Free Speech on Campus and the Spirit of Louis Brandeis


I was pleased earlier this year when Ken Marcus, President of the Brandeis Center, asked me to guest blog for the Brandeis Center regarding my recent book, Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate, and my work as President of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

The First Amendment and free speech has been a lifelong passion for me and the reason why I attended law school in the first place. During my time at Stanford Law School, I took every class I could on First Amendment law and completed six additional credits on the origins of the legal concept of “prior restraint” in Tudor England. In my experience, Oliver Wendell Holmes gets a lot of attention, but I believe that Louis Brandeis was the first truly great hero of freedom of speech in Supreme Court history.

The Brandeis Center’s New Litigation Initiative

With the expansion of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, we have begun a new litigation initiative that focuses on the resurgence of anti-Semitism on universities across the nation.  Specifically, we will work with faculty and students to investigate incidents, work with administration on procedures and protocols, and file legal complaints when necessary.  Our goal is change the culture on campuses so that anti-Semitism is taken as seriously as other forms of hate and discrimination while also maintaining academic freedom and freedom of speech.

Where Was The President When He Was Supposedly In Israel?

    Alyza D. Lewin photo by Rikki Lewin                                 Menachem Zivotofsky - November 7, 2011

What a week it has been for Jerusalem. The President of the United States arrived, transformed the King David Hotel into his (and his entourage’s) home away from home, and then began a series of meetings and visits – to the official residences of President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, to the Israel Museum and the Shrine of the Book, to the Jerusalem Convention Center, to Mount Herzl, Yad Vashem, and to the grave of former Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin.  All of these sites are in Jerusalem.  But are they in Israel?

According to the U.S. State Department they are not.  The State Department refuses to recognize Jerusalem as being in Israel and says that the city’s status must be determined in future peace negotiations.

My father, Nathan Lewin, and I were in court this week – the day before President Obama arrived in the Middle East – on a case that concerns this very issue.  The case is Zivotofsky v. Secretary of State, and it involves the right of a Jerusalem-born American citizen to self-identify as born in “Israel” on his or her U.S. passport and birth certificate.

About Danit

As a young Jewish professional, activism has shaped much of my life.  I grew up in a traditional household where the civil rights of the Jewish people were a priority.  Events shaping Israel and the American Jewish community were a constant topic of conversation at the dinner table.  I also started to show a real interest in the legal field, such as completing an internship with the Nassau County Attorney’s Office.

Welcome to the new Louis D. Brandeis Center Blog

Welcome to the new Louis D. Brandeis Center Blog.  We hope that this new feature will facilitate communication about the issues that we are concerned about, including anti-Semitism, religious freedom, academic freedom and the freedom of speech.  We plan to include both entries from Brandeis Center people and also guest blogs from distinguished visitors.  Guest…