Remarks as prepared for delivery Thank you for that kind introduction. I am so pleased to be here at Georgetown Law and to be speaking at the Georgetown Center for the Constitution where the exchange of ideas is both welcomed and encouraged. Thank you, Professor Barnett for that introduction and for hosting me here with your students. And thank you students for letting me take part in this important conversation with you.
Pocket Why is free speech important on campus? The intellectual vitality of a university depends on this competition—something that cannot happen properly when students or faculty members fear punishment for expressing views that might be unpopular with the public at large or disfavored by university administrators.
What is the First Amendment? The protections of the First Amendment are extended to state governments and public university campuses by the Fourteenth Amendment. What does FIRE do? In case after case, FIRE brings about favorable resolutions not only for those individuals facing rights violations, but also for the millions of other students affected by the culture of censorship within our institutions of higher education.
In addition to our defense of specific individuals and groups, FIRE works across the nation and in all forms of media to empower campus activists, reform restrictive policies, and inform the public about the state of rights on our campuses. What is religious liberty?
Religious liberty is the right to follow the faith of your choice—or to follow no faith at all. Religious liberty is a cornerstone of our nation and is the very first freedom guaranteed to Americans by the Bill of Rights.
Yet on many college and university campuses, the right to associate on the basis of religious belief and even the right to express those beliefs is under attack. What is due process?
The same principle applies to judicial hearings on college campuses; if those campuses care about the justice and accuracy of their findings, they must provide fair and consistent procedures for the accuser and the accused.
History has taught that the rights of all Americans can be secured only through the establishment of fair procedures and with a consciousness that all are equal in the eyes of the law.
The accused are often charged with no specific offense, given no right to face their accusers, and sentenced with no regard for fairness or consistency. As a result, a generation of students is being taught the wrong lessons about justice—and facing the ruinous consequences for their personal, academic, and professional lives.
Students must come to know that justice means more than merely the enforcement of the will of the powerful and the suppression of the views of the powerless.
What is freedom of conscience? Freedom of conscience means the right to be free to think and believe as you will without the imposition of official coercive power over those beliefs.
Liberty cannot exist when people are forced to conform their thoughts and expression to an official viewpoint. Differences of opinion are the natural byproducts of a vibrant, free society. Some institutions have enacted policies that require students to speak and even share identical attitudes on these matters or face disciplinary charges.
These rights include freedom of speech, legal equality, due process, religious liberty, and sanctity of conscience — the essential qualities of individual liberty and dignity.As a result, speech codes dictating what may or may not be said, “free speech zones” confining college free speech to tiny areas of campus, and administrative attempts to punish or repress campus free speech on a case-by-case basis are common today in academia.
Surveys have shown a more limited support for free speech or First Amendment protections on college campuses, but Ben-Porath says students attempting to limit speech support free speech, but object to free speech being used to harm, denigrate, or devalue another human being.
A national recommitment to free speech on campus is long overdue. And action to ensure First Amendment rights are [sic] overdue. Starting today, the Department of Justice will do its part in this work.
Murray Highlights Importance of Free Speech on College Campuses; Urges Campus and Community Leaders to Do More to Push Back Against Violence and Hate Speech on Campuses.
For example, a student recently filed suit against Pierce College, a public school in southern California, alleging that it prohibited him from distributing Spanish-language copies of the U.S.
Constitution outside the school’s free speech zone.
The debate over speech codes reminds us of the ongoing importance of free expression on campus and the often controversial nature of its practice. Universities above all other institutions must welcome a broad range of views and protect speech that has a strong viewpoint or content in its message.