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Down the memory hole: ACLU removes support for campus free speech from statement

No longer willing to say ‘disruption’ is not constitutionally protected

The ACLU’s Virginia affiliate has a raging case of Stockholm Syndrome.

Less than a month after Black Lives Matters protesters shut down an event where its director was to have spoken about “students and the First Amendment” – accusing her of promoting “white supremacy” – the civil liberties organization now identifies with its censorious captors.

First Amendment scholar and University of Washington law professor Ronald Collins noticed that “key portions” of the affiliate’s original statement following the BLM shutdown at the College of William & Mary, a so-called public Ivy, had been removed.

It’s pretty stunning what the Virginia ACLU doesn’t want associated with itself anymore:

Disruption that prevents a speaker from speaking, and audience members from hearing the speaker, is not constitutionally protected speech even on a public college campus subject to the First Amendment; it is a classic example of a heckler’s veto, and, appropriately, can be prohibited by a college student code of conduct as it is at William and Mary. As a government entity, a public college like William and Mary has an obligation to protect the freedom of the speaker to speak and not to allow one group of people to shout down or seek to intimidate other speakers or members of the audience who wish to hear the speaker from exercising their own free speech rights. This is true regardless of what individuals or groups are speaking, protesting or counter-protesting.

This is not legal speculating – it’s settled First Amendment law. The Virginia ACLU is apparently no longer willing to perform one of its most basic functions: correctly stating the law.

Also disappeared down the memory hole:

What happened at William and Mary on Sept. 27 is a part of a larger national trend that is challenging campus leaders across the country to find the right formula for assuring that critical community conversations can take place in a culture of inquiry consistent with a true learning environment. Actions that bully, intimidate or disrupt must not be without consequences in any such formula.

You can read the original statement in its entirely via an Oct. 6 page cache.

A spokesperson for the Virginia ACLU confirmed to Rollins that it changed the statement “based on internal feedback,” that the original does not reflect its current views, and that the national ACLU was not consulted on the change.

It didn’t really need to be. The national ACLU is already following the same trend as the “progressive left,” with which it’s practically indistinguishable by now, Walter Olson of the Cato Institute writes in The Wall Street Journal:

Claims that speech can be violent, and that it should get different treatment depending on whether it operates for or against historically oppressed groups, have become the unchallenged truisms of freshman orientation courses and social-justice efforts. …

[The Virginia ACLU’s revision] brings to mind Robert Frost’s description of a liberal as someone too broad-minded to take his own side in a quarrel.

Hundreds of its own national staff have asked the ACLU to ditch fidelity to First Amendment law, which is barely mentioned in the Virginia ACLU’s revised statement, Olson notes:

Over the years the ACLU has expanded its mission to housing discrimination, LGBT issues, school finance and even supporting ObamaCare—issues with little connection to the Bill of Rights. The organization’s joked-about “Civil Liberties Caucus” is fast becoming an old guard, giving way to progressives who are there for equality and social-justice work.

As anyone who has paid the slightest attention to campus activism in the past several years can attest, equality and social justice as conceived by the dominant strains in higher education are jealous gods. That makes the First Amendment and ideological diversity a form of blasphemy.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that the iconoclasts have turned into the inquisitors.

MORE: BLM protesters shut down ACLU event, saying ‘Liberalism is white supremacy’

IMAGE: Lolostock/Shutterstock

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” Previously he led media and public relations at Seattle’s Discovery Institute, a free-market think tank. Greg is developing a Web series about a college newspaper, COPY, whose pilot episode was a semifinalist in the TV category for the Scriptapalooza competition in 2012. He graduated in 2001 with a B.A. from Seattle Pacific University, where he co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon.

Add to the Discussion

  • MikeyParks

    All right then – if a college or university is accepting tax money, then it should be strictly held to Constitutional and legal standards.

    • Todd

      AGREE but good luck with that as we all know it isn’t that way. UNLESS WE the people(taxpayers who fund these colleges) start meeting those who WON”T allow FREE speech at the front door for a little lesson in what that means, for ALL. pro or against

  • matt10023

    “Speech can be violent” and therefore censored? Has the ACLU forgotten that the first speech to be curtailed is that of minority voices? What will it say if Trump orders the shutdown of speech he deems violence?

    Fashion has overwhelmed principle.

    • Hughlon Thornbury

      “We can’t expect the American people to jump from capitalism to communism, but we can assist their elected leaders in giving them small doses of socialism, until they awaken one day to find that they have communism.

      “We do not have to invade the United States, we will destroy you from within.”

      Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev

  • Hughlon Thornbury

    It was only a matter of time. It was bound to happen. In the end, when it comes down to fighting for the individual rights of every human being, leftists will run, cower, surrender, betray their comrades, whatever it takes for them to survive. Not a backbone in the bunch. ACLU= Amerikan Communist Losers Union.

    Where is an asteroid when you need one?

    • ipsd48

      The left will try to use the military against us, and after the Obama and Clinton military purges, no doubt they’ll find some to support them………………..
      ……………this is how the civil war started.

  • 99airforce

    Our collages have gone to completely leftist where free speech is only free if you view point is the same as everyone else, our daughter was a conservative before she went to collage, but now she hardcore liberal. She does not understand th a t liberal does not mean liberty. She talks about she wants everything to be free. I tried to tell her, not is free, someone always has to pay the bill. Her professors have brain washed talking about a free state not having to pay for school, items she would need. When she came home and talked about bernie sanders, I damn near threw her out of the house. She got a education from my disablity, being a 100% disabled vet, but she came home spouting how education should be free. I sent her back to ask her professor, I ask her to ask the professor with a question, why are you raising tuition, why is it the professor keep asking for more and more money, they teach how education should be free, but keep wanting more and more money driving up the cost of education. She said he never answered the question. I was not expecting a answer but at least I got her thinking a bout the crap they spout.
    I don’t like the fact that the school let’s KKK and white supremacy talk, but if you stop any you will have turned our schools into fascist stronghold. Everyone conservative, liberal, commies, snowflakes should have a say. When they can say who can and cannot speak on a campus you will have turned into a dictatorship. And as a Great President said, Freedom is only one generation away from extinction. The freedoms my dad and me have, our right to keep and bear arms will be sqashed by this students that are either so naive that they believe anything our government tells them, our second amendment is about defending ourself from tranny, it’s never been about hunting or protection from others. It was specifically worded so we the people would have access to the same weapons our government would use aganist us. And those that say that’s not possible, look at history, if you learn nothing from our history it will repeat itself.

  • MarcJ

    From its inception back in 1918 until the Hitler-Stalin Pact in 1939 ACLU was the legal arm of the Communist Party USA. Then – for he sake of appearances – they formally separated but their common aim stayed the same: transformation of the USA into the USSSR.

  • The aclu ha been a leftist group since it’s formation almost 100 years ago. Now it’s focus is on anti-American orgs. like blm, antifa, and it’s long standing protection of gays, lesbians, and most recently transexuals the nexus of which has become their focus. Allowing men into washroom that women and little girls use. In fact there was a “transgender woman” that raped a ten year old girl 7 days ago. What sort of sick country has America become? From men allowed in washrooms meant for women, to the worst scandal bar none jeopardizing our country. May the Lord help us.

  • kassa1

    The ACLU is today as as of the days of yesteryear or nothing less than an arm of the Communist Party and they must be destroyed. They pick and choose what things they want to go on so to speak protect and I picking choose what they want to destroy and they have plenty of money from the elites to do that. Our children in the military are dying around the world fighting regimes in other countries when we have worse going on in this country. The ACLU for beginners must be destroyed and then we need to go and work on the bar as they are another organization destroying America and sucking America driver 1 our children in the military are dying around the world fighting regimes in other countries when we have worst going on in this country. The ACLU for beginners must be destroyed and then we need to go and work on the bar as they are another organization destroying America and sucking America which wealth as a parasite would.