Young America’s Foundation to Berkeley: Honor First Amendment free speech right or face litigation

Berkeley free speech
UC Berkeley Campus (Wikimedia Commons)

On Thursday, the conservative Young America’s Foundation put the UC Berkeley administration on notice that it will either respect and honor the First Amendment free speech rights for everyone, including conservative speakers, or face litigation.  In the strongly-worded letter to Berkeley’s Vice Chancellor Stephen Sutton, counsel representing Young America’s Foundation and the Berkeley College Republicans issued one final warning: Respect students’ rights by ensuring that Ann Coulter is allowed to speak on campus April 27 or relief will be sought in federal court, including claims for injunctive relief and damages.

Coulter was scheduled to speak on April 27, but the school expressed concern that her appearance would spark riots by violent liberals.  The event was rescheduled for May 2 — during what Harmeet Dhillon of the Dhillon Law Group called ‘dead-week,’ a period “when students are not even in class.”

“Berkeley impermissibly has allowed a ‘heckler’s veto’ to suppress the free-speech rights of speakers properly invited by recognized student groups,” Dhillon added. “It is ironic that UC Berkeley, known to many Americans as the birthplace of the free-speech movement, is now leading the vanguard to silence Conservative speech on campus.”

Undaunted, Coulter vowed to speak at the college on April 27 as originally scheduled.

“They can’t stop me. I’m an American. I have constitutional rights,” she told the Hollywood Reporter.

The University’s transparently insincere offer to permit Ms. Coulter to speak during a two-hour window of time on May 2 when the students who invited here will not be in class and will instead by studying for finals, and when Ms. Coulter will no longer be in the area, is not a suitable alternative (indeed it does not even pass the proverbial “smell test” of credibility), and we hereby reject it. The illegitimate time, place and manner restrictions imposed by the University will prejudicially limit, if not eviscerate, student access to the event, defeating its very  purpose, and depriving Berkeley students of a much-needed counterweight to the favored voices such as Mr. Fox’s, or Ms. Echaveste’s, that UC Berkeley warmly welcomes. We note that the unilateral cancellation of Ms. Coulter’s planned speech comes on the heels of UC Berkeley’s similar silencing of two other speakers invited by the BCR noted author and conservative activist David Horowitz earlier this month, and Milo Yiannopoulus, both of whom UC Berkeley officials cancelled at the last minute on the pretext of being unable to provide adequate security, and after, in Mr. Yiannopoulos’s case, forcing the BCR group to pay a large sum of money for security, and in the case of Mr. Horowitz, requiring that his remarks be delivered in the middle of the day (during a time when most students are in class), and in a remote area on the periphery of the campus,” the four-page letter said in part.

The letter, which can be seen below, also informed the school that it has until 5 p.m. on Friday, April 21, 2017, to cooperate with Coulter’s planned speechby providing a similar forum to her as that provided to other prominent speakers this month.”

“If UC Berkeley continues to insist on violating the constitutional rights of its students and our clients by marginalizing or banning Ms. Coulter’s speech, we will seek relief in federal court, including claims for injunctive relief and damage,” the letter adds.

Here’s the full letter:


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Joe Newby

A 10-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, Joe ran for a city council position in Riverside, Calif., in 1991 and managed successful campaigns for the Idaho state legislature. Co-author of "Banned: How Facebook enables militant Islamic jihad," Joe wrote for Examiner.com from 2010 until it closed in 2016 and his work has been published at Newsbusters, Spokane Faith and Values and other sites. He now runs the Conservative Firing Line.

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