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  • December 19, 2007
    By Harvey Silverglate

    By James F. Tierney

    In a story we missed when it first broke a month ago, a federal appellate court upheld a Texas school's decision to suspend the high school sophomore for writing a violent fictional short story that school administrators interpreted to be a "terroristic threat." According to the Student Press Law Center, the Fifth Circuit decision "relied heavily on Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito's opinion" in the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" case that came down this summer -- Morse v.

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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 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 09, 2007
    By Harvey Silverglate
    By Harvey Silverglate

    One of the craftiest semantic tricks adopted by campus censors since the mid-1980s used to suppress unpopular viewpoints and supposedly offensive speech on campus has been the “civility code,” a close relative of the “harassment code.” The latter has received more attention by commentators as well as courts



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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 01, 2007
    By Wendy Kaminer
    By Wendy Kaminer

    Earlier this week, a smart, worldly civil libertarian queried me about an email reporting that Harvard Law School had expelled a student for indirectly citing a work by a Holocaust denier in a paper about the Nazi’s judicial regime. The report was easily exposed as satire; but serious people took it seriously enough to wonder if it were true, and that was telling.

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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 23, 2007
    By Harvey Silverglate

    Scholars have for centuries sought to define and promote the concept of academic freedom, and, while the exact definitions they’ve arrived at have varied, the underlying rationale has always been the same: to shield academics from political and religious pressure. For this reason, I’m a bit puzzled by the fact that many of the modern-day groups that describe themselves as defenders of academic freedom are also clearly political in nature and often seem to be promoting a political agenda rather than neutral principles of liberty.

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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 06, 2007
    By Wendy Kaminer
    By Wendy Kaminer

    Thanks to Burton Hanson for alerting us to a ruling by the Supreme Court of Washington State striking down a law that barred political candidates from knowingly or recklessly making false statements about their opponents. This was an easy case: if the First Amendment means anything at all, it means that government officials may not restrict the content of political speech, as the majority recognized: “The notion that government, rather than the people, may be the final arbiter of truth in political debate is fundamentally at odds with the First Amendment,” Justice James Johnson wrote, in Rickert v Public Disclosure Commission

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  • October 05, 2007
    By Harvey Silverglate

    Once again, the news media faces a “prior restraint against publication” imposed by the courts, yet few in that industry or elsewhere seem to understand the nature and impact of prior restraints and the true threat they pose. Contrary to common belief, prior restraints pose a more serious threat to Sixth Amendment rights (i.

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  • September 24, 2007
    By Wendy Kaminer
    By Wendy Kaminer

    I can’t say I’m surprised by the enraged comments on my post on the Armenian genocide debate, below. I criticized the decision to boycott an ADL anti-bias program because ADL president Abe Foxman belatedly called the slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians “tantamount to genocide,” and I questioned the wisdom of providing reparations to people whose distant descendents were the victims of genocide, or other state sanctioned crimes.

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  • August 21, 2007
    By Harvey Silverglate
    I don't see how the Anti-Defamation League, either the national organization or its New England regional branch, can dig itself out of the Armenian Genocide hole, into which it falls further each day, unless it devises a more principled position on a question that is central to this entire controversy: “Who writes history?”

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  • August 20, 2007
    By Wendy Kaminer
    Maybe I should watch what I say in discussing Kia Vaughn’s defamation lawsuit against Don Imus. Vaughn, a member of the Rutger’s women basketball team, is suing Imus for referring to her team as “nappy headed ho’s.” No reasonable person would have interpreted Imus’s remark as anything but a crude, stupid, or racist joke; and indeed Rutgers basketball coach C.

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  • August 10, 2007
    By Wendy Kaminer
    Inspired perhaps by the ridicule that greeted its symbolic ban on the word “nigger,” the New York City Council is now considering a similar ban on the words “ho” and “bitch,” (which the proposed ban delicately references as the “b-word.”) Councilwoman Darlene Mealy, chief sponsor of the admittedly unenforceable ban, characterizes the words “bitch” and “ho” as “a vile attack on our womanhood” that “creates a paradigm of shame and indignity” for women.

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