Rights in the News: Week Highlighted by Lessons in Liberty, for Once

By November 13, 2009

How’s this for a week at FIRE–on Monday we stand up for the right to print and display religious images without fear of violence or censorship, and today we applaud a group for defending the rights of students to show adult films without the fear of being kneecapped by the state.
Starting with the former, FIRE was proud to sign on to a Statement of Principle featured in the new book Muhammed: The Banned Images, joining an esteemed group of scholars, lawyers, and national education and civil liberties organizations. You can read more on that both here on The Torch and in Greg’s blog entry at The Huffington Post.

As Azhar noted earlier today, FIRE is pleased to give a round of applause to the Board of Regents of the University System of Maryland after it declined a state senator’s demand to formulate a system-wide policy on the screening of adult films. FIRE has been watching and weighing in on this controversy for months now, and we are glad to see the Regents take this brave step, especially in an age where regents and trustees are too often painfully timid in the midst of campus free speech crises. FoxNews.com has more on FIRE’s involvement here, as does Azhar’s earlier post.

Purdue University has also been a model of making the best of a free speech controversy this week, as we’ve noted twice here on The Torch. Purdue’s defense of the rights of conservative faculty blogger Bert Chapman–though constitutionally required–is nonetheless admirable in the face of calls for punishment in the wake of a controversial column on homosexuality published in Chapman’s personal, off-campus blog. And while FIRE didn’t need to come to his defense in this instance, we did so anyway in the Indianapolis Star.

Southwestern College (SWC) in California, meanwhile, should be finding its position ever more untenable. After it banned three professors from campus and put them on administrative leave when they participated in a peaceful protest, SWC drew national attention and a letter from FIRE. Then, the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties weighed in with a letter of its own. As the San Diego Union-Tribune reports, FIRE’s letter has gotten the attention of at least one SWC Board member, who appears dedicated to reviewing SWC’s unconstitutional speech restrictions.

SWC’s dismal "free speech patio" would be a fine place to start.