Denmark debates Muhammad art in textbooks

Denmark is debating printing Muhammad cartoons in text books and requiring social studies teachers to explain why the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten ran the cartoons in 2005, reports the Washington Post.

This was the most controversial of the "Muhammed cartoons" run in 2005 by a Danish newspaper.

This was the most controversial of the 2005 Muhammed cartoons printed in 2005 in a Danish newspaper.

Weeks ago, a gunman opened fire, killing one man, at a Copenhagen cafe hosting cartoonist Lars Vilks, who drew Muhammed as a dog in 2007.

Months ago, French journalists were murdered at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, known for its depictions of Muhammad.

Children need to learn about the cartoons, wrote Mai Mercado, a spokesman for the right-wing Conservative Party, in  Jyllands-Posten: “No matter how strong one’s religious feelings are, or how much one cultivates their religion, you do not earn the right to violence or threats.”

Racists have free speech rights too

Some University of Oklahoma students in the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity were videotaped singing a racist chant that included a reference to lynching. 

University president David Boren expelled two students for “leading a racist and exclusionary chant which has created a hostile educational environment for others.”

Racist speech is protected by the First Amendment, responds Eugene Volokh, a UCLA law professor, in the Washington Post. “Universities may not discipline students based on their speech.” There is no “hostile environment” exception.

Likewise, speech doesn’t lose its constitutional protection just because it refers to violence — “You can hang him from a tree,” “the capitalists will be the first ones up against the wall when the revolution comes,” “by any means necessary” with pictures of guns, “apostates from Islam should be killed.”

Speech would have to be a “true threat” of violence to lose that protection, writes Volokh. Examples would be saying “we’ll hang you from a tree” or “we will shoot you against a wall” to a particular person likely to see it as a death threat.

The university must “respect First Amendment principles” even in the face of “vile and reprehensible speech,” said the ACLU of Oklahoma. “It is difficult to imagine a situation in which a court would side with the university on this matter.”

At the University of Oregon, students argued free speech doesn’t apply to an anti-abortion preacher, writes Robby Soave on Reason‘s Hit & Run.

Allison Rutledge, a history major, told the Daily Emerald she felt emotionally threatened by the anti-abortion activist’s “obscene” sign. She grabbed it and stood on it. “You can’t just show whatever you want,” she said.

Warning: Ideas may be offensive

Universities should issue a one-time “trigger warning,” says Jonathan Rauch, author of Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought. At any moment, you may be exposed to ideas you find shocking, offensive, obnoxious, absurd, racist, sexist, homophobic or generally obnoxious. It’s called “education,” he says.

Not “microaggression.”

Free speech wins — belatedly

Mendocino High basketball players wore “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirts to warm up for a tournament at Fort Bragg High School in northern California, writes Coach Brown. Players were told they’d be expelled from the tournament if they wore the shirts again.

Mendocino High girls warm up in "I Can't Breathe" T-shirts (Photo: Fort Bragg Advocate News)

Mendocino High girls warm up in “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirts (Photo: Fort Bragg Advocate News)

“All the boys but one chose to ditch the shirts and play in the tournament,” writes Brown, who teaches and coaches at nearby Ukiah High. Half of girls said no, leaving the Mendocino girls team with only five players. They quit the tournament.

Fort Bragg is especially sensitive about the issue because a deputy sheriff, Ricky Del Fiorentino, was killed earlier in 2014 by a criminal, writes Coach Brown. The officer has been a mentor and coach at the high school.

Nonetheless, “high school students have the right to political speech at public school events,” such as school basketball games, writes Brown.

If he’d been the coach, he’d have made it a “teachable  moment.”

I would talk to the players about their choices, social and political, and make sure that they have a good comprehension about not only what might happen but about the event that they are protesting. I would talk to them about why Fort Bragg is sensitive about the subject and why the choice that they make might have unintended consequences. Then I would let them make a choice. Now, if they warm up in the “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts then they break our uniform policy and don’t play that game. On my team if you forget a part of your jersey, you don’t play. . . .If they all choose those consequences, we forfeit. That simple. Political protest has consequences.

In a belated recognition of free-speech rights, Fort Bragg announced the tournament will not prohibit players from “wearing an expressive T-shirt during warm-ups” or regulate spectators’ T-shirt messages, reports the Fort Bragg Advocate News. “However, student athletes must wear their designated uniforms during the game.”

The students and their community supporters should “be proud of the young adults not only trying to raise awareness of current events but also for demanding their Constitutional being upheld,” writes Coach Brown.

Awareness isn’t high in the north country. When Mendocino High’s girls’ team first wore the “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirts before the Fort Bragg tournament, their coach, Caedyn Feehan “didn’t even know what it meant.” She “thought it was a joke about how I had conditioned them so hard,” Feehan told the Advocate News. “None of the administrators knew what it was.”

Feds push colleges to limit free speech

Spotlight-2015-graphMost American colleges and universities maintain unconstitutional speech codes, concludes a report by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

More than 55 percent maintain severely restrictive, “red light” speech codes, according to the report. Another 39 percent have “yellow light” restrictions.

“The greatest threat to free speech on campus may now be the federal government,” said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. Federal efforts to end “sexual harassment on campus are leading a number of universities to adopt flatly unconstitutional speech policies.”

‘Thrones’ prof wins free-speech case

An art professor who posted a photo of his daughter in a Game of Thrones T-shirt no longer has to fear being fired for “disparaging” remarks or “unbecoming” conduct.

The photo went to Francis Schmidt’s Google + contacts, including a dean at Bergen Community College in New Jersey. Not a fan of the hit TV series, she thought the quote on the shirt — “I will take what is mine with fire & blood” — was a threat to the campus rather than to the fictional continent of Westeros.

FIRE: Stand up for free speech

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has launched a litigation campaign against “free speech zones” and other First Amendment restrictions on college campuses.

Beware of dragons

A professor at Bergen Community College (New Jersey) was placed on unpaid leave and required to meet with a psychiatrist because he posted a photo of his young daughter in a T-shirt with a Game of Thrones quote on Google+. Daenarys’ line — “I will take what is mine with fire & blood” – was seen as a threat by an administrator, who happened to be a Google+ contact. A security official thought “fire” was a proxy for “AK-47s” rather than dragons.

Campus “free speech zones” are losing in court. A student prevented from preaching in a courtyard has forced Virginia’s community college system to drop its ban on “demonstrations” by individuals.

‘I’m sick of purity tests’

Ricki is “sick of political purity tests for people.”

You know, if you hint that maybe, just, you know, maybe, it might be kind of okay if a photographer with strong beliefs to the contrary doesn’t want to take on the job of photographing a same-sex wedding, you suddenly become one to be shunned as a wrong-thinker.

Or, if you mention shopping at Hobby Lobby, because that’s literally the only craft store within 100 miles, you’re told “Oh, they oppress women (because, apparently, they won’t give their workers the Plan B pill for free). You shouldn’t shop there.”

Ricki has known people who’d pass the most progressive purity tests  –“and they were huge (forgive the word but it’s the only one that fits) douchebags. Just awful to other people, selfish, ungenerous, snarky.”

Mozilla forced out its new CEO, Brendan Eich, because he donated $1,000 to a California ballot measure opposing same-sex marriage in 2009.

Disgusting, writes Andrew Sullivan. “If this is the gay rights movement today – hounding our opponents with a fanaticism more like the religious right than anyone else – then count me out.”

In 2009, Eich shared the view of gay marriage that Barack Obama held, instead of the view that Dick Cheney held, writes Instapundit.

Student suspended for questioning governor

After questioning Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy about gun control legislation, Asnuntuck Community College student Nicholas Saucier was escorted off campus, suspended and found guilty of harassment. At his hearing, officials refused to review his videos of the incident, complains FIRE.

Most community college professors don’t speak out on education issues, writes an instructor. “Many two-year campuses are run more like high schools than colleges . . . Much like school principals, some community-college presidents believe it is their role, and theirs alone, to speak out on issues of concern.”