Free Speech

The Connecticut Hate Crimes Law Used To Charge Two Idiot College Students Would Ban Family Guy Too

The state's hate crimes law—a "rarely enforced relic dating to 1917"—eviscerates free speech.

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Two students at the University of Connecticut (UConn) have been "charged with ridicule on account of creed, religion, color, denomination, nationality or race. The misdemeanor charge is punishable by a maximum of 30 days in jail, a fine of up to $50 or both, according to state law."

Video circulated by the UConn chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) shows the students, both 21, repeatedly using the n-word while walking through a parking lot. To put it bluntly, the students are fucking idiots. But the way the case is being handled—and the state law under which they are being charged—should deeply upset everyone who cares about free speech.

According to The Washington Post, Jarred Karal and Ryan Mucaj are also facing possible expulsion from UConn for violating the school's code of conduct. That's exactly right: The university should be deciding whether such mindless, ugly action warrants suspension of expulsion. Even though UConn is a state school (and thus bound by the First Amendment), it should be allowed to set reasonable expectations for student and faculty behavior.

But Connecticut's hate crimes law penalizes all sorts of speech that should absolutely be protected. According to the law,

Any person who, by his advertisement, ridicules or holds up to contempt any person or class of persons, on account of the creed, religion, color, denomination, nationality or race of such person or class of persons, shall be guilty of a class D misdemeanor.

It's not immediately clear whether Karal and Mucaj will be found guilty because they were not directly addressing particular individuals, an important aspect of the state law. In true dumbass fashion, in the video they seem to be wandering through a parking lot (with a third student who was not charged) shouting the slur repeatedly to the open air.

But the Connecticut law, "a rarely-enforced relic dating to 1917," according to the folks at The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), effectively bans a huge amount of speech. When reading about this law, I thought immediately of the TV show Family Guy, which is based in Connecticut's neighboring state of Rhode Island, and rarely misses an opportunity to mock and deride all classes of "persons, on account of the creed, religion, color, denomination, nationality or race." It's a rare episode of this New England-based show that doesn't break the intentions of the Nutmeg State's stupid law. Few TV shows have their own Wikipedia pages devoted to their takes on various groups that would be protected under the Connecticut law. Family Guy routinely mocks Islam, Catholicism, Christianity, transgender people, heterosexuals, old people—you name it.

Based on what I've read, including comments from UConn's president, I think these students should face some sort of serious disciplinary action from the school, possibly even expulsion.

But that Connecticut law should be deep-sixed once and for all, especially given the state's colonial history as a site of religious dissent and toleration. Speech is under attack everywhere these days, in ways that it hasn't been since the 1950s. Just yesterday, Reason reported on a proposed law in Massachusetts that would criminalize the use of the word bitch. Leading national politicians routinely trot out new ways to regulate speech (looking at you, Sens. Josh Hawley and Elizabeth Warren). Conservatives are calling for porn prosecutions and liberals get bent out of shape over perceived Russian interference in political discourse on Facebook and other social-media platforms. Incidents such as the one at UConn are disturbing reminders of casual racism. They shouldn't also be reminders of the precariousness of free speech.

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  1. “State-funded schools should be able to expel students who say dirty words in public” is the most libertarian take ever.

    Seriously, Gillespie?

    1. Beat me to it. Totally ridiculous take by Gillespie, this isn’t a private school.

      1. In fact, “free speech” will be a lot less precarious once we rid it altogether of inappropriate expressions that threaten social cohesion and offend our nation’s values. Words like “bitch” are not allowed in classrooms here at NYU, and any student who violates instructions in this regard is subject to expulsion or worse. As for inappropriate “parody,” this is a crime that we immediately report to the police. See the documentation of America’s leading criminal “satire” case at:

        https://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

    2. He’s saying the school should be able to set whatever standards they want. It’s their school, why not? Stupid or not, why should they not set whatever standards they want? If their standards say “no cussing” or “no propeller beanies”, and students violate them, why not?

      What he’s complaining about is criminal laws which violate the first amendment.

      Why is that distinction so hard to understand?

      1. “He’s saying the school should be able to set whatever standards they want. It’s their school, why not?”

        Because it’s a state school. In other words, the school itself is an arm of the government, a state actor for constitutional rights issues.

    3. Now do Ward Churchill

      1. Ward Churchill got axed for faking research, not for saying bad things.

        Its was his “little Eichmanns” comment about 9/11 that forced the school to finally pay attention to the fact that much of his “research” was nonsense. But he wasn’t canned for that.

        Plus, there’s a yuugggge difference between a tenured professor publishing an editorial, and a couple of teenage boys saying the n-word to no one in particular while they walk through an empty parking lot at night.

    4. He who owns the property gets to make the rules about the property. Even if the owners happens to be the state. Thus the state gets to set the traffic laws on state highways, and gets to set codes of conduct on state colleges.

      The problem is NOT the rules, the problem is that the state owns a college. Privatize the colleges, privatize the roads.

      1. Agreed that the real problem is that the state owns a college. However, as long as the state does own the college, the college has to follow the rules that the state has to follow as well, namely those enshrined by the First Amendment.

        1. I’m not so sure that the line is clear, though. It would be impractical not to allow schools to take any disciplinary action based on speech. For example, you have to be able to do something about a student who constantly disrupts a class, or that class is worthless to other students.

          1. That’s a different circumstance. Disruption is interfering with others’ right to get an education. I think this is something that should be enforced (see UC Berkley). In this case, who’s interfered? They’re just walking through the quad.

          2. Classes or reserved areas tend to fall under different rules. In those, the administration can reasonably set rules such as ‘no disruption’ or ‘may only be reserved by a student group’. This is the same for any government run building – they can control access and behavior, but usually not speech except in specific, viewpoint neutral ways.

            Outdoor spaces such as walkways and parking lots are generally treated by the courts as public spaces similar to the public sidewalk. Behavior can be controlled (i.e. no blocking) but not speech or other First Amendment related activities.

      2. Only a faggot would think that.

    5. So, for example, can an elementary school not punish a student who goes around saying “fuck, nigger, fuck” all day?
      Does it make a difference that most college students are adults?
      Can a government funded school have any speech related code of conduct?
      I’m not sure what the answers to these questions are (except to say that there shouldn’t be government run schools).

      1. What about people who play songs that scream racist words? That would put a serious strain on enrollment.

      2. Public schools are given wide latitude in disciplining students because the courts recognize they are acting in loco parentis and need to maintain order. In addition, minors are generally not accorded the same rights as adults because, well, they’re kids.

        But if you’re going to argue that a state-run school has the authority to punish adults for simply saying an offensive word to each other in a joking manner then I don’t see how that is in any way, shape, or form constitutional. Or any different than a law criminalizing the same behavior.

        Nick is just virtue-signaling here. This column is yet another data point supporting my argument that Reason staff are nothing but progressives who hate the DMV.

        1. As I understand it, colleges have a legal en loco parentis thing too. Which seems ridiculous to me, but there it is.

          And I see nothing in the first amendment that says that it doesn’t apply to minor children, or that a public school can act in place of parents when it comes to policing speech.

          1. Rightly or wrongly, the courts have typically held that minors don’t have full civil rights akin to adults. In public schools, however, those rights can only be partially circumscribed by the schools. First Amendment rights are the most protected (and 4th amendment is a total mess) but still can be limited in viewpoint neutral ways.

            What isn’t clear, right now, is control of off-campus behavior. My local high school found out about a racist photo-shopped image going around social media and looped in the police to investigate (on what authority, I have no idea).

      3. At schools, the administration/staff operate In loco parentis.

    6. Incidentally, remember back when liberals assured us that hate crimes laws would never, ever be used to punish speech or thoughts?

      Good times, good times.

      1. No, I don’t remember them ever saying so. In fact, they’ve always used the threat of force to control speech. Google “Tipper” Gore.

    7. Yeah, that’s just an error. If they are spending tax money, they cannot discriminate by viewpoint.

      (You could argue that wandering around in the middle of the night hollering at no one should be grounds for expulsion — but then it cannot matter what is actually hollered.)

    8. I always figured that if you mean nigger you should say nigger. This politically-correct bullshit “n-word”, “c-word” “b-word” “r-word” (for “Reason”) – has to go.
      So nigger nigger nigger

      Big fucking deal.

      1. I remember a radio talk show late one night talking about “a great opportunity for African Americans.” A few minutes later I realized the asshole was using polite circumlocutions to say, “Let’s send the niggers back to Africa.”

        I want assholes to come out and say exactly that, so I know they’re assholes.

    9. Negroes in this country has a page full of no no words that they dont want whites to utter. So they have this country’s liberal sissies to scared to speak their mind

  2. No more Family Guy? I’m not seeing a downside here.

    1. No Life of Brian, either.

      1. What did Monty Python ever do for us?

        1. Life of Brian, for one thing.

          1. Of course the Life of Brian, but apart from that, what has Monty Python ever done for us?

      2. always look on the bright side of life.

    2. That’s what I was thinking…they’re making it awfully tempting.

    3. Family Guy is a brilliantly written show and Seth McFarlane is a genius.

      1. 2006 called said fuck yeah. since then it’s been Puke-Joke Central

  3. The university should be deciding whether such mindless, ugly action warrants suspension of expulsion. Even though UConn is a state school (and thus bound by the First Amendment), it should be allowed to set reasonable expectations for student and faculty behavior.

    Ex post, naturally.

  4. I have not been following this very closely, but I got the impression it was just a couple of drunk students yelling at each other as drunk friends often do. I doubt their was any racist intent, or that they were even aware they were loud and obnoxious enough to offend anyone; they were probably too drunk to even be aware they were yelling or that other people were around.

    1. Absolutely. Just walking along and saying the N-word to no one should not be a crime. That the NAACP is freaking out over this when actual racism still exists out there is just plain nuts.

      Stop stoning people for saying “That piece of halibut was good enough for Jehovah.”

      1. “HE SAID JEHOVAH!!!”

        1. Do not throw any stones until I blow this whistle… even if they say “Jehov…..”

      2. What converts “colored people” into “niggers”?
        Low-IQ bullshit like freaking out over two drunk college students saying “nigger”.

  5. I hate to be an author critic but you’re kind of all over the place here.

  6. To put it bluntly, the students are fucking idiots.

    You better hope the New Hamster A.G. doesn’t read Reason, Nick.

    1. At least he didn’t call them bitches.

  7. No right is important enough to sacrifice for “reasonable” reasons, amirite Nick?

    1. The problem is not codes of conduct on state colleges, the problem is that states own colleges.

      Don’t be clutching at your rights when you see nothing at all wrong about the state owning colleges.

  8. Expelled?

    Ok. But would you get so fired up if the word was “cracker”?

    This over the top faux outrage is not helping. In fact, it’s making things much worse, and many people in the grievance industry know this.

    Does virtue signaling really feel that good?

    1. According to Volokh in a 2018 post, one person was prosecuted under this law for calling another person a “nigga cracker.” Since I haven’t heard this phrase before, I imagine it’s one of the Nabisco Corporation’s less successful cookie brands.

      1. PS – if any Nabisco lawyers are reading this, I was only kidding.

    2. Virtue signalling gets you laid. So yes, yet it does. Unless you have the cockpox, then getting laid hurts like hell.

      1. I remember in law school we had one flaming asshole libtard who always went out of his way to virtue signal his ASS off!

        Don’t think he ever got laid though. Maybe a pity fuck.

        It’s sort of like groveling – sometimes it works, but mostly it’s just disgusting.

  9. Let’s just add a “no n-word” amendment to the Constitution and have done with it already.

    1. Black rappers hardest hit.

  10. Couldn’t the NAACP be liable for prosecution under that very same statute for distributing this racially insulting material?

    But perhaps more to the point, why was the NAACP reaction to a video, depicting racially insulting conduct seen by maybe a handful of people, to post the video online where millions of people could now be exposed (and theoretical insulted) by it?

    1. So millions of people could be outraged by it.

    2. Maybe because the NAACP is a racist organization?

      1. Well, they use the term “Colored People” in their very name, what did you expect?

    3. Because, at last, they have proof of how systemically racist the USA is.

      Please send money.

  11. Would there be any charges if the two drunks were black and dud the same thing? I seem to recall a double standard in this area as far as social acceptableness with regards to football players a few years ago.

  12. Left-wing media covering this story is doing its best to hide the students’ surnames, Karal and Mucaj. Apparently Arabic people are tough to shoehorn into the “white, Christian redneck” narrative.

    1. They look like a couple of white dudes to me. Not that it should matter.

      1. A couple of wild and crazy guys.

    2. Turkish, maybe Balkan. Not Arab.

  13. Based on what I’ve read, including comments from UConn’s president, I think these students should face some sort of serious disciplinary action from the school, possibly even expulsion.

    Really? Why?

  14. There are times when I’m glad that we have lawyers, to keep people like the author from deciding what the state should and shouldn’t be allowed to punish.

  15. Based on what I’ve read, including comments from UConn’s president …

    Why on earth would you rely on statements from a college president to accurately relate the facts? They are among the most PC people on earth, and will call something “racist” at the drop of a hat.

  16. “41 Mind-Blowingly Racist Vintage Ads You Need To See”

    (disclaimer: You actually don’t need to see them)

    https://thoughtcatalog.com/nico-lang/2013/09/41-mind-blowingly-racist-vintage-ads-you-need-to-see/

  17. How do we know the college regulation the students are charged under isn’t as overbroad as the statute?

    Also, the account doesn’t seem to be about the “fighting words exception,” since they weren’t verbally attacking any specific person, just as the guy who plays the word in the hippity-hop music in his car radio is trying to attack me in particular, he’s just sharing what he has with the world.

    1. *not* trying to attack me in particular

  18. Another great article from the woke boomers at reason.

    Family Guy routinely mocks Islam, Catholicism, Christianity, transgender people, heterosexuals, old people—you name it.

    So, with the exception of trannies, anything that isn’t a proggie sacred cow. How brave.

  19. The thing about incidents like this that really gets me is that it is being treated like a serious incident of racism, rather than like a couple of young males acting like shitheads as young males are wont to do.
    Black people used to face a danger of getting killed if they said the wrong thing to a white woman or otherwise got too “uppity”. Now we are going to act like stupid shit like this is a serious problem?

    1. reason wants to score with progs so they need to pretend along with everyone else that uttering the word “nigger” is beyond the pale.

      1. I don’t agree with Nick that they should be expelled, but I’m a lot more worried about the idiots who think that an incident like this, which seems to be nothing more than some dudes being deliberately obnoxious for a laugh is some sign of a racist resurgence or some reason to feel “unsafe”.

  20. Video circulated by the UConn chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) shows the students, both 21, repeatedly using the n-word while walking through a parking lot. To put it bluntly, the students are fucking idiots.

    Why are these young adults, idiots?

    Dave Chappelle says “nigger” and “nigga” and he is a comedic genius.

    1. This comment is sooooo 2018. As of 2019 Chappelle is a misinformed transphobe who is in desperate need of time at a re-education camp. And not funny.

      Just ask any columnist working in US journalism.

  21. This might be an unpopular opinion, but being able to walk through a parking lot at night yelling the n-word to no one in particular is crucial to being able to personally develop beyond the desire to walk through a parking lot at night yelling the n-word to no one in particular.

    Personal growth and evolution in thinking can’t be imposed by an external actor– it works best when the self arrives at the conclusion that what it did in the past was wrong. The hope is that those kids grow up and think back on that experience and feel embarrassed that they did it, all on their own without having to be severely punished for it. Meting out a punishment over otherwise harmless words only associates those words with being bad because you might get punished. The ideal case would be for the individual to come to understand that the words are bad because they have or could potentially have a negative effect on someone else.

    In other words: Throwing the book at these kids will probably just turn them into racists.

    1. And before you say it– I’m not saying that every bad behavior should be experimented with. Obviously someone shouldn’t experience beating up a homeless guy in a parking lot to grow beyond the desire to beat up homeless guys in parking lots. Mainly just the ones where the most immediate negative consequence is hurt feelings.

      1. Is there anyone who hasn’t been goofing around with a couple of friends at that age and just yelled out nonsense for the sake of yelling out nonsense? I don’t see the need to heap scorn upon them. That sounds like kids being kids.

        Even if you were 30 and heading home from the Giants game late one night, I’d say that yelling a bunch of random profanity for no particular reason would come under the heading of fairly normal behavior.

        Do the same thing at 60 and I might wonder what is wrong with you, but just because you are out late and have the energy to yell anything.

      2. “Obviously someone shouldn’t experience beating up a homeless guy in a parking lot to grow beyond the desire to beat up homeless guys in parking lots.”

        After driving by the homeless in a speeding car and pelting them with canned goods at 45mph I no longer feel the need to experience that. Plus, I was helping in a sense too so I don’t feel so bad.

  22. “The state’s hate crimes law—a “rarely enforced relic dating to 1917″—eviscerates free speech.”

    Free speech on an American campus?
    What planet do you come from?

    1. Except it is a whole state, not just a campus.

  23. According to the video they weren’t even shouting. The way this made it sound was as if they were walking through a parking lot filled with people and shouting it at them. They’re alone and it looks like they’re having a conversation. There is zero context to this.

  24. “Even though UConn is a state school (and thus bound by the First Amendment), it should be allowed to set reasonable expectations for student and faculty behavior.”

    Including censoring off-campus speech? Shocking claim from the editor of a purportedly libertarian magazine.

    1. OK, speech at an on-campus residence unconnected to any academic activity.

  25. I wonder what Monty Python would have to say about this?

    NSFW

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IxsZN8_l7cc

  26. Under long-standing First Amendment law, a public university cannot investigate or punish students for racially offensive speech. See the letter that the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) wrote to University of Connecticut’s president:
    https://www.thefire.org/university-of-connecticut-police-arrest-students-for-use-of-racial-slur/

    This is so well established that University officials and police could be held personally liable:

    “More to the point, a public college administrator or police officer who violates clearly established law—as here—will not retain qualified immunity and can be held personally responsible for monetary damages for violating First Amendment rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800 (1982).”

  27. I just re-read Geoffrey Stone’s Huffington Post article on an incident at the University of Oklahoma a few years ago that had some similarities to the present situation. After I read his article, I concluded that it would be unconstitutional for these students to be expelled for their speech. I am not sure why Mr. Gillespie approves of expulsion.

  28. Connecticut is also a state that bans recorded conversations without consent, but I don’t know if it’s only limited to phone conversations. I’m sure Uconn has studies programs about white privilege and toxic masculinity. Would be nice to see some of the faculty hauled away for their own hate crimes.

  29. What does the law mean by “advertisement”, when it says that “Any person who, by his advertisement, ridicules” or does other Bad Stuff, is guilty?

  30. UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh has an extensive post about the law on his blog: https://reason.com/2018/08/06/racial-ridicule-is-a-crime-in-connecticu/

    He says that “advertisement” has the normal meaning. He wrote, “The statute was enacted in 1917, and the act that passed it was titled ‘An Act concerning Discrimination at Places of Public Accommodation.’ It really was aimed at ‘advertisement[s]’ for businesses, not at (say) KKK rallies or the like.”

    But he points out that none of the successful prosecutions under the law (that he could find) were for advertisements, but rather speech by individuals.

    He says that the current arrest and prosecution of the two UConn students fails on two grounds: The two students obviously weren’t “advertising” under any normal meaning of the word and so couldn’t possibly violate the law. And the law is obviously unconstitutional.

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