Congressman Spanks Colleges for Censoring Students

August 18, 2015

By Bob Unruh at World Net Daily

A congressman has put some 160 public colleges and universities across America on notice for restricting students’ speech.

“The First Amendment prohibits the government, including government public colleges and universities, from infringing on free speech and the free exercise of religion,” says a new letter dispatched to educational the institutions by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., the head of the House Judiciary Committee.

The letter followed a report by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education that identified campuses where there is “at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech.”

Goodlatte reminded the schools that the First Amendment protects the free exercise of religion and forbids the “abridging” of speech, the press and the right of assembly.

“Yet despite these constitutional protections, speech-restrictive policies in our nation’s public colleges and universities remain,” the congressman said.

Goodlatte asked the schools to respond to him with a declaration of “what steps your institution plans to take to promote free and open expression … including any steps toward bringing your speech policies in accordance with the First Amendment.”

FIRE President Greg Lukianoff described his recent appearance before Congress to talk about the issue.

Brad O’Leary explains in “Shut Up, America!” how there is a group that believes it is the right of government to force an agenda onto the public. And he explains the solution.

“During my testimony, I shared FIRE’s deep concern that highly restrictive speech codes are the rule rather than the exception on public college campuses nationwide,” he said.

“A congressional hearing on campus censorship was an important first step. It is even more encouraging that Chairman Goodlatte is taking action to address the problem,” said Lukianoff in a statement.

WND has reported efforts by schools to shut down protesters or activists or confine them to a small area of campus.

The schools on FIRE’s list seen as a “threat to free speech” include major institutions such as UCLA, Columbia, Cornell, Florida State, Miami and Illinois State.

The report reviewed policies addressing harassment, tolerance, respect, civility, bias, “hate speech,” bullying, protests and other issues.

It focused on taxpayer-supported schools, since private institutions fall under a separate standard under the First Amendment, which limits only government action. However, FIRE reports that many private universities view themselves as bastions of free thought and expression, and as such, “should be held to the standard they they themselves establish.

“Furthermore, private colleges and universities are contractually bound to respect the promises they make to students. Many institutions promise freedom of expression in university promotional materials and student conduct policies, but then deliver selective censorship once the first tuition check is cashed.”

Lukianoff was joined in testimony before Congress by Kim Colby of the Christian Legal Society and American University Washington College of Law professor Jamie Raskin.

Goodlatte’s letter said policies that prohibit student and faculty speech “have repeatedly been struck down by federal and state courts.”

“Yet they persist, even in the very jurisdictions where they have been ruled unconstitutional.”

Goodlatte set a deadline of Aug. 28 to respond.

Azhar Majeed, director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Education Program, said students’ education “suffers when colleges and universities infringe on free speech.”

“FIRE is eager to help these institutions bring their policies in line with the First Amendment and welcomes opportunities to work with administrators to do so,” he said.