Allah Says: Don't Tread on Me

College Republicans at San Francisco State University recently filed a federal lawsuit challenging the speech restrictions that led to a five-month investigation of the group after an anti-terrorism rally last October. Participants in the rally stepped on paper facsimiles of the Hamas and Hezbollah flags in a deliberate counterpoint to similar treatment of the U.S. flag by members of those groups. Afterward a student complained that the College Republicans had "incited violence," created a "hostile environment," and engaged in "actions of incivility." Although both the ACLU and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education reminded SFSU administrators that flag desecration is a form of speech protected by the First Amendment, the university continued to investigate whether the College Republicans should be disciplined for the rally before finally concluding that they had not run afoul of the school's speech rules.

"I don't believe the complaint is about the desecration of the flag," an SFSU spokeswoman told San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders in February. "I believe that the complaint is the desecration of Allah." Both the Hamas and Hezbollah flags include the word Allah in Arabic script, which the College Republicans did not realize until hecklers pointed it out during the rally. But as the lawsuit points out, the fact that some people might construe the flag trampling as an attack on Islam does not justify prohibition of such symbolic expression by a public university, which is bound by a First Amendment that protects criticism of religious as well as political beliefs. Although the College Republicans ultimately escaped punishment, they argue that the threat was unconstitutional and had a chilling effect on student speech.

So does the possibility of future investigations based on the university's vague speech standards, which require students to "be civil to one another," abstain from "initimidation" and "harassment," avoid offensive behavior that "emphasizes another person's sexuality," and generally behave in a manner consistent with the school's (undefined) "goals" and "principles." In addition to a declaration that the investigation of the College Republicans violated their First Amendment rights and $5,000 in damages, the suit seeks an injunction barring the university from enforcing its speech restrictions.

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  • ||

    Liberty or offense! Don't tread on my feelings!

  • ||

    Given the title, I was expecting another post about James Hetfield's detainment.

  • ||

    ... which require students to "be civil to one another,"...etc
    Perhaps a good idea for the under-10 set, but the real purpose of these policies is censorship of non-PC ideas.

    From Sowell's column today:
    'Does anybody seriously believe that "hate speech" prohibitions will be applied to Muslims demonizing Jews, to blacks demonizing whites, or to women demonizing men?'

  • ||

    If we're serious about getting Hamas and Hezbollah to stop desecrating the American flag, why don't we write Allah on it somewhere?

  • The Wine Commonsewer®||

    What Mr F. Le Mur just said. Perfect. Thanks for postng and for the link.

    ....led to a five-month investigation of the group

    Yet one more example to demonstrate that American culture is circling the drain (as it were).

    And as an aside, how can it take five months to investigate something like this? Five hours maybe. Must be a government commission.

  • ||

    I'm conflicted.

    On the one hand, the college Republicans are absolutely right: the speech codes should be abolished, and the weasels occupying college administration jobs should be sacked.

    On the other hand, they're college Republicans.

  • ||

    If we're serious about getting Hamas and Hezbollah to stop desecrating the American flag, why don't we write Allah on it somewhere?

    Because the Christians would shit themselves...

  • ||

    We could write, "This flag represents Abraham's, Jesus's and Allah's people as well as atheists, cranks and ne'er do wells." We'd write is real small.

  • ||

    How about the death of the 'n-word'? Does anybody actually think this will make any difference whatsoever?

    I don't.

  • D.A. Ridgely||

    On the other hand, they're college Republicans.

    Think what you will of CR's, the reality is that they are the only non-leftist organization (not counting some, but only some religious groups) on many college campuses. So who else is going to protest these speech code outrages? Campus Libertarians? Uh huh.

  • ||

    So why isn't the libertarian solution to tell the College Republicans to not attend a school that has a speech policy they don't like?

  • ||

    DA Ridgely,

    I'm in college, and I'm a registered Republican. But I wouldn't touch my campus' College Republicans with a ten-foot waterboard.

    If Bush gets down to 10% approval ratings, those guys will be among those sticking with him. Actually, I shouldn't say "guys", because there are a few women in their ranks as well, who make up for their fewness with their bluster. Think AnnCoulter/MichelleMalkin vs. BillKristol/DavidBrooks.

  • robc||

    barris,

    If it were a **PRIVATE** school, it would be.

  • anon||

    Dan T.,

    Uh, because it's San Francisco STATE University, and neither the College Republicans, nor anyone else, is required to choose between attending a public university and practicing their First Amendment rights. Thankfully, we've rejected that "you have to take the bitter with the sweet" approach to protected rights.

  • ||

    So why isn't the libertarian solution to tell the College Republicans to not attend a school that has a speech policy they don't like?

    Because it's a public school, it's subject to different rules.

  • ||

    Also, DAR, I would say that the people who are disciplined under the speech codes should be the ones fighting against them. If a campus is so uniformly leftist that no student ever publicly violates the speech code, then the speech code will never be enforced, so there's no problem.

  • ||

    On the other hand, they're college Republicans

    who almost certainly support laws against the "desecration" of the American flag.

    I wonder if these fine individuals feel that the stomping of the American flag at Hezbollah and Hamas rallies "incited violence," created a "hostile environment," and engaged in "actions of incivility." Actually, no, I don't wonder that at all. I'm pretty confident I know how they would answer that question.

  • D.A. Ridgely||

    crimethink:

    Understood. But even in my pre-PC undergraduate days (of course, back then it was the College Whigs and the College Tories) the ratio of left to right leaning organizations was around 100:1. So my point remains, who else will sound the opposition on many campuses if not the (admittedly problematic in their own way) CRs?

  • D.A. Ridgely||

    Also, DAR, I would say that the people who are disciplined under the speech codes should be the ones fighting against them.

    There I disagree entirely. I don't have to be a recreational drug user to protest drug laws, a black or homosexual to support civil rights for blacks or gays, etc. Indeed, I would think those of us who have nothing especially to gain from standing up for principles are precisely the ones who need to do so, not the least reason being we may otherwise find ourselves uncomfortably alone when it's our turn to be the targets.

  • ||

    How about the death of the 'n-word'?



    It should be interesting since the only people I hear using that word with any regularity are black.

  • ||

    "So why isn't the libertarian solution to tell the College Republicans to not attend a school that has a speech policy they don't like?"

    Because libertarians believe in free speech.

  • ||

    Well at least joe didn't try to pretend he wasn't constructing a straw man there.

  • ||

    'Does anybody seriously believe that "hate speech" prohibitions will be applied to Muslims demonizing Jews, to blacks demonizing whites, or to women demonizing men?'

    Thats an excellent point, and Christopher Hitchens said something very similar about Canadian "hate speech" laws.

  • ||

    Maybe college republicans would get more respect if they advocated free speech. Intead, what they advocate is the right to trample on another nation's flag or god. Joe's point is entirely valid. College republicans aren't advocating for free speech. Their advocating only for their own speech. That said, all of these restrictions on speech are ripe for abuse. It just so happens that this abuse, when it occurs on many college campuses, is of the smug, super-pc variety.

  • ||

    Josh | July 10, 2007, 12:05pm | #

    Well at least joe didn't try to pretend he wasn't constructing a straw man there.


    Ah, yes, my phoney-baloney assertion that Republicans support flag-desecration laws and find anti-American rallies dangerous and distasteful.

    What a woeful smear!

  • Scooby||

    Just because these tools wouldn't defend my right to free speech doesn't mean I won't defend theirs. I apologize if I get a little smug, but I'd rather be the better person, you know?

  • ||

    I think it was actually your phoney-baloney assumption that the particular subset of College Republicans from the incident hold whatever views you deem rhetorically convenient.

  • D.A. Ridgely||

    I agree that joe's point here is valid. I just don't see how it's relevant. Fine, call the CRs hypocrites. What difference should it make as a practical matter?

  • ||

    At my school the CRs were frequently on the side of free speech, but didn't convey this with finesse, and attacked other issues that they should have just left alone (like Lamar says, they were more for their own rights than those of others). As a result a vast majority of the school got this terrible impression of the kids, who frequently (and inaccurately) referred to themselves as libertarian-republicans, and thus got a terrible impression of libertarians. I would just-as-well prefer that CRs disappear, but in this particular scenario I have no reason not to support their right to do what they did. Maybe these kids aren't also pricks? It would make me feel better about defending their rights...

  • ||

    Why aren't there any (or many more) college libertarian organizations? Left-wing clubs have thrived since the 1960s while most of the libertarian campus groups have dried up. Yet we are to believe libertarian ideas are more popular than ever?

  • ||

    It's true. College republicans are hypocrites. It doesn't mean that they're wrong in this case.

  • D.A. Ridgely||

    creech:

    Blame the two-party system. Both the Republican and the Democratic parties are willing to send organizers, provide various sorts of support, etc. Increasingly, libertarian oriented organizations (e.g., CATO, IHS) are reaching out to college students, sponsoring symposiums and such, but the closest organized political movement on campuses outside the major parties is probably the Greens.

  • ||

    What I really want to see is for Serrano to do a "Piss Muhammad" to go along with his "Piss Christ".

    That'd be a death fatwa fer sure.

  • ||

    Blame the two-party system

    Ralph Nader has no problem organizing college students.

  • D.A. Ridgely||

    Ralph Nader has no problem organizing college students.

    Nader used to show up to speak at law schools using the same standard opening: "I wonder why it is that when I speak at law schools there are far more first year students than second year students and practically no third year students at all."

    Of course, the obvious answer is that anyone who has made it through two years of law school and still can't recognize bullsh*t when he hears it is a lost cause.

  • ||

    Meanwhile in Tampa

  • ||

    The First Amendment doesn't apply in Florida, 'cause we're real Americans.

  • ||

    Interesting. Has SFSU investigated anyone who desecrated any Christian or Jewish symbols. I doubt it. Most likely they defended it and accused anyone who complained of being a fascist republican.

  • ||

    Ummm...that Tampa law is plainly unconstitutional. (Unless it only applies to "publicly" owned flags)

  • ||

    Now I get it, Josh.

    You don't know what "straw man" means.

  • ||

    jbs

    It must be a Florida law although I have never heard of it before today. Between the part where the guy rubbed [Old Glory] on his body and got off and stomped the flag numerous times it sounds like Monica's blew dress.

  • ||

    Sigh. In the news again for the wrong reasons. This is clearly an unconstitutional statute. I wasn't even aware that we had an anti-flag desecration law on the books.

  • ||

    "Blame the two-party system. Both the Republican and the Democratic parties are willing to send organizers, provide various sorts of support, etc. Increasingly, libertarian oriented organizations (e.g., CATO, IHS) are reaching out to college students, sponsoring symposiums and such, but the closest organized political movement on campuses outside the major parties is probably the Greens."

    But alot of college kids read Ayn Rand.

  • Scooby||

    I don't know about anyone else, but when I was in college, I was too busy with the sex and drugs (and studying, and working to pay for it all) to be bothered with College Libertarians meetings. I might have been tempted to show up for free pizza and beer, but only if I didn't have anything (or anyone) better to do.

  • ||

    Ah, yes, my phoney-baloney assertion that Republicans support flag-desecration laws and find anti-American rallies dangerous and distasteful.



    joe is obviously from the two-wrongs-make-a-right school of politics.

    It is OK that leftists want to destroy free speech, because Republicans want to destroy free speech as well!

  • ||

    But alot of college kids read Ayn Rand.



    Ayn Rand is not Libertarian. Libertarianism is a theory of limited government, Ayn Rand's philosophy is a cult of personality that declares a certain genre of music to be morally superior to another genre of music because 2 + 2 = 4. Ayn Rand is the type of person who gave a speech on how a huge socialist undertaking (the Apollo Moon Landing), was morally superior to a private for-profit rock concert (Woodstock), and anyone who can't work that out from basic postulates (A is A) is an evil collectivist!!!

    I think it is safe to say that Ayn Rand and Objectivism are a cult of personality without any sort of coherent ideology... with only superficially overlapping concepts with Libertarianism.

    Which is probably why the leftist universities acknowledge Rand.

  • ||

    An Objectivist is basically a libertarian minus any trace of a sense of humor and compassion.

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