“Forget about fraternity rush, spring break, and cramming for exams,” FIRE Senior Vice President Robert Shibley writes this week in The Daily Caller. “The students and faculty of Northern Kentucky University (NKU) have brought a disturbing new tradition to campus: justifying the destruction of pro-life displays as ‘freedom of speech.'”
Robert notes that since at least 2006, pro-life student organization Northern Right to Life has had its public displays vandalized by vigilante censors. In 2006, a professor actually encouraged her students to express their views against the display by becoming destructive vandals. This year, a student followed suit after he was caught tearing down the display, declaring that this vandalism “was expressing our right to free speech.”
But as Robert notes: “responding to speech through physical violence, against either people or objects, is a criminal act with no constitutional protection.”
That should be obvious. Destroying someone else’s display, blocking access to others’ speech, or substantially disrupting a speech is not protected, yet somehow people persist in making the foolish claim that vigilante censorship is protected from punishment.
Adam Kissel is Vice President of Programs at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. He graduated from Harvard University and from the University of Chicago, where he served as Student Liaison to the Board of Trustees and earned a master’s degree from the Committee on Social Thought. His academic interests include the history and theory of liberal education, the history and theory of rhetoric, and rhetoric’s relationship with philosophy. He also has served as a professional editor for faculty in a variety of disciplines. Before joining FIRE, Adam was a director of the Lehrman American Studies Center and the Jack Miller Center for the Teaching of America’s Founding Principles. With Sharon Browne he wrote a Faculty Rights Handbook in 2007.
Used with the permission of The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.