‘Obsession’ Screening at Michigan State to Proceed

By on March 22, 2007

Thanks to FIRE’s intervention, Michigan State University will provide free security for tonight’s screening of the film “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West,” hosted by the campus chapter of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF). The university originally said that YAF would have to pay the overtime wages of any officers assigned to the screening or would incur extra fines if officers responded to protests that broke out at the screening. FIRE wrote to Michigan State on March 16 to stress that holding students responsible for security costs affixes a price tag to controversial expression, encourages other students to threaten violent action, and chills speech on campus because students not able to pay for added security will be forced to cancel their events. FIRE cited the Supreme Court’s unequivocal decision in Forsyth County v. Nationalist Movement (1992) that “[s]peech cannot be financially burdened, any more than it can be punished or banned, simply because it might offend a hostile mob.” Thankfully, FIRE’s intervention led Michigan State to provide security guards at no charge to YAF, allowing the screening to proceed. FIRE will further press the university to reform its security policy so that it cannot be used to discriminate against groups on the basis the content of their expression.