Freedom of Speech
Freedom of speech is a fundamental American freedom, and nowhere should it be more valued and protected than at America’s colleges and universities. The “marketplace of ideas” upon which a university depends for its intellectual vitality cannot flourish when students or faculty members fear punishment for expressing views that might be unpopular with the public at large or disfavored by university administrators. Yet this freedom is under continuous assault at many of America’s campuses. Speech codes dictating what may or may not be said, “free speech zones” confining free speech to a certain area of campus, and administrative attempts to punish or repress speech on a case-by-case basis are common in academia today. FIRE’s public cases dealing with freedom of speech, below, demonstrate our commitment to restoring and preserving this basic freedom on our nation’s campuses. The future of a generation of students—and of liberal education itself—depends on our success.
Religious liberty is a cornerstone of our nation and is the very first freedom guaranteed to Americans by the Bill of Rights. Yet on many college and university campuses, the right to associate on the basis of religious belief—and even the right to express those beliefs—is under attack. Under the guise of “nondiscrimination” policies, religious groups are often told that they may not choose the membership or leadership of their groups based on religious criteria. Other students who merely express religious beliefs in public are condemned for “hate speech” or “intolerance.” FIRE’s public cases dealing with religious liberty, below, display our commitment to defending America’s religious pluralism by protecting students’ rights to express and to associate based upon shared beliefs.
Due Process and Legal Equality
The rights of all Americans can be secured only through the establishment of fair processes and with a consciousness that all are equal in the eyes of the law. Yet on many campuses, the unfortunate accused face “kangaroo courts” without fair procedures and where the political viewpoint of the “judges” greatly affect the outcome of the trial. The accused is often charged with no specific offense, given no right to face his or her accuser, and sentenced with no regard for fairness or consistency. The FIRE cases below illustrate our fight for fundamental fairness on our nation’s campuses. This generation of students must come to know that justice means more than merely the enforcement of the will of the powerful and the suppression of the views of the powerless.