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Jefferson Muzzles 2017: Free expression group awards America’s worst censors

What does it take to be one of the worst censors in the United States?

Just ask Pierce College and the Los Angeles Community College District — recipients of a 2017 Jefferson Muzzle “award” and the targets of FIRE’s most recent lawsuit for violating students’ First Amendment rights.

The good folks at the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression have the unenviable annual task of figuring out the worst censors in the country. Through clenched fists, exasperated gasps, and tear-filled eyes (at least, that’s how we like to imagine it), the TJ Center on Wednesday released their list of this year’s eight most egregious examples of censorship in America.

Additional "winners" this year include a Boca Raton high school that threatened to suspend a student who wore a “Hillary for Prison 2016” T-shirt, the Bradley County Tennessee sheriff who deleted an atheist’s comments from an Easter post on the sheriff’s office’s Facebook page, and the entire United States Senate for passing an anti-Semitism bill that would find “blaming Israel for all inter-religious or political tensions” or comparing Israeli policy to that of the Nazis punishable speech on college campuses.

At FIRE, we know plenty of colleges could earn this award, too. Our heartfelt condolences go out to three universities that were oh-so-surprisingly snubbed: DePaul University, Tufts University (check out our just-released video investigation), and the University of California, Berkeley.

The Charlottesville, Va.-based TJ Center has awarded the Muzzles since 1992, when President George Bush earned one for “vetoing congressional legislation that would have repealed the ‘gag’ on what professional personnel at federally-funded family planning clinics could tell patients about abortion.”

Other historically notable winners include Attorney General Janet Reno (1994), the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum (1996), the Republican and Democratic parties (both won in 2005 and again in 2009), the White House Press Office (2014), and the more than 50 colleges and universities that collectively won in one year alone (2016).

Better luck next year, DePaul!

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