NOTE: The article excerpted on this page is from an outside publication and is posted on FIRE's website because it references FIRE's work. The viewpoints expressed in this article do not necessarily represent FIRE's positions.

Being ‘offensive’ is not enough basis to limit speech

June 13, 2013

by Bob Kellogg



A Minnesota university wants to not only restrict offensive speech but even speech that is loud or boisterous and may raise alarm. This is an abuse of the First Amendment.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has announced that the organization’s Speech Code of the Month focus has been directed on Bemidji State because of its code that prohibits language that might offend others. Robert Shibley of F.I.R.E. explains the problem with that policy.

“The fact that nobody can easily determine what is offensive conduct is at the heart of the problem with this code,” he tells OneNewsNow. “Speech and expression cannot be prohibited simply because others find it offensive.”

Shibley says furthermore that students should not be treated any differently than those who are not in school.

“Those of us who are outside of college, we don’t have any protection for our feelings from what people on the street or on the television might say,” he points out. “The same should go for university students, and in fact is even more important for them in many ways because they are supposed to be part of a marketplace of ideas where they can decide how they believe and what they wish.”

The Supreme Court has ruled that “the mere dissemination of ideas – no matter how offensive to good taste – on a state university campus may not be shut off in the name alone of ‘conventions of decency.’ ” This ruling is cited in Papish v. Board of Curators of the University of Missouri, 410 U.S. 667.670 (1973).

View this article at OneNewsNow.

Schools: Bemidji State University