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Following Speech Code Letter, ‘Richmond Times-Dispatch’ Heaps Praise on Rep. Goodlatte

By August 20, 2015

Here on The Torch, we often highlight columns and editorials we think our supporters would be interested in reading. Today, I’m pleased to direct you to The Richmond Times-Dispatch, whose editorial board published a fantastic piece praising House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte’s letter sent last week to 161 public colleges and universities that maintain at least one policy that substantially restricts expression protected by the First Amendment. Noting that FIRE’s efforts “defending students and faculty members, of every political persuasion, who have run afoul of such speech codes … have helped to roll back some of the more outrageous speech codes around the country,” the editorial board writes:

Now the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Virginia’s 6th District Rep. Bob Goodlatte, has written to the presidents of 161 public institutions that have among the worst speech codes in the nation. The letter reminds the presidents of what they seem to have forgotten: Their institutions are part of the government and, as such, are obliged to adhere scrupulously to the First Amendment. That means they cannot censor speech just because it might hurt somebody’s feelings. It concludes by asking the university presidents “what steps your institution plans to take to promote free and open expression on its campus(es), including any steps toward bringing your speech policies in accordance with the First Amendment.”

While college administrators “want to maintain a serene atmosphere on campus” and avoid losing federal funding from the federal Department of Education, the editorial board correctly notes that “those desires do not trump the nation’s founding document and its most fundamental principles.” The Richmond Times-Dispatch writes that Representative Goodlatte “deserves a round of applause for reminding them of that”—and FIRE strongly agrees.