Insults and the Constitution

By March 7, 2005

There is a nice piece by Suzanne Fields today in the Washington Times.

In her column she discusses the recent controversies at Harvard and the University of Alabama. She also quotes from FIRE’s letter on the Ward Churchill case:

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (thefire.org), which revels in its acronym FIRE because it turns up the heat on campuses that attempt to melt down guarantees of free speech, makes this point in a letter to the Interim Chancellor at the University of Colorado at Boulder: “Supreme Court case law makes it quite clear that ‘if there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive and disagreeable.” Greg Lukianoff, director of Legal and Public Advocacy for FIRE, argues that the case presents the university with a significant opportunity to reaffirm its commitment to the First Amendment: “Liberty faces a far greater threat from a rejection of the First Amendment than it does from the opinions of Ward Churchill.” What should hearten everyone who values academic freedom is the way the reactions to Ward Churchill’s remarks rebut his slurs, testifying to the power of debate and argument.

In her closing she writes:

Thomas Jefferson got it right: “Error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.” Crippling reason is not smart.

We couldn’t agree more.

Schools: Harvard University University of Colorado at Boulder University of Alabama