Monday, March 30, 2009

Free Speech in Oklahoma

The Oklahoma legislature is trying to intimidate the University of Oklahoma for inviting Richard Dawkins to speak last month. The Tulsa World publishes an article today that covers both sides of the controversy. After reading that article, the only logical conclusion is that free speech in Oklahoma is being threatened by elected politicians [Dispute evolves on OU speech by scientist].

This is outrageous. How can you have State Representatives advocating laws that violate the American Constitution and the Bill of Rights? Isn't that treasonous?

Oklahoma is one of those states that still has the death penalty and it still carries out executions. According to US Federal Law, the penalty for treason can be death [Capital punishment in the United States]. That raises an interesting possibility when it comes to dealing with creationists.

[Hat Tip:]


  1. Treason? No. Under our Constitution, it is defined as:

    Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.

    Essentially, it requires an armed attack or insurrection with an an actual assembly of soldiers. Being a boob or even breaking the law (including the Constitution itself) is not enough.

    As attractive as it might seem, we'll have to give a bye to the notion of treason trials for creationists and other IDiots.

  2. Can't we stretch the definition a bit? Lawyers do that all the time.

    America's enemies are opposed to freedom and democracy—according to current dogma. Surely anyone who is opposed to freedom of speech is giving aid and comfort to the enemy?

  3. Professors deprive the non-academic writers and editors who work at universities of freedom, without violating the constitution, so why can't professors (who are paid by the taxpayers through government grants) be deprived of freedom in the same way?

    Why is it ethical for professors to censor writers and editor as employees but not unethical for state legislators to censor professors as employees?

  4. Surely anyone who is opposed to freedom of speech is giving aid and comfort to the enemy?

    C'mon ... I know you're safely over the border in Canada, but surely you've paid some attention to what's been going on down here for the last eight years or so.

  5. Why is it ethical for professors to censor writers and editor as employees ...

    Got some examples?

    ... but not unethical for state legislators to censor professors as employees?

    A few reasons pop into my mind. One, public employees aren't employees of state legislators (except for those directly employed by the legislative body). It's like state legislators trying to get state cops not to write tickets against their relatives -- improper influence. Two, such government use of the legislative power to intimidate speech is unconstitutional and, therefore violative of their oath to uphold the Constitution. Three, tenured professors have contracts that guarantee academic freedom. To the extent that this is aimed at intimidating professors and the institutions that employ them, it is an interference with those contracts and a tort. Four, I think it is immoral for state legislators to take public money while stupid ... but, hey, that's just me.

  6. Anonymous said...

    "Why is it ethical for professors to censor writers and editor as employees but not unethical for state legislators to censor professors as employees?"

    Anonymous, please rephrase your question.

  7. I live in Oklahoma, and was hoping to see Dawkins, but missed it. The people in OK are extremely irrational. Even the Democrats, the self-professed "left-of-centers" are highly intolerant of opposing points of view. It's just a really socially backward, troglydytic state.

  8. If they're trying to censor/intimate/"punish" someone for pushing their point of view in a public address, or inviting speakers who do, why don't people simply file a long list of talks by creationist speakers and ask the legislators to treat them with an equal hand.

    Either way, they lose. If they refuse to, then have revealed an intentional bias which exposes them to trouble. If they do, they'll have a lot of fun dealing with protests from "their side".

  9. Can't we stretch the definition a bit? Lawyers do that all the time.

    Unlike professors during academic arguments.... ;-p

  10. Professors should not be subject to censorship and suppression, nor should they engage in censorship and suppression.

    Academic freedom is a special license or parliamentary privilege. It serves a good purpose and should be defended and strengthened. One way of strengthening it is to abolish censorship and suppression at every administrative level. It would take some courage, I'm sure. No one likes critical scrutiny and informed comment. (Everyone believes in freedom of the press until they get a call from a reporter.) But if we believe that freedom is essential to education, social health and development, we should abolish censorship and suppression at every level, including the local, institutional one.

  11. For example, here are the most recent press releases and information from the HarvardNewsOffice. These items possess all the hallmarks of free inquiry and expression. They are revelatory, probing and critically intelligent. Clearly, freedom reigns....

    VP for Administration Zeckhauser to retire

    Harvard announces Library Task Force

    New loan program helps international students

    Report confirms: University supports economic stability

    Obama nominates Kagan as U.S. solicitor general

    Task Force Releases Report on the Arts

    Financial Update from Drew Faust and Ed Forst

  12. Here's a real story, from a real news source:

    Boston College Students, Denied Ayers, Discuss Academic Freedom

    Following the decision by Boston College to bar a planned speech Monday by William Ayers, students instead devoted the day to talking about academic freedom. College officials said that they called off the Ayers event because of the sensitivity in Boston to a 1970 police killing that, while not viewed by experts as linked to the Weather Underground, is associated with the Weather Underground by some residents and by many conservatives on talk radio. Ayers, a University of Illinois at Chicago professor, was once a leader of the Weather Underground. The Massachusetts chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union was among the groups that on Monday condemned the college's actions. A letter from the ACLU charged that the college has "abandoned its own mission statement, which expresses a firm commitment to academic freedom."

    By way of comparison, check out the Boston College "news" web site. And ask: are the people who write for Boston College free?

  13. You haven't made your complaints at all clear and I'm not searching through a bunch of articles trying to figure out what they are, especially when it wasn't at all obvious from the first couple I checked.

    I agree that the Ayers case is troubling but note that no one is trying to punish him, deny him an honorarium or harass the people who wanted to bring him to speak. A fairly obvious concern is Ayers' safety and the safety of those who might be present if violence is attempted against him. It might not be a valid reason for cancelling the appearance but security (or the lack of it) would be legitimate concerns for the school, given the climate.

  14. John,

    University professors censor and suppress the work of those hired to write about their institutions.

    You can know that simply by reading university web sites and house organs. There you will find much that is called -- falsely -- "news" but clearly is not. It is all puff and propaganda. Do you really believe that those who write this "news" would not prefer to be free?

    If professors can censor others, why can't others censor them? Professors argue that they must be able to censor to protect their institutions. But that's the same argument politicians make. They must be able to censor to protect their countries. Both arguments are false.

    There should be no censorship of professors or those who work for them.

    Stop censorship by universities and you will take a very large step towards ending censorship itself.