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Letter: What freedom of speech truly is – The Gazette: Eastern Iowa Breaking News and Headlines

Posted: July 20, 2017 at 2:56 am

Jul 19, 2017 at 9:58 am | Print View

Tim Bickels July 9 letter Exercise your right to free speech was a completely inaccurate representation of what the freedom of speech truly is.

The impression I got from his letter is that he wanted to be able to say what he wanted whenever he wanted and no one is allowed to respond or be critical of it. Thats not how it works. If you say something that is anti-gay, thats homophobic and you will be told that youre homophobic. If you say something thats discriminatory toward Islam, then yes you are Islamaphobic. Theres a big difference between being critical of something and demonstrating out right hate and bigotry toward it. Being critical of something is dissecting the various points of it and stating why you disagree with it without classifying it in a discriminatory light.

Freedom of speech guarantees you the right to express yourself without interference from the federal government, thats a very basic laymans term definition of it. But that doesnt mean that a person can say something and another person isnt allowed to retort and classify them as what theyre demonstrating when they speak.

My interpretation of what Bickel wanted was to be able to demonstrate discriminatory thinking, but not carry that label along with him. I think he may need to re-examine things.

I wish for people to exercise freedom of speech with the understanding that others will too and if youre discriminatory the First Amendment doesnt protect you from that.

Chandra Jordan


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Letter: What freedom of speech truly is - The Gazette: Eastern Iowa Breaking News and Headlines

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What Liu Xiaobo’s Grisly Prison Death Tells Us About Free Speech in Xi’s China – Newsweek

Posted: July 19, 2017 at 3:57 am

This article first appeared on the Cato Institute site.

The death of Liu Xiaobo from liver cancer on July 13, under guard at a hospital in Shenyang, marks the passing of a great defender of freedoma man who was willing to speak truth to power.

As the lead signatory to Charter 08, which called for the rule of law and constitutional government, Liu was sentenced to 11 years in prison for inciting the subversion of state power.

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Before his sentencing in 2009, Liu stood before the court and declared, To block freedom of speech is to trample on human rights, to strangle humanity, and to suppress the truth.

With proper treatment and freedom, Liu would have lived on to voice his support for a free society.

Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Mar-a-Lago estate in West Palm Beach, Florida, on April 6, 2017. JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty

While Lius advocacy of limited government, democracy, and a free market for ideas won him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, Chinas leadership viewed him as a criminal and refused to allow him to travel to Oslo to receive the award.

Instead, the prize was placed on an empty chair at the ceremony, a lasting symbol of Lius courage in the face of state suppression.

Beijing also prevented liberal Mao Yushi, cofounder of the Unirule Institute, from attending the ceremony to honor Liu.

The mistreatment of Liu, and other human rights proponents, is a stark reminder that while the Middle Kingdom has made significant progress in liberalizing its economy, it has yet to liberate the minds of the Chinese people or its own political institutions.

The tension between freedom and state power threatens Chinas future. As former premier Wen Jiabao warned in a speech in August 2010, Without the safeguard of political reform, the fruits of economic reform would be lost. Later, in an interview with CNN in October, he held that freedom of speech is indispensable for any country.

Article 33, Section 3, of the PRCs Constitution holds that the State respects and protects human rights. Such language, added by the National Peoples Congress in 2004, encouraged liberals to test the waters, only to find that the reality did not match the rhetoric.

The Chinese Communist Party pays lip service to a free market in ideas, noting: There can never be an end to the need for the emancipation of individual thought ( China Daily , November 16, 2013).

However, Party doctrine strictly regulates that market. Consequently, under market socialism with Chinese characteristics, there is bound to be an ever-present tension between the individual and the state.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal (September 22, 2015), President Xi argued that freedom is the purpose of order, and order the guarantee of freedom.

The real meaning of that statement is that Chinas ruling elite will not tolerate dissent: individuals will be free to communicate ideas, but only those consistent with the states current interpretation of socialist principles.

This socialist vision contrasts sharply with that of market liberalism, which holds that freedom is not the purpose of order; it is the essential means to an emergent or spontaneous order. In the terms of traditional Chinese Taoism, freedom is the source of order.

Simply put, voluntary exchange based on the principle of freedom or nonintervention, which Lao Tzu called wu wei , expands the range of choices open to individuals.

Denying Chinas 1.4 billion people a free market in ideas has led to one of the lowest rankings in the World Press Freedom Index, compiled by Reporters without Borders.

In the 2016 report, China ranked 176 out of 180 countries, only a few notches above North Koreaand the situation appears to be getting worse. Under President Xi Jinpings consolidation of power in preparation for this years Party Congress, the websites of liberal think tanks, such as the Unirule Institute, have been shut down, and virtual private networks (VPNs) are being closed, preventing internet users from circumventing the Great Firewall.

Lius death is a tragic reminder that China is still an authoritarian regime whose leaders seek to hold onto power at the cost of the lives of those like Liu who seek only peace and harmony through limiting the power of government and safeguarding individual rights.

James A. Dorn is vice president for monetary studies, editor of the Cato Journal , senior fellow, and director of Catos annual monetary conference.

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Michigan Students Object to Campus Free Speech Bill – Townhall

Posted: at 3:57 am

Michigan State Sen. Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton Township, is the leading sponsor for the Campus Free Speech Act, a proposed bill that would restrict certain kinds of protesting on Michigan college campuses. Students who have twice been found responsible for infringing upon the expressive rights of others, would either be suspended for a year or expelled permanently.

Colbeck says that the bill would allow speakers to visit campuses without being disrupted by students who disagree with their views, referring to when author and commentator Ann Coulter canceled her speaking engagement at the University of California, Berkley, because of pushback from students.

The CEO of the Michigan Association of State Universities, Dan Hurley, said that such instances are intentionally set up by individuals who are not students, not affiliated with the university." He does not believe there is a problem with free speech or expression at colleges, he said.

Michigan's 15 public universities and 28 community colleges would adopt the rules set out by the bill, and would also abolish free speech zones. In May, Sen. Colbeck said, Ultimately, theres people that are just trying to shut down any discussion of issues that they dont agree with.

Michigan students are split on the bill, some thinking that it would infringe on their own free speech rights. Vikrant Garg is a graduate student at the University of Michigan and helped found Students4Justice, a group for students of color at UM who organize to target inequities on our campus.

What this does is criminalize people for expressing their freedom of speech, Garg said.

This bill, and the people that make these decisions, including the police who are used to enforce these policies operate under a framework in which they can silence us and inflict violence against us with no consequences. They can inflict violence against us for speaking out."

Gregory Magarian, professor of law at Washington University in Saint Louis and a free speech expert, says that colleges should address the issue on their campuses individually.

Nancy Schmitz, dean of students and assistant vice president of student affairs at Oakland University said, Our student affairs office works hand in hand with the Oakland University Police Departments chief of police and group leaders to ensure access and safety in organizing such events. In addition, we always comply with all federal and state laws on the matter and will follow developments with the latest legislation being proposed.

Some faculty members believe the bill is unnecessary. According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, an organization that rates speech codes on campuses, rules restricting or limiting free speech already exist on Michigan's public university campuses.

Ultimately, the legislation could promote an atmosphere of discussion and civil debate. Sen. Colbeck said, "if campus leaders believe some speech creates a safety concern because of unruly audience members wishing to use violence, they must police those who would break the law in order to stifle free speech, ... intellectual freedom on our campuses must not be bullied into silence."

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Campus free speech bills: Restrict or protect rights? – The Detroit News

Posted: July 18, 2017 at 3:55 am

MSU graduate Alex Bissell protests convervative columnist George Wills commencement address in 2014.(Photo: Max Ortiz / The Detroit News)Buy Photo

A pair of bills introduced in the Legislature that seek the suspension or expulsion of outspoken students are causing a stir at Michigans universities.

Critics say the proposed measures could hinder student activism. However, the main sponsor, state Sen. Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton Township, says the Campus Free Speech Act ensures invited campus speakers have their voices heard.

It makes sure they arent able to shout down the speaker, he said. Ideally, I think it would be nice to have engagement in debate if they are willing to have a civil debate on the topic. ... If that doesnt happen, they could hold their own forum.

The legislation would apply to Michigans 15 public universities and 28 community colleges. Institutions would be required to suspend for one year or expel students who have twice been found responsible for infringing upon the expressive rights of others.

The measures also would eliminate free speech zones that designate where students can engage in expressive activity on campus.

Opponents say the proposals would infringe on free speech, not protect it.

This is a very tricky situation, said Vikrant Garg, 21, a graduate student studying public health at the University of Michigan. What this does is criminalize people for expressing their freedom of speech.

Garg, a co-founder of Students4justice, a coalition for students of color, said the legislation could drive away any kind of dissent.

Theres so many applications of this bill, its so far reaching it could apply to almost everybody, he said. Thats what makes it even more dangerous.

Dan Hurley, CEO of the Michigan Association of State Universities, said the measures are intrusive and unnecessary.

Its a solution in search of a problem, Hurley said. The freedom of speech and expression are not an issue at Michigans post-secondary institutions. There have been some anecdotal incidents that youve probably read about that proponents would refer to. These are often incidents that are intentionally set up by individuals who are not students, not affiliated with the university.

Fostering discussion

Colbeck pointed to the cancellation earlier this year of a planned speech by conservative commentator Ann Coulter at the University of California at Berkeley. University officials said threats of violence made it impossible to guarantee security at the event.

A Philadelphia-based group called the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, has found that Michigans public universities already have speech code policies that substantially restrict freedom of speech or have the ability to result in restrictions on protected expression because of their vague wording or for other reasons. The group annually rates the speech codes for the 400 of the nations largest universities and colleges.

FIRE found problems with protecting speech at all 15 Michigan public universities. Six universities, including the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and its Dearborn and Flint campuses as well as Wayne State, had at least one policy that substantially restricts the freedom of speech, according to FIRE.

The other nine universities, including Michigan State and Oakland universities, had policies that restricted a more limited amount of free speech or whose vague wording could easily be used to restrict protected expression, the nonprofit said.

Grant Strobl, a 21-year-old international studies and political science major at UM, supports the legislation, saying it would require universities to remove protesters who interfere with events.

Its something that needs to be addressed not only in Michigan, but across the country, said Strobl, chairman of Young Americans for Freedom, a campus conservative group. Its not a perfect bill. Im sure there will be changes. ... I think its a step in the right direction.

He concluded: Its unfortunate that some students have the mentality that if they dont agree with certain speech, they can shout down the speaker and silence them.

As an example, Strobl said he saw hundreds of shouting protesters stop a debate last September at UM about whether the Black Lives Matter movement harms race relations. The event was hosted by Michigan Political Union, an independent student organization.

I feel like a lot of what is important in the democracy was lost that day, he said. We werent able to have a discussion on relevant political issues. Theres no better place to do that than the university.

The legislation in Michigan follows action by Republican lawmakers in several other states to crack down on protesters who disrupt speakers at post-secondary institutions.

In Wisconsin, for example, lawmakers are weighing a bill that would penalize protesters who disrupt speakers. The issue is now before the state Senate.

UMs student newspaper, The Michigan Daily, wrote an editorial last month opposing Colbecks legislation. Officials at some state universities also have expressed reservations.

Targeted limits

Michigan State University spokesman Jason Cody said that while the school has not taken an official position on the legislation, officials are concerned about the bills and share the some of the objections raised by MASU.

Here at MSU, we encourage our students and faculty members to bring in speakers and events, regardless if they are deemed controversial by some, Cody said. By the same token, we encourage our campus community to make their viewpoints known on issues they are passionate about. In all of that, though, we ask both sides of any issue to be respectful and follow MSU ordinances.

Oakland University officials say campus policy has always protected the rights of student groups and outside organizations that gather in a peaceful manner.

Our student affairs office works hand in hand with the Oakland University Police Departments chief of police and group leaders to ensure access and safety in organizing such events, said Nancy Schmitz, assistant vice president for student affairs and dean of students. In addition, we always comply with all federal and state laws on the matter and will follow developments with this latest legislation being proposed.

Free speech expert Gregory Magarian, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis, said he doesnt mind the parts of the bills that reiterate the values of the First Amendment. However, he considers certain areas problematic.

Why single out protests and demonstrations? he said. If I recall correctly, those terms arent even defined in the statute. So this bill, which is supposed to be a free-speech bill, is putting a particular kind of limit on certain kinds of free speech, so-called protests and demonstrations.

Magarian said the legislation could be interpreted as banning all forms of protest.

The effect of that passage would seem to be that a protest or demonstration can be shut down if it interferes with any other kind of expressive activity, he said. I dont know of any kind of protest that doesnt interfere with other kinds of expressive activity.

Magarian said the bills mandatory penalties of a one-year suspension or expulsion for second-time offenders create a conflict for universities. He said hes inclined to think its better for universities to figure the issue out themselves.

One thing that might backfire about the provision is that its a pretty severe sanction, he said. The mandate of that sanction might well encourage universities in disciplinary proceedings to go easier on disruptors than they would if they had less severe penalties to dish out. ... That would cut against what this legislation is trying to do.

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Campus free speech bills: Restrict or protect rights? - The Detroit News

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Free Speech 2017 At War With the Framers of 1787 – American Spectator

Posted: at 3:55 am

James Madison, prime drafter of the Bill of Rights, would be appalled to find marauding mobs curbing speakers, but not surprised. This and much more that illuminates todays struggle over freedom of speech is the subject of a compact volume, The Soul of the First Amendment, by legendary First Amendment constitutional scholar Floyd Abrams.

Abrams traces the two-century history of the First Amendment, from its creation in the Bill of Rights, ratified in 1791, three years after ratification of the Constitution (which took nearly a year after its publication by the Framers of Philadelphia), The Framers were disinclined to adopt a Bill of Rights, whose protections they regarded as implicit in the text of the Constitution. Framer Roger Sherman of Connecticut said of bills of rights: No bill of rights ever yet bound the supreme power longer than longer than the honey moon [sic]of a newly married couple. Fortunately, Mr. Madison prevailed over such skepticism.

Abrams cites the mid-century historian Clinton Rossiter, who described the 1787 Constitution as plain to the point of severity, frugal to the point of austerity, laconic to the point of aphorism. Madison stated that the great object of bills of rights is to limit and qualify the powers of government, by excepting out of the grant of power those cases in which the government ought not to act, or to act only in a particular mode. Madison believed courts would act as an impenetrable barrier to infringement of speech. But speech is now under a sustained assault not seen since the 1798 Sedition Act saw more than 20 newspaper editors jailed by President John Adams.

Because Abrams covers only the First Amendment, he ignores the Courts seminal Bill of Rights case prior to 1925, the year the Supreme Court began to selectively incorporate clauses, thus applying them to the States. Until then the case that defined its ambit was Barron v. Baltimore (1833), in which Chief Justice John Marshall, our most influential Justice, authored the Courts opinion holding that the Bill of Rights limited only the powers of the federal government. Indeed, it was not until 1939 (NOT a misprint) that the final trio of the original 13 colonies Massachusetts (Mar. 2), Georgia (Mar. 18) and Connecticut (Apr. 19) ratified the document many consider our true fundamental charter. This view is widely held because the Constitutions text focuses on definition and distribution of powers, many arcane to non-lawyers; the first ten amendments collectively called the Bill of Rights is a charter that mostly defines substantive constitutional rights, to many our secular Ten Commandments.

Abrams offers six chapters: (1) the history of free speech and the First Amendment over the past 226 years; (2) comparison of free speech protection between America and the other Western democracies; (3) how English free speech law was explicitly rejected by the Supreme Court in a landmark decision; (4) comparison of relative protection of a right to be forgotten; (5) comparison of regulation of spending in political campaigns; (6) free speech issues that evade legislative and jurisprudential solution.

Abrams notes two emerging, divergent views on free speech protections. Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in his dissent as to free speech protection in the landmark 2010 Citizens United decision: The First Amendment advances not only the individuals right to engage in political speech, but also the publics interest in preserving democratic order in which collective speech matters. (Italics in original.) As rebuttal, Abrams cited Chief Justice Roberts in a later election free speech case, that the will of the majority plainly can include laws that restrict free speech. The whole point of the First Amendment is to afford individuals protection against such infringements. The case for new curbs on speech was carried further by former Harvard Law School Dean Kathleen Sullivan, who identified opposing visions of free speech: one protects only such speech as is perceived to advance political equality by protecting designated rights holders; the other is negative, and bars the government from restricting speech, with a few very narrow exceptions. Sullivan supports the former, while Abrams supports the latter. Abrams follows the Framers; Sullivan, postmodern jurisprudential values.

The dominant limitation of speech from the founding into the 1920s was censorship. Only with the jurisprudence of Justices Oliver Wendell Holmes and Louis D. Brandeis did protection of free speech, however unpopular, came to the fore. It was only in 1925 that the Frist Amendment was applied to the states; and not until 1965 NOT a misprint did the Supreme Court rely upon the First Amendment to strike down a federal statute.

Abrams is very effective in contrasting the great degree to which speech remains protected in America, versus its creeping strangulation in Europe. Prime culprits are rulings by national courts and administrative tribunals, plus pan-European international bodies. He cites several recent decisions that would not have been made on our side of the Pond. Speakers have been convicted for such offenses as calling for an end to Muslim immigration (Britain, Belgium); for putting ones country first (Britain and Belgium again); and attacking Christianity (Poland). But it is criticism of Islam that is most ferociously punished today. Dutch parliamentarian and unsuccessful candidate for prime minister Geert Wilders was convicted for giving speeches calling for an end to Islamicization in Holland. This is the steep price of multicultural political correctness.

Another landmark protection for American speakers and writers came with passage of laws preventing enforcement against Americans of libel judgments issued by European courts; militant Islamist plaintiffs had targeted authors whose works sold only a few copies overseas, suing in England rather than in the U.S., to take advantage of European speech laws. Abrams counts 23 nations in the European Union that have criminal libel laws, with 20 of them including imprisonment penalties; several have laws calling for greater punishment for libeling public officials.

In one major area even a free speech libertarian like Abrams draws at least a partial line: national security. He recounts that during the 1971 Pentagon Papers case (in which a massive archive of Vietnam war decision-making was published by the New York Times and the Washington Post) the Times withheld certain classified details. Earlier, in the 1950s the Times learned that the CIA was conducting secret reconnaissance overflights of the Soviet Union, and elected not to publish. Rampant disclosure of sensitive classified information is now close to a journalistic norm. While such may prevent abuses, which undeniably exist, they can also damage national security sources and methods regarding intelligence collection, for example.

Perhaps most dangerous of all is the growing trend towards suppressing speech by resort to mass violence. Violence is contagious, if unchecked. Democrats were silent when Madonna said on Inauguration Day that she imagined the White House exploding; when a rapper posted a video imagining President Trump being assassinated; and some even defended the profanation of a Julius Caesar Shakespeare in the Park production in which Caesar dressed as Trump was stabbed to death. Such attitudes spawn violence not only against the right. California Democrats, much to their surprise, have received death threats from members of their hardcore leftist base, warning them not to cede to President Trump on health care.

Many remember vividly the tragic and terrifying events leading up to November 22, 1963, when President Kennedy was gunned down. For at least a year before that ghastly Friday of November 22, right-wing extremists had openly preached violence against the president. The contagion had spread, but a radical leftist was the assassin. Violent and hateful rhetoric, far from being tamped down, escalated though the massively destructive race riots of 1964-1968. The wave crested with the spring 1968 murders of Martin Luther King by a white racist, and of Senator Robert Kennedy by a Palestinian terrorist.

In what Abrams terms an historical irony the protections of the Bill of Rights have most often been invoked on behalf of leftist dissenters, yet it is the hardcore left that today aggressively moves to curtail such protections for speakers on the right. It was said of the French Revolution that in the end it, like the Roman deity Saturn, ultimately devoured its own children. Todays myriad leftist practitioners and the few of their ilk on the right of intellectual thuggee might do well to ponder this.

The death of free speech would mark the demise of the American republic, tossing the Constitution into historys ash heap. It would be a terrifying triumph for totalitarians everywhere. Either we let speech run free, or we let the sensitivities of listeners (and readers) delimit what we may lawfully say. To prefer the latter is to empower most those who will most vociferously impose their sensitivities to silence others. They will always be the most extreme among us. And then we will have the least freedom of speech when we need most the broadest freedom to speak.

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The latest idiotic attack on free speech: Opinions as violence – Washington Examiner

Posted: at 3:55 am

Writing in the New York Times Sunday Review, Professor Lisa Barrett of Northeastern University posed a question this weekend:

"When is speech violence?"

Barrett, who specializes in psychology, tries to answer the question with two key points.

First, "Offensiveness is not bad for your body and brain. ... When you're forced to engage a position you strongly disagree with, you learn something about the other perspective as well as your own. The process feels unpleasant, but it's a good kind of stress temporary and not harmful to your body and you reap the longer-term benefits of learning."

No problem there. Stress is something we can internalize and compensate for.

But then Barrett warns against "long stretches of simmering stress. If you spend a lot of time in a harsh environment worrying about your safety, that's the kind of stress that brings on illness and remodels your brain." What kind of stress is Barrett talking about?

Milo Yiannopoulos.

The professor explains that "it's reasonable, scientifically speaking, not to allow a provocateur and hatemonger like Milo Yiannopoulos to speak at your school. He is part of something noxious, a campaign of abuse. There is nothing to be gained from debating him, for debate is not what he is offering."

Conversely, Barrett says, Charles Murray is worthy of our ears because he offers meaningful debate.

In this juxtaposition of Milo and Murray, Barrett wants us to regard her argument as nuanced and intellectual.

We should not do so.

After all, there's a moral and intellectual rot at play here. While Barrett might deride Yiannopoulos as a "hatemonger" who has no interest in the exchange of ideas, his supporters clearly believe the opposite. Whether defending Donald Trump or challenging college campuses to allow controversial speakers, to them, Yiannopoulos does serve social debate.

And that speaks to the broader issue here.

At its most basic level, Barrett's argument is neither intelligent nor constructive. It is simply hyper-arrogant. The professor believes her viewpoint of stress and speakers should be a guide for all society.

The opposite is true. Indeed, Barrett is exactly why the Constitution grants such latitude to the conduct of free speech. If not, a speaker's appeal or discomfort will be viewed subjectively by each individual. The Constitution represents the truth that the more individual viewpoints exchanged, the more opportunity for worthwhile social discourse.

Barrett concludes with a call to action "we must also halt speech that bullies and torments. From the perspective of our brain cells, the latter is literally a form of violence."

Well, from the prospective of my brain cells, Barrett's argument is a form of violence. Not because it threatens me, but because its arrogant idiocy causes me painful stress.

Yet unlike Barrett, I believe freedom of speech is too important to be subjugated to my misplaced emotions.

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Satanic memorial sparks free speech debate in Minnesota city – Fox News

Posted: July 17, 2017 at 3:57 am

BELLE PLAINE, Minn. A veterans park in Belle Plaine became a ground zero for constitutional debate after the city created a Free Speech Zone where memorials of any religious background could be placed.

In January, a Christian memorial was removed over concerns it violated the establishment clause of the Constitution. Now, a satanic memorial is set to move in, causing protests on Saturday.

The removal of the Christian memorial by the city of Belle Plaine sparked outrage. The city cited complaints that it violated Constitutional obligations to separate church and state. Later, the memorial was returned to the park.

In February, the Belle Plaine city council voted to establish the veterans memorial park a Free Speech Zone, welcoming any religion or group to take part.

This is what we support, this is what the community supports, said one protester. And it doesnt matter if you are Jewish, Muslimwe are all Americans fighting this war together.

But, promises of inclusion were quickly put to the test. The Satanic Temple in Salem, Massachusetts, announced a plan to install a monument of their own: a black cube with a helmet on top.

The monument is intended to honor veterans who may not be Christian.

Counter-protester Army Reserve Lieutenant Kevin Lindow told Fox 9 that he supports any memorial, regardless of religion or background. He said he does not believe in God, but did serve his country and would like the monument to be in the park.

Others at Saturdays gathering believe Constitutional protection comes with exceptions.

My thoughts are, if you are calling Satan to be on your side, you are not going to expect any blessings, Bernard Slobodnik, a protest organizer said.

There is a freedom of speech, but freedom comes at a price, as well, said one protester. They are free to believe whatever they want to, but they need to do it on their own grounds, not on public property.

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Satanic memorial sparks free speech debate in Minnesota city - Fox News

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Column: The manufactured free speech crisis – The Detroit News

Posted: at 3:57 am

John Patrick Leary Published 11:04 p.m. ET July 16, 2017 | Updated 11:04 p.m. ET July 16, 2017

The recent flurry of activity on the crisis of campus free speech is manufactured, Leary writes.(Photo: David Guralnick / The Detroit News)Buy Photo

The Michigan Legislature, like the U.S. Senate, is a safe space for right-wing groupthink. Thats the conclusion Ive drawn from a recent flurry of activity on the manufactured crisis of campus free speech in Lansing and Washington, D.C. A pair of bills recently introduced by Sen. Patrick Colbeck would direct state universities to ensure the fullest degree of intellectual freedom and free expression, and would then require them to suspend or expel student protesters who infringe upon another persons free speech rights. Colbecks bill is similar to proposed legislation in Wisconsin, Colorado, and North Carolina. Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., Sen. Chuck Grassley recently concluded a Judiciary Committee hearing entitled Free Speech 101: The Assault on the First Amendment on College Campuses.

What is driving this concern with college activism? Conservatives have been in an uproar since a series of raucous protests against conservative speakers at campuses like the University of California, Berkeley, and Middlebury College in Vermont last year. In February, Milo Yiannopoulos, the disgraced former editor, canceled a talk at Berkeley in the face of raucous demonstrations. The following month at Middlebury, student protesters interrupted a lecture by Charles Murray, an American Enterprise Institute Fellow and co-author of The Bell Curve, the book that argued that racial inequality is shaped by nonwhite peoples genetic makeup.

Grassley and Colbeck choose to read disruptive demonstrations like these as evidence of a pervasive crisis of free speech on campus. Grassley claimed that American colleges are becoming places of anti-Constitution indoctrination and censorship. His primary example of this dreadful development? Seventy percent of students today believe it is desirable to restrict the use of slurs and other language intentionally offensive to certain groups, he said. The First Amendment, to Grassley, protects Americans God-given right to be cruel in public. Colbeck echoes this assessment.

The Bill of Rights should be next on Colbecks summer reading list. One can argue about tactics, but Berkeley and Middlebury students had every right to loudly, disruptively, even rudely protest Yiannopoulos and Murray. The First Amendment makes no demands on politeness. And Yiannopoulos and Murray, in turn, had every right to give their lectures without state repression. But contrary to popular belief in the GOP, the First Amendment does not guarantee anyone, right or left, a platform or a polite audience.

Whats more, Colbeck seems not to recognize that the First Amendment applies to speakers he doesnt like leftist protesters, in this case as well as those he does. Senate Bill 349 stipulates that protests and demonstrations that infringe upon the rights of others to engage in or listen to expressive activity are not permitted. Violations of this vaguely-worded rule what does infringe mean? would result in either suspensions or expulsions for student demonstrators speaking out on the issues that matter to them. Under the law, student activists would have recourse to a disciplinary hearing and a lawyer if they have enough pizza money laying around to hire one, that is. Colbeck may have read 1984, but he has learned all the wrong lessons it. It is Orwellian in the extreme to propose a free-speech tribunal, presided over by college authorities, as a remedy for the suppression of free speech.

The stated reasons for the GOPs interest in regulating college campus activism dont stand up to scrutiny. What, then, are their unstated reasons?

Politics. Student activists, the clear targets of the bill, are on the left. Senate Bill 350 stipulates that universities must not shield students from protected speech, if they find the ideas and opinions expressed unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive. I agree as does every faculty member I know. (Unlike Sen. Grassley, however, I dont consider racial slurs to be ideas.) But if Colbeck were serious about nurturing unpopular or controversial opinions in college, then he would be alarmed at the rise of neo-McCarthyist groups like Turning Point USA, which operates a Professor Watchlist that claims to expose and document leftist professors across the country. He would be disappointed that George Cicciarello-Maher, a Drexel University political scientist on this list, faces possible dismissal over a series of tweets that earned the ire of an right-wing outrage machine on social media.

But you will not hear a word about them, or many others like them, from Colbeck or Grassley. Conservatives, no longer content to undermine public colleges by starving them of funding, now seem to prefer that the government regulate their intellectual lives more directly all in the name of free speech, of course. And in the name of freedom of speech and thought, we shouldnt let them.

John Patrick Leary is an assistant professor of English at Wayne State University.

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Verify: When does free speech become harassment? –

Posted: July 14, 2017 at 5:00 am

Amanda Roley , KREM 5:46 PM. PDT July 13, 2017

SPOKANE, Wash. -- A woman is facing multiple counts of malicious harassment after court documents said she yelled racially motivated comments at her neighbors.

Court records show the cell phone video was taken of Shalisha Israel yelling things like, "You guys drug dealers or something," and "I think you might be terrorists! This is not your America! You are evil!"

PREVIOUS STORY:Woman arrested after harassing neighbors, calling them 'terrorists'

KREM 2 posted the story online and many people commented that what the woman said was not right but what about her freedom of speech?

To verify when your first amendment rights are protected and when it turns into harassment KREM 2 talked to First Amendment lawyer David Bodney.

He said the line between your freedom of speech and harassment is drawn with three exceptions to your First Amendment rights. The first is, if the statement constitutes incitement. Meaning if there is a serious risk of imminent harm, it is possible your speech can be limited. The second exception is if the speech uses "fighting words" meaning if someone continues to provoke another in close proximity using language that would cause a person to respond aggressively. The final exception, is if the speaker says a true threat, which is where the speaker communicates in a way that is a true threat to the safety of the recipient. However, Bodney said these three exceptions are fairly difficult to prove.

"There are not a lot of fighting word cases out there, and there are not a whole lot of true threat cases out there. And thought the court recognizes this notion of what constitutes incitement, it's a very difficult standard to meet," Bodney said.

Bodney adds that your first amendment right is not absolute. In the case of this woman who shouted racial remarks at her neighbors, Bodney said the video does not show any pronounced evidence of the three exceptions to free speech. Even though the first amendment could be used as a defense, Bodney said it could still go in the victim's favor.

"If the speech is annoying, alarming or otherwise meets the test of a state statute that define harassment it may well be possible to get an order to restrain that kind of speech," Bodney explains.

KREM 2 can verify there are exceptions to your first amendment rights that would classify your speech as harassment. Before you exercise those rights, make sure your speech does not include fighting words, a true threat or constitute incitement.

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Is Advertising Free Speech? – The American Conservative

Posted: July 13, 2017 at 6:57 am

We are led to believe that standing up for the Constitution and limiting the tax burden on citizens were Republican tenets. Unfortunately, members of the Republican Party are the ones now considering to stomp on both the First Amendment and the American entrepreneur by changing the way we expense advertising costs.

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) is reportedly contemplating the adoption of former Republican Rep. Dave Camps 2014 ad tax proposal, in which commercial advertising would no longer be 100 percent deductible as a business expenseas it has been since the creation of the federal income tax. Instead, it would be 50 percent deductible, leaving the remaining to be amortized over a decade. By holding corporations money for an entire decade, this new tax would treat ads as an asset like machinery instead of as a business expense like research and wages.

I know accounting can be boring, but these are fighting words!

In singling out free, commercial speech from other business expenses, this 50/50 proposal is in clear violation of the First Amendment. After all, the reason commercial advertising has been fully deductible since the income taxs founding in 1913 is because Congress has always known that it cannot constitutionally regulate free, commercial speech by making it a dollars and cents game.

The American Revolution was largely fought over this very issue. Remember the Stamp Act of 1765? The relationship between England and the Colonies was strained already when this tax pushed it to a boiling point. The Stamp Act imposed an across-the-board flat tax on advertising. It levied a tax of two shillings per ad no matter what it was or where it was being printed. Mob violence was triggered. Stamp collectors quit in fear and the British government repealed it a year later to quell the violence, but the goose was cooked. War was on the horizon and the Stamp Act was a rallying cry for the colonists.

After the British were defeated, our Founders set up a form of government with a Constitution in which the First Amendment prevented the government from ever taxing advertising again. Freedom to advertise: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press

For centuries, the First Amendment has protected corporate advertising, which goes hand in hand with our formidable entrepreneurial spirit. Businesses must advertise to succeedin fact, advertising spending generates approximately 16 percent of the nations economic activity. Do the Republicans really want to be the party to tax that?

From Constitutional scholar Bruce Fein:

Commercial speech is protected by the First Amendment. In overturning a prohibition on legal advertising in Bates v. State Bar of Arizona (1977), the Supreme Court reaffirmed that free speech includes paid advertisements or solicitations to pay or to contribute money. The Court elaborated on the consumer benefits of commercial advertising:

The listeners interest is substantial: the consumers concern for the free flow of commercial speech often may be far keener than his concern for urgent political dialogue. Moreover, significant societal interests are served by such speech. Advertising, though entirely commercial, may often carry information of import to significant issues of the day. [citation omitted]. And commercial speech serves to inform the public of the availability, nature, and prices of products and services, and thus performs an indispensable role in the allocation of resources in a free enterprise system. [citation omitted]. In short, such speech serves individual and societal interests in assuring informed and reliable decisionmaking.

A Republican-controlled Congress would go down in history as the party to regulate our First Amendment right in such a way as to extort more from the already burdened American businessmen and women.

Recently, a coalition of 124 House members, led by Reps. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.) and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) sent a letter to congress urging them not to mess with the current tax treatment of advertising.

Will Congress heed the warning? Only time will tell.

Steve Sherman is an author, radio commentator, and former Iowa House candidate. His articles have appeared nationally in both print and online. His most recent novel, titled Mercy Shot, can be found on Amazon or at

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Is Advertising Free Speech? - The American Conservative

Posted in Freedom of Speech | Comments Off on Is Advertising Free Speech? – The American Conservative

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