Monday, November 08, 2021
#FREESPEECH in the News November 8, 2020
As the Citadel of Free Speech here in Cleveland, we work to protect and promote the basis of our democracy by sharing related stories, commentary, and opinions on free speech in the 21st century. Here's what's making the news – and what you should know about – in the past week.
Over the past year, critical race theory has gone from arcane legal concept to potent political rallying cry, as Republican legislatures have rushed to introduce bills banning it and other “divisive concepts” in public schools.
The furor over the subject has sown chaotic protests at local school board meetings, and is credited with contributing to last week’s election victory by the Republican Glenn Youngkin, who promised at nearly every campaign stop to ban critical race theory on his first day in office as Virginia’s governor.
To their proponents these bills represent a legitimate effort by parents to use the democratic process to shape education. But the measures have been widely assailed by Democrats (and a few conservatives) as a threat to liberal education and to the teaching of even some of the most basic facts about American history.
In a new report released Monday, the free expression group PEN America emphasizes what it says is another threat they pose: to the free speech guaranteed in the First Amendment.
Three professors filed a lawsuit against the University of Florida on Friday, claiming school officials violated their right to free speech by trying to prevent them from offering testimony in a voting rights case.
The case further inflames a heated debate over academic freedom, one that has brought national attention and criticism to the state flagship university.
It was filed on the same day school officials reversed course: After a week of controversy and pushback from faculty, alumni and academics across the country, the University of Florida on Friday said the three political science professors should not be barred from testifying in a voting rights lawsuit against the administration of Gov. Ron DeSantis (R).
The complaint by the professors contends the university is discriminating against them based on viewpoints they wish to express, and by trying to prevent them from offering expert testimony on issues of overwhelming public importance, UF violated their First Amendment rights.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh floated the possibility of Texas's abortion law becoming a model for states to restrict other constitutional rights, such as gun rights under the Second Amendment.
Kavanaugh pressed Texas Solicitor General Judd Stone on the hypothetical during oral arguments at the Supreme Court Monday for two challenges to S.B. 8—the Lone Star State's controversial law prohibiting abortions when a so-called "fetal heartbeat" can be detected, which is as early as six weeks into pregnancy.
The Texas ban is unique in that its enforcement is outsourced to private citizens, who are awarded as much as $10,000 if they bring a successful lawsuit against an abortion provider or anyone else who "aids and abets" the procedure.
Stone argued in court that the state cannot be sued in federal court over the law because it is enforced through individual lawsuits brought by citizens, not government officials. Kavanaugh asked Stone about the "implications of your position for other constitutional rights"—including possible infringements on gun rights, free exercise of religion rights and free speech.