Monday, July 01, 2013

DOJ Bans ‘Unwelcome Speech’ on Montana Campus -- and Wants to go Nationwide

In May, the Obama administration reached an agreement with the University of Montana after the Department of Justice investigated it for improperly handling “sexual harassment” cases.

Yet it appears the measures put forward in the agreement may make matters worse instead of better. And this is chiefly because the agreement includes a vague ban on “unwelcome speech” as a way to properly handle “sexual harassment.”

“Unwelcome speech” is hard to define. Someone could label even the most innocent of comments from someone else as “unwelcome” on any given day. Someone in a bad mood or with ill intent could charge someone else with using “unwelcome speech” with very little trouble at all.

Because of this, a ban on “unwelcome speech” can quickly become a de facto ban on unwanted speech, and this puts the First Amendment on the chopping block.

Alliance Defending Freedom sent a letter to the Departments of Justice and Education on June 13, on behalf of a coalition of groups concerned that the policy agreement may become commonplace on campuses throughout the country—this is because of the administration’s stated intent to make it a “blueprint” for colleges and universities nationwide. Young America’s Foundation, the National Association of Scholars, Students for Life of America, Ratio Christi, Campus Bible Fellowship International, Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow, and Beta Upsilon Chi all signed the letter.

In the letter, Alliance Defending Freedom and the coalition of signatories make it clear this ban on “unwelcome speech” is so vague that students, let alone administrators charged with its enforcement, will differ as to what constitutes a violation. In turn, this will leave universities with the enormous administrative burden of policing what is and is not actionable harassment—almost certainly stifling, if not ending, free speech in the process.

Alliance Defending Freedom also sent a similar coalition letter to the University of Montana to remind it that the Supreme Court has historically ruled that broad restrictions on speech, like the one mandated by the agreement, violate the Constitution.

The Supreme Court’s opposition to undue limitations of free speech on campus is in keeping with the spirit of a college education. Free and spontaneous discourse on college campuses is supposed to be a hallmark of higher education rather than the exception to the rule.

The policies of the Department of Justice and the Department of Education—and the policies of universities themselves—should always allow students to exercise their constitutionally protected freedoms.



Anonymous said...

"Political correctness is a far greater threat to our freedom and liberty than is terrorism..." -- Spider

Anonymous said...

The Conservative and Libertarian groups need to start filing formal complaints against liberal groups that speak on campuses where these sorts of "unwelcome" speech codes are established and/or enforced.

If a pattern of discrimination can be established, the courts can then be used to force resolution.

Anonymous said...

Censorship, and that is what this really is, reflects society's lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime.

Anonymous said...

To limit speech or the press is to insult a nation; to prohibit reading of certain books or hearing certain words is to declare the inhabitants to be either fools or slaves.

Anonymous said...

The populist authoritarianism, that is the downside of political correctness, means that anyone (sometimes it seems like everyone) can proclaim their grief and have it acknowledged.

The victim culture, every sufferer grasping for their own Holocaust, ensures that anyone who feels offended can call for moderation, for dilution, and in the end, as is all too often the case, for censorship. And censorship, that by-product of fear - stemming as it does not from some positive agenda, but from the desire to escape our own terrors and superstitions by imposing them on others - must surely be resisted.

~Jonathon Green

Anonymous said...

"We are reluctant to admit that we owe our liberties to men of a type that today we hate and fear -- unruly men, "disturbers of the peace," men who resent and denounce what Whitman called 'the insolence of elected persons.' !n a word --


- Gerald W. Johnson - (1890-1980) Source: American Freedom and the Press, 1958

Anonymous said...

"When even one "American" - who has done nothing wrong, is forced by fear to shut his mind and close his mouth, then all Americans are in peril."

- Harry S. Truman

Anonymous said...

"The First Amendment is often inconvenient. But that is besides the point. Inconvenience does not absolve the government of its obligation to tolerate speech."

-Anthony M. Kennedy

Anonymous said...

“If you are not free to choose wrongly and irresponsibly, you are not free at all”
-Jacob Hornberge

“Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.”
-Mahatma Gandhi

“There is no such thing as a little freedom. Either you are all free, or you are not free.”
-Walter Cronkite

“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

Anonymous said...

When people are free to do as they wish you get woodstock.

When governments free to do as IT wishes, you get Auschwitz!