Legal Action

In September 2017, white supremacist Richard Spencer sued for a right to speak on the campus of Michigan State University, a public, land-grant college. Similar legal action took place, with varying results, at the University of Cincinnati, the University of Florida, and Penn State University. Because the right to Free Speech is enshrined in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, those initially denied a platform to speak — often because they appear to present a threat to public order — have had their way after arguing in court that a public space cannot deny anyone a soapbox. These disputes frequently result in civil lawsuits as well as administrative investigations.

Reflection Questions

  1. Are faculty members and others who claim to have been mistreated too quick to run to court with their grievances and seek a judicial solution?
  2. Should the American Civil Liberties Union be more selective about the people and causes it chooses to defend in the struggle over Free Speech?
  3. Will the federal courts have to step in more often to try to save U.S. democracy?

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