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HAMPTON, Va. The Virginia Community College System has agreed to alter its free speech policy as a means to settle a lawsuit with a Christian student who was barred from preaching the Gospel on campus last fall.

As previously reported, last fall, student Christian Parks publicly preached the Gospel on four different occasions in a courtyard on the Thomas Nelson Community College (TNCC) campus.However, the third time Parks preached the Gospel in the campus courtyard, he was confronted by three uniformed police officers from the TNCC Police Department. The officers ordered Parks to stop preaching. Though Parks thought the officers actions were unconstitutional, he complied with their order.

A few days later, Parks began preaching in the same courtyard for the fourth time. Once again, campus police officers silenced him.

Following the second encounter with the campus police, Parks asked TNCC administrators why he was not allowed to preach on the schools campus. He was told that, in order to open-air preach on campus, he would first have to join a registered student organization and then receive permission from TNCC officials four days in advance of any preaching.If Parks did not comply with the regulations, he could be subject to disciplinary actions, including suspension or dismissal.

Therefore, Parks contacted the Christian legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) for assistance, which filed a lawsuit against the university. Attorneysargued that the schools silencing of Parks preaching is a violation of his First Amendment constitutional rights.

It is repugnant to Mr. Parks that he, as an individual citizen and student at a public community college, must notify the government in order to speak on campus when he feels convicted by his religious faith to speak and preach on campus, the suit contended.

The ACLU of Virginia also criticized the schools speech-limiting policies, writing in aletterto the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) that the schools policies deserve substantial revision.

If accurate, the complaint against VCCS describes a clear violation of the constitutionally protected free speech rights of a community college student, it stated. [W]e urge you to take immediate steps to ensure that a revised demonstration policy that takes into account the free speech rights of students, faculty, staff, and the general public is considered and adopted by the Board without delay.

This week, the Daily Press reported that the system agreed to work out a settlement with Park, which primarily includes altering its free speech policy. The current policy has been suspended while the settlement is reached.

Both parties desire to suspend the current policy in order to allow [Parks] and all other students to speak freely on campus, court documents stated, [C]ounsel for the parties believe that they may be able to reach an amicable settlement in this case.

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Community College to Reach Settlement with Student Barred from Preaching Gospel on Campus

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Attorney Legal Analyst AnneElise Goetz on Free Speech and Campaign Contributions
Free speech, The Bill of Rights and campaign contributions. The political shackles have been lifted from the First Amendment. The United States Supreme Court…

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March 27, 2014

There is a very seductive logic that has been and will be used by opponents of liberty to, every now and then, crackdown on free speech via internet censorship. Recently, a prominent spokesperson said, We are a young country and democracy is still new, the people do not know how to control themselves, how to discipline themselves. To him, average Malaysians must be sheltered from bad speech (and thus, bad ideas), so the Internet must be censored as such. In this vein of thought, to see if this stands, we must proceed thus:

Humans are naturally social. A strongest indicator of this is our unique ability for language, and as social animals, we have only two ways of interacting with others: SPEECH or FORCE. We can either talk someone into something, or we can use physical violence to get what we want. (I cannot think of other ways humans interact, and if someone should prove me wrong on this point, I would renounce my defence of free speech immediately.)

Since FORCE is everywhere undesirable, we must now examine SPEECH. By allowing us to interact with others, Speech expands our store of knowledge and informs us of our lives. It is our verbal ability to interact with those around us that allow us to learn, teach, admonish, correct, etc. We constantly acquire knowledge not only through our senses, but through our speaking with others. We can see this close correlation between knowledge and speech going all the way back to ancient times. For instance, the ancient Greeks used the word Logos to mean either speech or reasoning. But even in our daily language, we have a close interaction of humans in speaking (e.g., to communicate goes back the root word for “to share” in Latin). In this sense, only by speaking can we know, and I say that if humans were isolated individuals without speech, we would be no better than monkeys and gorillas unable to pass on their knowledge to each other and to the next generation.

With this in mind, the question then revolves around, “What if people learn something wrong?” Should government correct their views? Should the well-intentioned authorities have power to correct our faults? I answer a categorical, NO.

No one faults a man for being lazy or stupid. We have no laws that penalize people for being poor or marrying their daughter off to a bad husband. We do not care if a person neglects his studies or choose not to work hard. Whether people choose the wrong path in life or not are disapproved by society, but we don’t punish people for making unwise decision. So why do we do it with wrong speech? What makes exchanging “wrong” ideas so different (and more heinous) than making a wrong decision that has real consequences?

The fact of the matter is that people make mistakes when they are ignorant. It is our free speech that keeps us free from error. When friends tell us not to patronise a bad restaurant, when our parents give us advice regarding our careers, when our spiritual leaders counsel our hearts these are ways in which speech functions to inform our wills so that we can expand our options and make wise decisions. If this works on a personal level, it would be ridiculous to say it does not work on a political level.

I grant that people have some ridiculous ideas. But I have no idea what anyone means by a dangerous idea. Ideas dont harm anyone. A group of protesters can peacefully demonstrate all they want and assemble to chant their slogans (so long as they cause no damage to life or property), but if the media and press are free, counter-opinions would be made, and society would both be much more educated and experienced in making political decisions. It is a curious thing to gain more knowledge about the world by being shut up and alone.

In this same way, speech has an important and fundamental function in getting society out of their infancy and into their adulthood. I grant readily that Malaysia is a young nation, but I cannot grant that because babies might fall, we should never teach them how to walk. What kind of parent would shelter their kids now, only to prepare more peril for him when he grows up? I find this argument too fallacious to even entertain.

As I hinted earlier, humans are social. We correct ourselves through others. We learn from others. Free speech allows us to do all these things, and if people are given to exchange opinion, in this marketplace of ideas, bad, ignoble and “dangerous” ideas may have their ten seconds of fame, but most people are not stupid. I detest the oft used phrase, People are irrational. I always retort, Irrational by whose standard? Yours? I am confident that average citizens can think for themselves, and there is no need to guide their thoughts. They can do it themselves.

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BEIJING Michelle Obama strayed into taboo territory during a speech Saturday at China’s Peking University in which she called the rights of free speech and worship “the birthright of every person on this planet.”

The first lady dropped her remarks toward the end of an otherwise uncontroversial speech to Chinese and U.S. students about overseas exchange programs.

“We respect the uniqueness of other cultures and societies,” Obama said with a caveat nodding to Beijing’s frequent protestations that Westerners don’t understand their system. “But when it comes to expressing yourself freely and worshiping as you choose and having open access to information, we believe those universal rights they are universal rights that are the birthright of every person on this planet.”

Obama is in the middle of a weeklong visit, billed as a nonpolitical family vacation, that will include visits to China’s tourist attractions the Great Wall, the terra cotta warriors, the pandas. She is traveling with her daughters, Malia, 15, and Sasha, 12, and her mother, Marian Robinson.

The talk before a small, hand-picked audience of about 200 students at the Stanford Center at Peking University is the closest thing to a keynote speech the first lady is expected to deliver during the trip.

Although Obama avoided direct criticism of China, there was no way that Beijing could have missed the intent: The English-language China Daily in Sunday’s editions reported extensively on her comments about education while omitting any reference to free speech or religion.

Chinese media are heavily censored; imports of foreign publications are still banned and many websites are blocked. Under the government of President Xi Jinping, installed as head of the Communist Party in 2012, restrictions on foreign journalists have been tightened, with visas denied to publications that have reported on the wealth of the top echelon of the party leadership.

“It is so important for information and ideas to flow freely over the Internet and through the media,” Obama said.

Gently referring to her family’s tangles with the American press, Obama told the audience, “My husband and I are on the receiving end of plenty of questioning and criticism from our media and our fellow citizens.”

“It’s not always easy, but we wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. Because time and again, we have seen that countries are stronger and more prosperous when the voices of and opinions of all their citizens can be heard,” she said.

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In China, Michelle Obama gently broaches free speech

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by Nancy N. Lubrano Carothers DiSante & Freudenberger LLP

Generally, you may not base employment decisions on age or gender. However, in some professions, such as newscasting, First Amendment rights allow employers to make protected “casting” decisions that normally would be considered discriminatory. California courts have held that the selection of who will deliver our daily news is protected as part of the right to exercise free speech. Still, CBS Broadcasting’s recent decision to replace its well-known Los Angeles weather anchor with a young, attractive female is under heavy scrutiny.

Cloudy skies for longtime male weather anchor

In 2010, CBS Broadcasting sought to replace longtime weather anchor Johnny Mountain, whose contract it wouldn’t renew for the KCBS prime-time newscast. Upon learning of the opening, Kyle Hunter notified the network that he was interested in filling Mountain’s position. CBS filled the vacancy with a young, attractive female anchor from a sister station KCAL which in turn created a vacancy at KCAL. So Hunter pursued the newly vacant anchor position.

Hunter sent CBS his demo reel, but the network didn’t believe he had “the talent, skill or on-air presence to be an on-air weather broadcaster in the Los Angeles market.” In fact, he was told that CBS was pursuing young, attractive females for its prime-time weather broadcasts. After all, the number one reason people watch local news is to obtain information about the weather from likable people whom they invite into their homes.

CBS explained that such “local celebrities” must inspire confidence and trust. A friend on the inside told Hunter that CBS catered to male viewers and that he “wouldn’t be the type men would want to look at.”

Not surprisingly, Hunter sued for discrimination, alleging that he was denied a weather anchor job because of his age and gender. At first blush, these facts sound like a slam-dunk discrimination case. However, the California Code of Civil Procedure allows a defendant to attack claims early in a case by arguing that the alleged wrongful conduct is actually protected activity under the U.S. Constitution or the California Constitution in connection with a public issue. The process is commonly referred to as an Anti-SLAPP motion (SLAPP stands for “strategic lawsuits against public participation”).

CBS filed an Anti-SLAPP motion to attack Hunter’s claims. It argued that its hiring decisions are protected by its right to free speech under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The trial court denied the motion, finding that its hiring decisions weren’t in furtherance of its right of free speech in connection with a public interest. However, California courts have already held that casting decisions regarding who will report the news are in furtherance of the right of free speech.

Based on the prior rulings, the California Court of Appeal reversed the denial of CBS’s motion, finding that its selection of weather anchors is in furtherance of the right of free speech. Consequently, CBS’s selection of attractive, young females for anchor positions is constitutionally protected activity.

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Feb 212014


Press freedom in Malaysia has taken an unprecedented plunge according to the latest ranking by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) released last week. But the government doesn’t think so. The Prime Minister’s Office responded immediately, insisting that the press in Malaysia is freer than it ever has been. So who is right?

To begin with the index tabulated by RSF is flawed in its methodology so we need to take its ranking with caution. The government’s claim, on the other hand, is mere rhetoric so we need to be equally cautious.

Out of the 180- countries ranked in the 2014 RSF press freedom index, Malaysia stood at 147 out of 180 countries surveyed, dropping 23 spots from the previous year. Compared to the 2006 index, Malaysia was in the 92nd spot, or a drop of 55 places over eight years!

The RSF index measures the level of press freedom using six criteria pluralism, media independence, environment and self-censorship, legislative framework, transparency and (news production) infrastructure. But it also include another criterion for measuring violence against journalists which is given a weight of 20 percent. This might have skewed the overall tabulation. The index also lacks what is known as inter-coder reliability, a device for double checking data normally used in content analyses.

For instance the Philippines, which is among the freest press in the region, is ranked three spots below Malaysia, possibly due the violence against journalists in some remote provinces which are controlled by warlords. In Brunei, where violence against journalists is largely unheard of, the country is given a higher ranking of 117, or 32 spots higher than Philippines in terms of press freedom.

It is also incredulous that the US is ranked 46, or just one spot above Haiti, Japan at 59, is just two spots above Hong Kong and Britain at 33 is six spots below Ghana!

So how free is the press in Malaysia then? We can measure it against the government’s declared intentions. Within six days of Najib Razak taking office Prime Minister on 3 April 2009, he called a closed door meeting of top editors. Najib told the top editors, “I will give latitude to the media” and went on to say “I’d rather be criticised by the media than be rejected by the people.”

Najib even took the initiative to visit Sin Chew Daily, the country’s largest newspaper just days before he became PM. Some months later, he made another visit, this time officially, making him probably the first Prime Minister to visit a Chinese newspaper. This contrasted with former PM, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who shut down Sin Chew Daily together with The Star and Watan for six months in a massive clampdown on civil liberties known as Ops Lalang in Oct 1987 which resulted in the arrest of over 100 dissidents.

Najib went on to reform press laws, in particular the amendments to the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 on 20 April 2012. The amendments removed the need for annual renewal of press licences. The absolute power of the minister in revoking or imposing arbitrary conditions was also removed. But anyone wishing to start a newspaper is still required to get a licence from the Home Ministry.

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Sizing up press freedom

Heres your daily reminder that freedom of speech doesnt mean freedom from consequences.

Kent State wrestler Sam Wheeler has been suspended indefinitely for making several anti-gay statements on Twitter. Like clockwork, this is bringing out the armchair constitutional lawyers who claim that this is an all-out assault on free speech. Duck Dynasty. #FreePhil.

I though we had free speech would they supend a gay person if they made anti christian or post about straght people, says one commenter on FOX Sports Ohios Facebook page.

What ever happened to freedom of speech! Isnt this American! Why are we being forced to accept things we may not agree with! Who cares what you do behind closed doors, keep your sex life to yourself! says another commenter.

Ok, lets take a look at what Sam Wheeler actually said. Referencing Missouris Michael Sam, who just announced that he is gay ahead of the NFL draft, Wheeler lamented that he cant even watch SportsCenter without hearing about that fag from mizzou. He later tweeted at two other users, calling them queers.

O geez I got all these fag boys mad at me now, he said.

All of the tweets (as well as his entire account) has since been deleted. But this is the internet, so here they are (courtesy

Free speech!

Wheeler has been suspended indefinitely for his tweets.

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Kent State Wrestler Suspended for Anti-Gay Tweets, So Of Course Free Speech Is Once Again Under Assault

A system that tolerates “hate speech” is probably superior to the alternatives, but defenders of an absolute right can’t pretend no one gets hurt.

Millions of Americans support free speech. They firmly believe that we are the only country to have free speech, and that anyone who even questions free speech had damn well better shut the #$%& up.

Case in point: In a recent essay in The Daily Beast, Fordham Law Professor Thane Rosenbaum notes that European countries and Israel outlaw certain kinds of speechNazi symbols, anti-Semitic slurs, and Holocaust denial, and speech that incites hatred on the basis of race, religion, and so forth. The American law of free speech, he argues, assumes that the only function of law is to protect people against physical harm; it tolerates unlimited emotional harm. Rosenbaum cites recent studies (regrettably, without links) that show that “emotional harm is equal in intensity to that experienced by the body, and is even more long-lasting and traumatic.” Thus, the victims of hate speech, he argues, suffer as much as or more than victims of hate crime. “Why should speech be exempt from public welfare concerns when its social costs can be even more injurious [than that of physical injury]?”

I believestronglyin the free-speech system we have. But most of the responses to Rosenbaum leave me uneasy. I think defenders of free speech need to face two facts: First, the American system of free speech is not the only one; most advanced democracies maintain relatively open societies under a different set of rules. Second, our system isn’t cost-free. Repressing speech has costs, but so does allowing it. The only mature way to judge the system is to look at both sides of the ledger.

Jonathan Rauch: The Case for Hate Speech

Most journalistic defenses of free speech take the form of “shut up and speak freely.” The Beast itself provides Exhibit A: Cultural news editor Michael Moynihan announced that “we’re one of the few countries in the Western world that takes freedom of speech seriously,” and indignantly defended it against “those who pretend to be worried about trampling innocents in a crowded theater but are more interested in trampling your right to say whatever you damn well please.” To Moynihan, Rosenbaum could not possibly be sincere or principled; he is just a would-be tyrant. The arguments about harm were “thin gruel”not even worth answering. Moynihan’s response isn’t really an argument; it’s a defense of privilege, like a Big Tobacco paean to the right to smoke in public.

In contrast to this standard-issue tantrum is a genuinely thoughtful and appropriate response from Jonathan Rauch at The Volokh Conspiracy, now a part of the Washington Post’s web empire. Rauch responds that

painful though hate speech may be for individual members of minorities or other targeted groups, its toleration is to their great collective benefit, because in a climate of free intellectual exchange hateful and bigoted ideas are refuted and discredited, not merely suppressed …. That is how we gay folks achieved the stunning gains we’ve made in America: by arguing toward truth.

I think he’s right. But the argument isn’t complete without conceding something most speech advocates don’t like to admit:

Free speech does do harm.

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Free Speech Isn’t Free – Garrett Epps – The Atlantic

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According to the enemies of free speech, “offensive” language can cause emotional distress and physical trauma. So it’s time to ditch the First Amendment, right?

With the rest of civilized America prepared to be gloriously uncivilized during the Super Bowl, I somehow found myself stuck reading a 1919 Supreme Court opinion, Schenck v. United States, in which an overweening government gleefully prosecuted one Charles T. Schenck, general secretary of the Socialist Party in Philadelphia, for distributing leaflets urging Americans to resist intervention in the First World War. With the benefit of a centurys worth of hindsight, its clear that Schenck was providing Philadelphians with good counsel for bad reasons, but Judge Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote in his majority opinion that his agitating against mass slaughter of the Western Front will bring about the substantive evils which Congress has a right to prevent. A substantive evil was visited upon the United States, of course, in the form of 118,000 deaths in France, for a war that bequeathed to the world the Treaty of Versailles and a restless, humiliated German nation.

I was motivated to read the Schenck decision–which both glazes and opens the eyes–because of a piece here at The Daily Beast by Thane Rosenbaum, who beseeched us First Amendment fanatics–those of us who believe that the antidote to ugly speech is more speech-to think more like European free speech restrictionists, considering fines or jail terms for those who say terrible, offensive, racist things. Rosenbaum wastes little time declaring that because speech in the United States isnt entirely unfettered, we should be willing to fettered it further. This is always followed by that hoary cliche, a favorite of the enemies of free speech, There is no freedom to shout fire in a crowded theater.”

Count the times you have encountered this argument, invariably offered by those who pretend to be worried about trampling innocents in a crowded theater but are more interested in trampling your right to say whatever you damn well please (one can yell fire in a crowded theater if there is, in fact, a fire; one can yell fire in an empty theater; one can yell fire in a crowded theater if one thinks there is a fire, but turns out to be mistaken). But few know that it was Oliver Wendell Holmes who first used the fire in a crowded theater argument in Schenck–and it was used in defense of imprisoning a dissident socialist opposed to American intervention in a stupid European war. Schenck was overturned, thankfully, in subsequent Supreme Court decisions, which correctly viewed it as doing violence to the First Amendment. As Gabe Rothman, legal counsel for the ACLU, wrote in 2012, The crowded theater example is worse than useless in defining the boundaries of constitutional speech. When used metaphorically, it can be deployed against any unpopular speech.”

So who decides what unpopular speech should be illegal speech? Rosenbaum doesnt say, though Id hazard a guess that it runs parallel with speech that he finds injurious and potentially harmful. But to the United States’ credit, such impositions on speech are exceedingly difficult to create, considering that the broad right to say what we please is codified in the Constitution.

That were one of the few countries in the Western world that takes freedom of speech seriously means, according to Rosenbaum, that we are actually behind the times: Actually, the United States is an outlier among democracies in granting such generous free speech guarantees. Six European countries, along with Brazil, prohibit the use of Nazi symbols and flags. Many more countries have outlawed Holocaust denial. Indeed, even encouraging racial discrimination in France is a crime. In pluralistic nations like these with clashing cultures and historical tragedies not shared by all, mutual respect and civility helps keep the peace and avoids unnecessary mental trauma. So one would assume that racial discrimination has been dumped on the ash heap of history in France, considering racist thoughts and symbols have been made illegal. How, then, does one explain that the National Front, whose former leader Jean-Marie Le Pen was found guilty of Holocaust denial, is now the most popular party in the country?

For someone interested in upending how Americans perceive free speech, Rosenbaum presents a series of paper-thin arguments. For instance: We impose speed limits on driving and regulate food and drugs because we know that the costs of not doing so can lead to accidents and harm. Why should speech be exempt from public welfare concerns when its social costs can be even more injurious? That should knock the wind of you, dear reader, to think that the FDAs regulation of Thalidomide or a states imposition of speed limits, both of which aim to reduce the physical harm visited upon innocents, is similar to jailing a Holocaust denier or Islamophobe. But Rosenbaum says that this all of a piece, because recent studies in universities such as Purdue, UCLA, Michigan, Toronto, Arizona, Maryland, and Macquarie University in New South Wales have demonstrated that being offended can have physical manifestations, and while physical pain subsides; emotional pain, when recalled, is relived. So, in a way, the emotional pain caused by malicious speech is worse than being physically assaulted. For someone interested in curtailing constitutional protections on speech, thats a pretty thin gruel.

“No right should be so freely and recklessly exercised that it becomes an impediment to civil society, Rosenbaum writes, making it so that others are made to feel less free, their private space and peace invaded, their sensitivities cruelly trampled upon. Read that again, if you can manage. A cherished right–the freedom to say what you please, no matter what political party, group, of religion is discomfited by your unapproved thoughts–should be curtailed if someone feels their private space and peace [are] invaded, their sensitivities cruelly trampled on. Forget about race and sex for a minute and count the court appearances that would be required of Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris for trampling the feelings of the mystical and superstitious.

Continued here:
Free Speech Kills! – The Daily Beast

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Newbury police Sgt. Patty Fisher, right, photographs damaged homes near Plum Island Center, Newbury, in April 2013 after series of damaging northeasters.Bryan Eaton/Newburyport Daily News

By Beth Daley

January 26, 2014 12:00 AM

Sand is becoming New England coastal dwellers’ most coveted and controversial commodity as they try to fortify beaches against rising seas and severe erosion caused by violent storms.

From Westerly, Rhode Island to Eliot, Maine, debates over who gets sand, who pays for it and where it comes from are fast becoming some of the region’s most contentious oceanfront issues. In many cases, taxpayers are being asked to foot some of the bill for beach-rebuilding projects.

“It’s called the sand wars,” said S. Jeffress Williams, a coastal geologist and scientist emeritus with the United States Geological Survey in Woods Hole and the University of Hawaii. The disputes, happening across the coastal U.S., “are only going to get more intense,” he said.

Among the seaside squabbles, some residents in Salisbury want $300,000 in state taxpayer dollars for sand to help protect private homes from the ocean’s fury.

Winthrop Beach is poised to receive an estimated 20,000 truckloads of sand from Saugus as part of a massive beach replenishment and improvement project that is costing state taxpayers $26 million.

And in ocean-battered Nantucket and Plum Island, residents’ want to pay privately for sand to stand sentry against the encroaching ocean but are running into regulators’ opposition over how best to protect property.

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Sand erosion affecting New England shores, but SouthCoast largely spared

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