Is Art Criticizing Suicide Bombers “Hate Speech”?

My second of three posts for the Brandeis Center examines the use of “hate speech” policies on college and university campuses. Specifically, I want to focus on several cases in which these policies have been used to censor or punish students and faculty for expressing speech even mildly critical of Islam. These cases demonstrate that “hate speech” policies, even if well-intentioned, are selectively applied in favor of Islam.

I’ll begin with a largely forgotten case that revolves around the story told in the video below, Portraits of Terror. The video tells the story of the artist, Joshua Stulman, whose exhibit of the same name was censored at Penn State University in 2006 by the university at the behest of two professors who claimed that the art violated Penn State’s policy against “hate speech.”

Free Speech on Campus and the Spirit of Louis Brandeis

UNLEARN cover

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.

Free Speech Expert Greg Lukianoff to Appear on Brandeis Center Blog

We’re pleased to announce that Foundation for Individual Rights in Education President Greg Lukianoff will appear as a guest on our blog next week.

WASHINGTON, DC, May 3, 2013 — The Louis D. Brandeis Center www.brandeiscenter.com for Human Rights Under Law, an independent civil rights organization established to fight campus anti-Semitism, announced today that civil libertarian Greg Lukianoff will appear as a guest on its popular blog  next week. Lukianoff is the president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and author of Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate.

Lukianoff is known for his vigorous defense of free speech on college and university campuses.  The Louis D. Brandeis Center, named for one of the leading champions of the freedom of speech in American legal history, advocates strong civil and human rights protections against campus anti-Semitism consistent with the First Amendment and doctrine of academic freedom.

LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus commented, “The Brandeis Center salutes Greg Lukianoff and FIRE for their steadfast commitment to constitutional rights on college and university campuses. As an organization named for Justice Louis Brandeis, we believe strongly in the importance of free speech and civil liberties, just as we strongly oppose anti-Semitism and violation of civil rights.  We are excited that Greg Lukianoff will contribute to the Louis D. Brandeis Center Blog’s continuing dialogue on these issues.” 

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.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper and Mehmet Sahin

As the first night of Passover approaches, we are delighted that Rabbi Abraham Cooper has joined guest blogger Harold Brackman in appealing for solidarity with Mehmet Sahin, a young Muslim man who is now in hiding over death threats because he has take a stand against anti-Semitism.  Rabbi Cooper, who serves as Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and who has been described as one of the most influential rabbis in America, joins this Blog for the first time in making this joint appeal.  We are inspired by Mr. Sahin’s courage and thank Rabbi Cooper and Dr. Brackman for their important insights, which we are confident will be remembered and discussed at many seder tables tonight.   (More about Rabbi Cooper appears after the “jump”).

The Shame of the Netherlands: A Young Muslim Must Go Into Hiding for Fighting Anti-Semitism

Post by Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and Harold Brackman:

Passover. This week, Jews will eat more matzo then we ever thought possible, hear more commentary about the Haggadah and its multiple messages for our time, and sit back in awe and (hopefully) love at the site at of our extended family circle.

But this Pesach, let’s all of us leave some space for one young Muslim who deserves the world’s attention and support. He is not a martyr and desperately wants to avoid becoming one. But as of now, he and his family are in hiding in an undisclosed location in the Netherlands, because of death threats.

His name is Mehmet Sahin, a doctoral student, who has volunteered to reach out to street youth in the city of Arnhem. A few weeks ago he interviewed a group of Dutch-Turkish youth on Nederlands TV2 (link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_h5s1yjsTI) during which several declared their unabashed hatred of Jews and open admiration of Hitler. “What Hitler did to the Jews is fine with me,” said one. “Hitler should have killed all the Jews,” said another.

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.