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The First Amendment Protects Ann Coulter, William Ayers, And The Westboro Baptist Church

by @ 8:41 am on March 31, 2010. Filed under Freedom of Speech, In The News, Individual Liberty

This morning brings the news that a speech by former Weather Underground leader William Ayers at the University of Wyoming has been canceled:

The University of Wyoming announced Tuesday that a public lecture by William “Bill” Ayers, a former 1970s radical antiwar protestor who is now a university professor, has been canceled.

Ayers, 65, a distinguished professor of education and senior scholar at the University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC), had been scheduled to give a public lecture from 4-6 p.m. Monday in the UW Education Auditorium.

The public lecture had been sponsored by the UW Social Justice Research Center, which is a privately endowed center that studies problems of oppression and inequalities among different social groups.

Titled “Trudge Toward Freedom: Educational Research in the Public Interest,” the talk would have focused on what makes education in a democracy different from other societies, as well as the importance of teachers seeing their students are more than just students, but whole human beings.

UW released a statement on its Web site on Tuesday afternoon explaining why the Social Justice Research Center had decided to cancel Ayers’ visit.

In the statement, the director of the center, UW Educational Studies chair Francisco Rios, apologized to the university community for any harm that may have come to it, and cited personal and professional reasons — including safety concerns — for the cancellation.

This is pretty much the same reason that the University of Ottawa used when it canceled Ann Coulter’s speech there a week or so back.

And it’s bogus.

First of all, it’s worth noting that the University of Wyoming is a public institution so the First Amendment applies. The fact that Ayers is controversial, or that he’ll say things that might offend people, doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the right to say it. In fact, as I noted some four years when I first discussed the Westboro Baptist Church protesters, offensive speech is perhaps the most important speech to protect:

Over the past several weeks, several states have taken steps to prevent protesters from picketing at funerals, a move propelled by the fact that an objectively offensive group of extreme Christians have been staging protests at the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq claiming that the deaths America is experiencing in Iraq are God’s punishment for tolerating homosexuality. Offensive ? Absolutely ? Should they have the right to be offensive ? I can’t see any reason why not.

Freedom of speech means that, sometimes, we will hear some truly offensive things. When government starts regulating speech based on the fact that it may offend, though, it diminishes freedom for everyone.

Exactly. I despise the Westboro Baptist Church protesters, I think Ann Coulter is mostly an idiot, and really don’t care what a tired old leftist like Bill Ayers has to say. Nonetheless, they all have a right to say it.

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5 Responses to “The First Amendment Protects Ann Coulter, William Ayers, And The Westboro Baptist Church”

  1. Doug, on the Ayers cancellation. If the taxpaying public does not want to use tax dollars on bringing Ayers to speak at a publicly funded university, do you think that they would be better served getting the professors and administrators fired to keep it from happening?

    Coulter’s case is irreverent in this topic, it was in Canada and I far as I know, she has never actively set out to overthrow the United States government.

    Related, Jeremiah Wright came to my town last week to speak at Jackson State University. He seems charming actually, but his racist ideology is off-putting.

  2. Gill Robb says:

    Is this Bill Ayers, the brother of University of Richmond’s chief propagandist and president, Edward Ayers?

  3. Andrew Clem says:

    I agree with you wholeheartedly on Coulter and Ayers, and I agree that the religious nuts should be able to vent their bile in a public forum, but NOT in a private, extremely emotional ceremony such as a funeral. The clear intent is to inflict cruel misery, not to express an opinion. Every civil right is limited when it impinges too heavily on other people’s rights (e.g., the cliche of yelling “fire!” in a movie theater), and this is a clear case of taking a valid principle one step too far.

  4. davejones says:

    Every time the left vilifies ANN COULTER and ignores the poison in its own house, they prove Ann right.
    ANN COULTER IS EXCELLENT
    what she does is use the left’s tactics to expose it’s own hypocrisy.
    Check out everyone of her ‘outrageous’ statements and within them you will find Ann at her best …using hyperbole to expose some loony lefty idea…if you don’t get it, humbly ask a conservative to explain what Ann means in every instance.

    The libs and their media minions are just too dumb to figure out Ann’s points …the ‘joke’s on them’

    AS WITH MOST INTELLECTUALS WITH ANN’S RAZOR WIT YOU GET SLICED AND STOOGED ALL IN ONE SITTING WHEN YOU CANT FIGURE OUT THAT YOU ARE BEING SET UP. ANN USES WIT AND HYPERBOLE TO MAKE DEVASTATING POINTS WHICH END UP SKEWERING LIBERALS ALONG WITH THEIR LOONY TUNE NOTIONS.
    …A WORD TO THE NOT SO WISE….DON’T BLAME ANN WHEN YOU DISCOVER YOU BEEN SLICED UP BECAUSE YOU ARE TOO DIMWITTED TO UNDERSTAND ANNIE’s POINTS.. AND YOU CANT FIGURE WHY YOU END UP …… LOOKIN LIKE A STOOGE IN CRIMSON WHEN AND IF YOU FINALLY FIGURE HER OUT.
    I HEREBY WISH ALL YOU STOOGES, A VERY GOOD DAY. HEH HEH HEH.

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