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  • December 11, 2007
    By Wendy Kaminer
    By Wendy Kaminer

    Once college students risked their lives challenging segregation and participating in voter registration drives in the deep South. Today, on many campuses, students fight for the right not to be offended, with the support and encouragement of college and university administrators. The hysteria about racial or ethnic slights and presumptively offensive speech that reigns on so many campuses is explored and exemplified by a recent article in the Boston Globe

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  • December 06, 2007
    By Harvey Silverglate

    By Harvey Silverglate

    Sometimes, as Sigmund Freud put it, a cigar is just a cigar. And, likewise, sometimes words in the Constitution actually mean what they say. Much brainpower, however, has been expended trying to argue that the First Amendment, which admonishes that “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press” [emphasis added], actually doesn’t mean what it appears to say.

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  • December 06, 2007
    By Wendy Kaminer
    By Wendy Kaminer

    Thank god for religious minorities: when members of minority faiths run for office they have little choice but to defend religious liberty and give at least a nod to separation of church and state. Appealing to our tradition of pluralism and, like John Kennedy, promising that as president he would not take direction from his church, even Mitt Romney occasionally sounded a little like a civil libertarian in his virtually obligatory speech on faith.

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  • December 05, 2007
    By Wendy Kaminer
    By Wendy Kaminer

    Governor Patrick’s decision to abort the removal of banners and flags from highway overpasses, following protests by people anxious to announce their support and concern for the troops, provides an interesting opportunity to test his and our commitment to free speech. If he does not eventually order the signs removed, he will effectively declare that the overpasses are public forums on which anyone can post any message, however provocative or arguably offensive (so long as it isn’t legally obscene or otherwise unprotected by the First Amendment.

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  • December 04, 2007
    By Harvey Silverglate
    By Jan Wolfe

    According to e-mails obtained by Media Matters, the Fox News Channel refused to air an advertisement produced by the Center for Constitutional Rights that accuses President Bush of "destroying the constitution."

    I'm not sure what's more troubling: the fact that the top-ranked cable news channel would refuse to air a political ad, or the fact that restoring the constitution has now become a politicized issue.
  • December 03, 2007
    By Harvey Silverglate
    By Jan Wolfe

    According an article in today's Sunday Times, a Department of Justice lawyer is arguing in British court that the U.S. has a right to "kidnap" foreign citizens who are charged with crimes in American court. The case at hand does not involve the rendition of terrorist suspects, as one might presume, but rather three bankers wanted on fraud charges.



  • December 03, 2007
    By Wendy Kaminer
    By Wendy Kaminer

    Not surprisingly, right and left wing partisans share a penchant for censorship: each side has a de facto list of taboo subjects and ideas, discussions of which expose people to formal and informal punishments. Consider these two cases:

    On the right: The Texas Education Agency’s director of science, Christine Castillo Comer, was forced to resign last month because she forwarded an email from the National Center for Science Education about a talk on evolution and creationism.



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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 28, 2007
    By Wendy Kaminer
    By Wendy Kaminer

    Conservative advocates of judicial restraint should be praising now beleaguered Judge Kathe Tuttman for doing exactly what they so often exhort judges to do. In releasing Daniel Tavares on his own recognizance (shortly before he absconded to Washington state and allegedly murdered two people) Judge Tuttman was following the law, not making it, engaging in a real-life exercise of judicial restraint.

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  • November 27, 2007
    By webteam

    By James F. Tierney

    In the August 15, 2007 Boston Phoenix, Harvey described the criminal case against Powers Fasteners as a likely form of extortion, in which Attorney General Martha Coakley's motive in pursuing the company was to extort civil settlements from it and, more importantly, other companies -- such as contractor Bechtel -- with enough money to buy their way out.

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  • November 26, 2007
    By Wendy Kaminer
    By Wendy Kaminer

    Embarrassing publicity seems to have convinced U.S. Bridge Federation officials not to persist in retaliating against members of the U.S. Women’s Bridge Team for holding up sign proclaiming “We did not vote for Bush” at an awards ceremony in Shanghai. (See “No Offense,” below) A settlement was reached with the players just before the team captain was scheduled to appear on CBS’s The Early Show

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  • November 21, 2007
    By Harvey Silverglate

    It is all too true that when it comes to questions of constitutional rights, the devil (or the angel, as the case may be) can be in the details. This seems the case with the new Boston Police Department initiative that would allow police officers to visit homes where they receive a tip that a minor might have hidden a gun, or where the parent suspects such and is willing to ask for police intervention.

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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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