First Ammendment Extends to all Campus Groups
Letter From the Editor
January 25, 2007 3:53 PM
Freedom of speech is one of this country’s most important fundamental rights protected in the Constitution. SF State is one of the most politically dynamic campuses in the nation where many divergent views exist and should be expressed. I am continually proud to be part of a campus community where such diverse views from socialism to capitalism, deep-ecology to transgender legal rights, are openly discussed.
In the Dec. 14 issue of [X]press, the previous Editorial Board took a stance on a controversial campus issue that I think needs to be corrected and clarified for the start of the new semester.
On Oct. 17 the College Republicans held an anti-terrorism rally in Malcolm X Plaza where, as part of their demonstration, they walked over homemade flags of Hezbollah and Hamas, two Islam-based political parties in the Middle East designated by the United States as terrorist organizations.
Each flag contains the Arabic symbol for “Allah,” or God. Many Muslim and non-Muslim students had every right to be furious and expressed themselves accordingly. Later, Associated Students, Inc. adopted a resolution condemning the College Republicans. There is now talk of revoking the College Republicans’ official group status and ASI funding.
In the last issue of The Golden Gate [X]press, the Editorial Board essentially agreed with those trying to limit free speech on this campus. They suggested that “freedom of speech in the Constitution is not there to allow disrespect… nowhere does it say it is OK to be disrespectful.”
On the contrary, the First Amendment is meant to protect expression, regardless of being offensive, ignorant, disrespectful or otherwise rude. Our society, our academic community, and this newspaper thrive on an open marketplace of ideas. Let these ideas compete through debate, not by limiting opposing expressions.
To be sure of this conviction, I consulted attorney David Greene, the executive director of The First Amendment Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting and promoting freedom of expression. He teaches Mass Communications Law here at SF State.
“This is a classic example of the wrong thing to do. This is an absolutely incorrect representation of the law,” Greene said.
With the exception of inciting threats or violence, this newspaper will support a stringent standard for freedom of expression, even when we vehemently disagree with the method or message. Flag burning, stomping on any depiction of a religious figure, or wearing an anti-war shirt and even flipping someone off may all be offensive, yet they need to be protected.
I urge the university administration and ASI to seriously reconsider any action taken in the past or the future against the College Republicans or anyone for offensive speech. Limiting expression is not the answer to more understanding and is a dangerous first step towards becoming a society of sheep, merely waiting for permission to speak.
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