When Massachusetts residents elected Deval Patrick governor just over a year ago, it was a sign that this state had finally become fed up with sixteen years of Republican pols who treated the office as part plaything, part stepping stone to higher electoral office. For some of us, a liberal administration in the State House – who had previously been an Assistant Attorney General for civil rights in the Clinton administration – was a sign that Patrick would act as a “freedom governor” as well as a “compassionate liberal.

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  • November 14, 2007
    By Wendy Kaminer
    By Wendy Kaminer

    Alberto Gonzales left office patting himself on the back for his work combating online child porn, a Bush Administration priority. Congress has enthusiastically targeted child porn too, even when it’s only imaginary, but ran into resistance from the Supreme Court. This term, however, in U.S. v Williams, the Court is once again considering the right to discuss, or pretend to discuss, child pornography.

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  • November 08, 2007
    By webteam

    By James F. Tierney

    Last week the family of a U.S. marine who died in Iraq won a $10.9 million award against members of the Westboro Baptist Church for picketing outside the soldier’s funeral, bearing signs reading “God Hates Fags.” (They “argue” that U.S. servicemen and women are dying in Iraq because God is punishing the U.

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  • November 08, 2007
    By Wendy Kaminer
    By Wendy Kaminer

    Anyone who has yet to be convinced that the term “faith-based” social services is a euphemism for sectarian social services should consider that the Bush Administration has directed 98% of “faith based” foreign aid funds to Christian groups (according to a 2006 report by the Boston Globe.) That should come as no surprise.

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  • November 05, 2007
    By Wendy Kaminer
    By Wendy Kaminer

    Last month, by an overwhelming majority, the House of Representatives passed the “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Act,” aimed, in part, at preventing the spread of “extremist” and potentially violent ideologies (in other words, speech.) The bill does not actually prohibit “violent radicalization.

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  • October 25, 2007
    By Wendy Kaminer
    By Wendy Kaminer

    New York’s aggravated harassment law is unquestionably unconstitutional, in part, as a federal court ruled in 2002. The law includes a prohibition on communicating with someone “with intent to harass, annoy, threaten or alarm … in a manner that is likely to cause annoyance or alarm.” In other words, the state legislature tried to criminalize intentionally annoying speech – the sort of speech in which many New Yorkers indulge every day, the sort of speech they are accustomed to hearing, especially from their elected officials.

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  • October 25, 2007
    By Harvey Silverglate

    By Harvey Silverglate


    The act of censorship is usually seen as a direct affront to the First Amendment, buts it’s not always that clear and simple. The reason, of course, is that the amendment has several clauses, and at times some of them are in tension with one another, if not in seeming conflict.

    Consider today’s curious report in The Boston Globe that the pastor of St.


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  • October 22, 2007
    By Wendy Kaminer
    by Wendy Kaminer

    Freedom to publish ads for escort services may seem like a peripheral perquisite of a free press, as well as a source of entertainment for readers, but prosecuting newspapers for selling the ads is serious First Amendment business – especially if the prosecution constitutes retaliation for the paper’s editorial policies.

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  • October 18, 2007
    By Wendy Kaminer
    By Wendy Kaminer

    When the Anti Defamation League objects to blackballing a speaker accused of anti-Semitism, you know the speech police have gone too far. So it wasn’t surprising when the president of St. Thomas College in Minnesota apologized for vetoing a speaking invitation to Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a sometime critic of Israel.

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  • October 13, 2007
    By Wendy Kaminer
    By Wendy Kaminer

    It’s not exactly an epidemic, but about a dozen racial incidents involving the universal symbol for lynching – a hanging noose - have been reported in the past couple of months. They followed a spate of publicity about the Jena 6 case, which began when white students threw a noose over a tree branch at a Louisiana high school.

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