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Vandalism of Pro-Life Display by University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point Student Government Official:

The Wausau Daily Herald has details; YouTube has video, which seems consistent with the Wausau article. The display was an array of crosses aimed at symbolizing the deaths of aborted fetuses.

For confirmation that the vandal (Roderick King) was a Student Senator, see here. The vandal's rationale:

In 1973 it was made a Constitutional right for a woman to have an abortion. It's not your responsibility. Since it's a right, you don't have the right to challenge it.... Do not put this [display] in front of all of us ... it is not your right.

I'd like to hear what actions the university or the student senate will take against Senator King for his vandalism.

Note, incidentally, that it appears that the use of the university's property for the exhibit had indeed been authorized by the university. (Even if the parklike area on university property was a traditional public forum in which speech had to be allowed, or a designated public forum that the university opened up for speech, it's likely that the university could bar installations planted in the ground — but it appears that the university did not impose any such content-neutral limitation.) Thanks to my friend Prof. Rick Garnett (PrawsBlawg, Mirror of Justice) for the pointer.

UPDATE: UWSP's response:

The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point has received several communications regarding the May 1, 2008, display by the student organization, Pointers for Life, and the disruption of that display by opposing students.

The university values free expression and the open exchange of ideas. Pointers for Life is a recognized student organization that followed university procedure in staging its event.

The student who disrupted the display not only exhibited inappropriate behavior, but demonstrated intolerance that is unacceptable on the UWSP campus.

University procedures are being followed. In accordance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which protects our students from disclosure of their educational records, results of those procedures will not be made public.

I can't speak to the FERPA question, but generally I think UWSP's statement is exactly correct. Many thanks to Thomas Muth for the pointer.

taney71:
Liberal tolerance at it's finest.
5.8.2008 3:19pm
quasimodo (mail):
free speech is for me, but not for thee ... unless I agree

typical
5.8.2008 3:20pm
AntonK (mail):

"Since it's a right, you don't have the right to challenge it.... Do not put this [display] in front of all of us ... it is not your right."
That's right, you little simpleton. A better icon of the Angry Left would be hard to conjure up.
5.8.2008 3:21pm
taney71:

"Since it's a right, you don't have the right to challenge it.... Do not put this [display] in front of all of us ... it is not your right."


I can imagine white slave owners saying the same thing to abolitionist after the Dred Scott decision.
5.8.2008 3:25pm
jake (mail):
ugggggggghh.

I'd just like to say, as a strong progressive who's also pro-choice, pro-separation of church and state, etc: this guy is an idiot. And I would hope that the intelligent readers of this blog wouldn't lump him in with any particular political group, except morons.

People "don't have the right [to put that display in front of him]"? Gag me with a spoon.
5.8.2008 3:26pm
hawkins:
Everyone in the video should receive a ticket for littering
5.8.2008 3:27pm
Bretzky (mail):
jake:


I'd just like to say, as a strong progressive who's also pro-choice, pro-separation of church and state, etc: this guy is an idiot. And I would hope that the intelligent readers of this blog wouldn't lump him in with any particular political group, except morons.

Agreed. And as someone who is definitely not a strong progressive, let me add that intolerance of differing viewpoints is not a condition unique to the left or right. It's a condition unique to bigots and the closed-minded.

There's something that my mother always used to tell me that this student could stand to learn: you can disagree without being disagreeable. If you disagree with the sentiment of the display, then create your own or peacefully inform those who view it why you believe that it's wrong. But then, it is always easier to use violence than reason to get one's way.
5.8.2008 3:34pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
So, the pro-life students' silent protest against abortion is to put a bunch of crosses in a public area. A group of pro-choice student chooses to display his disagreement with the pro-life students by pulling up their crosses (vandalism only in the loosest sense).

And the problem is? Sorry I don't see it. Both groups are expressing their First Amendment rights. It may be messy, but there it is.
5.8.2008 3:34pm
Germanicus:
AntonK "A better caricature of the Angry Left would be hard to conjure up."

Fixed that for you.

I'd say I was amazed that someone this dumb managed to get elected student senator if I didn't know how little students care about that sort of thing.
5.8.2008 3:35pm
DG:
JF Thomas: I give you a 7/10 for that particular trollery.
5.8.2008 3:36pm
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
J.F. Thomas: What is the stricter sense of vandalism?
5.8.2008 3:36pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
let me add that intolerance of differing viewpoints is not a condition unique to the left or right.

I see strong disagreement. He was a very upset and emotional, granted, and the statement about not having a right to challenge it was over the top. But he was not being violent. He confronted the pro-lifers publicly and openly (they didn't do this in the dead of night) and freely gave his name and his student ID number.
5.8.2008 3:39pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
What is the stricter sense of vandalism?

If they actually broke, rather than just pulled up, the crosses. Or even if they removed the crosses at night when nobody was around to confront them about it.
5.8.2008 3:41pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
JF Thomas: I give you a 7/10 for that particular trollery.

You know, trollery has to be something beyond, "I don't like your opinion."
5.8.2008 3:44pm
taney71:

I see strong disagreement. He was a very upset and emotional, granted, and the statement about not having a right to challenge it was over the top. But he was not being violent. He confronted the pro-lifers publicly and openly (they didn't do this in the dead of night) and freely gave his name and his student ID number.


If you watch the video again he clearly gets angry with the students who put the crosses into the ground particularly when they try to defend what they are doing. He says at that point they have no right to challenge the issue or him.
5.8.2008 3:45pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
On the chance that J.F. Thomas is being serious, please reread the end of EV's post (and the linked newspaper article). The pro-life group had permission to put up the display. (There is apparently a process that allows students to reserve campus space.)

These were not two different groups trying to send opposing messages in the same arena. This is one group that got permission and one group that decided to trash the other display without permission.

Even if neither group has permission, you shouldn't touch other people's stuff.

...and I add my voice to the other liberal commentators here who think the guy who pulled up the crosses is a tool.
5.8.2008 3:47pm
SeaLawyer:
That guy is not going to find a lot of in Stevens Point. It is a very Catholic part of the state.
5.8.2008 3:47pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
And who was it a few days ago claiming that only conservative students do annoying/stupid things on campus?
5.8.2008 3:47pm
bornyesterday (mail) (www):
JF Thomas - I'm betting that Sasha assumed you were trolling because he assumed that the statement that the student was just using his first amendment right is a load of horse hockey. He didn't think you actually believed that.
5.8.2008 3:48pm
DG:
JF Thomas; Its not that I don't like your opinion- I suspect you are seeking attention by saying something you know to be ridiculous - hence "troll". Ok, I'll play along. Someone puts up a sign or flyer I don't like. Say, "Abortion is murder". I go and rip it down. Its not vandalism if whomever put it up is watching me, and can put it back up? What if I cover it with a white piece of paper - no violence! or what if I stand in front of the guy with the flyers so he can't put it up?

Suppressing free speech doesn't require me to beat the tar out of people I disagree with.
5.8.2008 3:48pm
The Unbeliever:
I hereby denounce both DG's defining-down of trollery, and JF Thomas' defining-down of outright vandalism.
5.8.2008 3:50pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
It's hard for me to equate putting up a display -- in a place that you have reserved, pursuant to university rules, with such a display -- with tearing it down. Putting up the display is an exercise of your free speech rights. Tearing it down is vandalism.

The same, of course, is true of putting up posters vs. tearing them down, organizing speeches vs. deliberately making noise that keeps the speech from being heard, and the like. When there are conflicting uses of government property, and the government sets up content-neutral rules providing that a speaker may reserve the property, then distinguishing the speaker from the vandal is especially easy.

If the policies did not allow the pro-life group to use the property this way, then the matter might be different. Thus, for instance, if I see a bunch of leaflets deliberately placed on a university sidewalk, I'm free to throw them out, precisely because the people placing the leaflets there had no license from the university to place the leaflets. But if the pro-life speakers properly reserved the space, then no matter how "expressive" the Senator's removal of the display might be, it's vandalism, and properly prohibited.
5.8.2008 3:50pm
Aultimer:
I imagine that the "vandal" understood himself to be engaging in counter-speech (display as speech), like shouting down the opposing viewpoint in a public forum.

Leaving aside the poor articulation of his legal position, can we cut the undergrad a little slack for not getting a somewhat subtle constitutional rights issue quite right?

As far as discipline, he should make restitution of the value of the property harmed. Maybe write "The only cure for bad speech is more speech" a hundred times on a blackboard, and post it to YouTube. Would EV suggest something more?
5.8.2008 3:51pm
Roundhead (mail) (www):
*You know, trollery has to be something beyond, "I don't like your opinion."*

no, being a troll like you is when you put up a phoney name and a phoney email address... J.F. "Jina! er... Gena!" Thomas
5.8.2008 3:51pm
Kevin!:
It's just some guy, who cares
5.8.2008 3:51pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
These kind of displays are designed to provoke confrontation and even when they are placed on private property (usually churches) they are often vandalized. The university should have anticipated exactly this when they approved the display and could hardly grant free speech rights to one group and yet deny it to another.
5.8.2008 3:52pm
SeaLawyer:
insert support above.
5.8.2008 3:52pm
ZQFMGB:
The fact that this guy is a "student senator" is laughably irrelevant. Those guys have no powers and cannot in any way shape or form be considered to speak for the university. This is just some guy, being a jerk. There's no free speech issue implicated here.
5.8.2008 3:52pm
bornyesterday (mail) (www):
I totally meant DG, not Sasha. Got posts confused.
5.8.2008 3:53pm
Roundhead (mail) (www):
*Leaving aside the poor articulation of his legal position, can we cut the undergrad a little slack for not getting a somewhat subtle constitutional rights issue quite right?*

Somewhat subtle? There is of course no subtlety in tearing down crosses put up for protest purposes... anyone who believes that vandalism is "counter-speech" scarcely deserves to sit in a student Student - scarcely deserves admission to a university
5.8.2008 3:54pm
SeaLawyer:

And the problem is? Sorry I don't see it. Both groups are expressing their First Amendment rights. It may be messy, but there it is.



The guy in the video is trying to suppress First Amendment rights, not exercise his own. That is a big difference.
5.8.2008 3:55pm
wfjag:
So, the pro-life antiwar students' silent protest against abortion the Iraq war is to put a bunch of crosses in a public area. A group of pro-choice student who supports OIF chooses to display his disagreement with the pro-life antiwar students by pulling up their crosses (vandalism only in the loosest sense).

Or, how about,

So, the pro-life wiccan students' silent protest against abortion Easter is to put a bunch of crosses ankhs* in a public area. A group of pro-choice Christian student chooses to display his disagreement with the pro-life wiccan students by pulling up their crosses ankhs (vandalism only in the loosest sense).

* An "ankh" consists of a circle on top of a "T".

Or, JF, would you only see a difference based on whether you agree or disagree with the message of the person expressing disagreement.
5.8.2008 3:56pm
taney71:

The university should have anticipated exactly this when they approved the display and could hardly grant free speech rights to one group and yet deny it to another.

What group did the university deny free speech rights to?
5.8.2008 3:56pm
SeaLawyer:
It also appears his name and picture are no longer on the student senate page.
5.8.2008 3:57pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
Roundhead, be careful with those standards. Columbia Law needs that tuition money.
5.8.2008 3:59pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Leaving aside the poor articulation of his legal position, can we cut the undergrad a little slack for not getting a somewhat subtle constitutional rights issue quite right?


I already knew enough not to destroy other people's property or take things without permission long before I got to college. Actually I'm fairly sure that that was pretty much ingrained in me before Kindergarten.

What's this fellow's excuse?
5.8.2008 4:01pm
Guest101:
J.F. Thomas,

That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard you say.
5.8.2008 4:04pm
Railroad Gin:
"Since it's a right, you don't have the right to challenge it.... Do not put this [display] in front of all of us ... it is not your right."

I gotta love this guys reasoning. In a month or so the Supremes will proclaim there is an individual right to own a gun. By his logic, liberals will no longer have the right to advocate for gun control.

The scary thing is that as a member of the student council he probably has political ambitions. Anyone for requiring basic civics as part of the core curriculum? Anyone?
5.8.2008 4:05pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
organizing speeches vs. deliberately making noise that keeps the speech from being heard

So are you claiming that arguing with or even shouting at a speaker is not protected speech?

And of course, my point is that he did not damage the crosses or throw them out, the group (and there were more than one) merely pulled them out of the ground. They were willing and able to confront and debate the pro-lifers about what they were doing and why. At that point, I think their actions fall into the realm of protected speech. As I indicated it would be an entirely different matter if they had done it late at night surreptitiously.

But if the pro-life speakers properly reserved the space, then no matter how "expressive" the Senator's removal of the display might be, it's vandalism, and properly prohibited.

Are you saying that since the University had a content neutral policy, the Senator's only mistake was not given explicit University permission to pull all the crosses up. Such permission must theoretically have been given since it would have been content neutral protected speech. Then of course the pro-lifers would have to go back and get permission to replant the crosses.
5.8.2008 4:05pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
More on the story here.
5.8.2008 4:07pm
Aultimer:

Roundhead

There is of course no subtlety in tearing down crosses put up for protest purposes... anyone who believes that vandalism is "counter-speech" scarcely deserves to sit in a student Student - scarcely deserves admission to a university


In my state, if the crosses themselves weren't damaged I don't think you'd get to "criminal mischief". It isn't likely disorderly conduct, as that relies on an intent to annoy or harass, which wouldn't seem to apply here any more than when a speaker shouts down another speaker.

Are you getting worked up because they're crosses instead of flowerpots?
5.8.2008 4:08pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
J.F. Thomas,

That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard you say.


Give him a few minutes.
5.8.2008 4:08pm
Germanicus:
Two quick points:

1) Vandalism can be speech. It may not be protected speech, but it is a form of expression. This shouldn't be a debate over whether this should be classified as speech or vandalism, in my view it's both.

2) This isn't a First Amendment issue, as far as I can tell. Unless his position as student government senator makes him a government actor for the purposes of demonstration, this is an issue of freedom of speech as a philosophical issue, and university policy.
5.8.2008 4:09pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Or, JF, would you only see a difference based on whether you agree or disagree with the message of the person expressing disagreement.

Actually, Neither would bother me. If I were running University policy my content-neutral policy would prohibit all such displays other than ones that were class credit.
5.8.2008 4:09pm
Meh (mail):
J. F. Thomas is a troll; please stop indulging him.

This guy King is not only an idiot, he might also be a little crazy. He appears completely unhinged in the video.
5.8.2008 4:11pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
J.F. Thomas:
Are you saying that since the University had a content neutral policy, the Senator's only mistake was not given [sic] explicit University permission to pull all the crosses up. [sic] Such permission must theoretically have been given since it would have been content neutral protected speech. Then of course the pro-lifers would have to go back and get permission to replant the crosses.

First, can we please not call this guy "Senator"?

Second, what is so hard to understand about the concept of one-at-a-time? Only one group has permission to be "speaking" on the space. The group pulling up the crosses did not have permission. I see no reason why it "theoretically must have been given". In fact, if the pro-choice group had asked for permission they would have been told no because the space was already reserved.

Time, place, and manner restrictions are extremely common and uncontroversial. What's so hard about this?

Third, even saying that permits were not required, the right to speak has always been limited. It does not include the right to prevent others from speaking. You might as well say that tort laws violate the first amendment because they prevent me from "symbolically" punching someone I disagree with.
5.8.2008 4:15pm
AnonLawStudent:
Second to Meh's 3:11PM. JFT has a long history of claiming to be, at various times, a lawyer, an engineer, and knowledgeable about the military. Other posters usually spend a good portion of the thread dispelling the factual validity of whatever he says, with the usual result being that the thread turns down a rat hole. Please ignore him, and move along.
5.8.2008 4:16pm
The Unbeliever:
If I were running University policy my content-neutral policy would prohibit all such displays other than ones that were class credit.

Yes, because that's a much better way to encourage the open exchange of ideas: banning an entire category free speech entirely.

For his next trick, JF Thomas will show us how the best way to uphold freedom of religion is by banning the construction of all churches everywhere.
5.8.2008 4:18pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
What do you suppose happens to someone who graduates from college, applies for a job and the first thing the employer gets when they run your name through google is a video of them yelling and desecrating a cross? Or applies for law school and the bar and someone finds out and sends this to the admissions committee?

I'm not saying it would necessarily prevent him from getting a job or becoming an attorney but did he really stop to think that he might have to spend the next few years of his life having to explain this? You hear about people who lose jobs because they put pictures of themselves drinking on myspace or facebook but this has to look just as bad (if not worse) to a lot of people he may want a job from some point in the future.
5.8.2008 4:18pm
Railroad Gin:
J.F. Thomas,

That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard you say.



Give him a few minutes.


I think those few minutes just expired. So if a student wanted to protest something intrinsic to the university -- a tution hike, not enough minority professors, more bike paths, etc. This wouldn't be allowed.

And imagine all the class credit one could get from the various gender and ethnic studies professors for speaking in favor of abortion or affirmative action while there would be no credit received for a student who was pro-life or anti-quota. The effect is that one side of the debate is allowed while the other was silenced. This is hardly content-neutral.
5.8.2008 4:19pm
SeaLawyer:

What do you suppose happens to someone who graduates from college, applies for a job and the first thing the employer gets when they run your name through google is a video of them yelling and desecrating a cross?


If he has made through the interview I doubt the employer would care and would probably agree with him.
5.8.2008 4:22pm
taney71:
From King:



Further, I was not acting in the name of UWSP Student Government Association, but as an individual who believes one person's right to freedom of speech stops when it infringes on another person's right to a secular education.


How do you argue with someone like that?
5.8.2008 4:22pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Time, place, and manner restrictions are extremely common and uncontroversial.

And since this time, place and manner is appropriate for this display, this issue is moot.

Third, even saying that permits were not required, the right to speak has always been limited. It does not include the right to prevent others from speaking.

By the same token, free speech does not mean that extremely provocative speech has to be tolerated in silence.
5.8.2008 4:24pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
AnonLawStudent, you just got a 3rd.
5.8.2008 4:26pm
fishbane (mail):
College student off meds does something dumb. Film at 11 Youtube.

Somehow I find it difficult to get too worked up about it.


There was some incident where a bunch of frat boys were being rude in front of a women's dorm a couple of weeks ago, to the point where it may have been
harassment. (I haven't followed the story.) I look forward to the comments declaring that the actions of those idiots clearly reflect on all frat boys.
5.8.2008 4:26pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
I think those few minutes just expired. So if a student wanted to protest something intrinsic to the university -- a tution hike, not enough minority professors, more bike paths, etc. This wouldn't be allowed.

I was referring, of course to semi-permanent, large scale, displays of this type, not posters, marches, petition drives, rallies or speeches.

Thank you, for, as usual, misreading what I wrote.
5.8.2008 4:28pm
Pliny, the Elder (mail):
Am I misremembering or did Mari Matsuda (in a law review article about 20 years ago) make a similar argument for limiting free speech as to racist epithets?
5.8.2008 4:31pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
banning an entire category free speech entirely.

Gee, haven't you ever heard of time place and manner restrictions. Ask Chris Bell about them. He appears to be the expert on them.
5.8.2008 4:31pm
The Unbeliever:
Gee, haven't you ever heard of time place and manner restrictions.

Sure. But that's not what you were proposing at all. Or have you already forgotten what you wrote:
If I were running University policy my content-neutral policy would prohibit all such displays other than ones that were class credit.

Emphasis added, and here's a tip: snark doesn't work very well when your own post contradicts the attempted joke.
5.8.2008 4:35pm
wfjag:

What do you suppose happens to someone who graduates from college, applies for a job and the first thing the employer gets when they run your name through google is a video of them yelling and desecrating a cross? Or applies for law school and the bar and someone finds out and sends this to the admissions committee?


You get hired as a tenure track Professor in certain departments at Duke University? See Jim Lindgren's blog, May 8, 2008, "KC Johnson on New Duke Hoax Scholarship" elsewhere on VC.
5.8.2008 4:38pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Railroad Gin.
You think he'd learn anything different in a college basic civics course?
Colleges have more restrictions on free speech than anyplace in the country. And they all have good reasons, about as good as this clown's reasoning. And they all lean one way.
How on earth would a required course get away with teaching students that the university is wrong?
5.8.2008 4:40pm
mischief (mail):

I was referring, of course to semi-permanent, large scale, displays of this type, not posters, marches, petition drives, rallies or speeches.


You really should have left "posters" off the list. There's no definition of "semi-permanent, large scale" that would let you get away with that one.
5.8.2008 4:41pm
Samir Chopra (mail) (www):
Fishbane: Word.

This is some nutjob losing the plot. And for this, liberals stand condemned? Please.
5.8.2008 4:41pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Or have you already forgotten what you wrote:

Putting up hundreds of crosses (or any large semi-permanent display) over an area of a few hundred square feet certainly is a "manner" of speech. And arguably time too since it would require 24 surveillance since these displays are very controversial.
5.8.2008 4:42pm
Frog Leg (mail):
I'd like to here from J.F. Thomas what exactly makes this display especially "provocative."
5.8.2008 4:44pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Colleges have more restrictions on free speech than anyplace in the country.

What utter and complete nonsense. See how long you last handing out union literature in front of a WalMart.
5.8.2008 4:45pm
alkali (mail):
EV writes:

When there are conflicting uses of government property, and the government sets up content-neutral rules providing that a speaker may reserve the property, then distinguishing the speaker from the vandal is especially easy.
This assumes that everyone is on notice that such (1) a set of rules exists and (2) applies to the particular case, which I don't think is obvious. I have no idea whether the college I attended permitted or required students to reserve public space for small displays, assuming that the displays didn't involve blocking public ways or present other public safety concerns. In any event, certainly it's imaginable that some students might put up such a display without seeking permission to do it.

The linked Wausau Daily Herald article indicates that there was no notice on the display indicating that it was put up with permission of the university, and when the university's security personnel advised the student that he could not interfere with the display, he stopped. (Some kind of notice was later put up by the group sponsoring the display.)

EV further writes:

If the policies did not allow the pro-life group to use the property this way, then the matter might be different. Thus, for instance, if I see a bunch of leaflets deliberately placed on a university sidewalk, I'm free to throw them out, precisely because the people placing the leaflets there had no license from the university to place the leaflets.
How does EV know those students didn't have a license from the university to place leaflets on the sidewalk? THIEF! VANDAL!

The serious answer is that EV knows this precisely because the rules regarding printed material are common knowledge. If we were talking about leaflets placed in an area where student publications are available on a free/take-one basis -- or if we were talking about some very dry, windless university where such sidewalks were customarily used for that purpose -- I expect EV would consider it improper to throw away a whole stack of them. I don't know that there exists a comparable set of rules about public displays that is common knowledge.
5.8.2008 4:46pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
I'd like to here from J.F. Thomas what exactly makes this display especially "provocative."

Good Grief. Abortion has only been one of the most socially divisive issues for the last 35 years in this country.

And I'm the troll?
5.8.2008 4:47pm
SeaLawyer:

individual who believes one person's right to freedom of speech stops when it infringes on another person's right to a secular education.


Opposing baby murder is so Religious, and of course blocks a persons right to a secular education.
5.8.2008 4:47pm
Frog Leg (mail):
So JFT, any display involving a viewpoint on abortion is especially provocative?
5.8.2008 4:50pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
So JFT, any display involving a viewpoint on abortion is especially provocative?

Look at the comment before yours to the answer to that question.
5.8.2008 4:52pm
Anon!:
So one day I woke up early and took my dog for a walk, when I noticed that someone had put flyers under the windshields of all the cars in the apartment building parking lot. I took the one off my car and found that it was a horribly racist newsletter of the "Wake up White people, we have to purify our proud nation of [blacks, jews, catholics, hispanics, etc., only in not-nice terms]. Racial holy war is coming!" variety.

I spent the next half hour collecting all of the newsletters and depositing them in the dumpster. And I don't feel bad about it.
5.8.2008 4:52pm
quasimodo (mail):

If I were running University policy my content-neutral policy would prohibit all such displays other than ones that were class credit.

How can a "content neutral policy" ban something based on content? "Content neutral" means all content is the same.
5.8.2008 4:56pm
quasimodo (mail):
or do you mean that all displays would be banned if not assigned by the authorities?
5.8.2008 4:57pm
SeaLawyer:

Look at the comment before yours to the answer to that question.


As you were referring to my comment. Please tell me how abortion is not murder? How is a victims memorial like the one at UWSP provocative?
5.8.2008 4:58pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
So one day I woke up early and took my dog for a walk, when I noticed that someone had put flyers under the windshields of all the cars in the apartment building parking lot. I took the one off my car and found that it was a horribly racist newsletter of the "Wake up White people, we have to purify our proud nation of [blacks, jews, catholics, hispanics, etc., only in not-nice terms]. Racial holy war is coming!" variety.


It must have been an awfully short newsletter to fit under a windshield wiper. Are you sure it wasn't just a flier for an Aryan restaurant that just opened up in the neighborhood? ;)
5.8.2008 4:58pm
rarango (mail):
Conspirators who desire can further partake of the wit and wisdom of JF Thomas on the Althouse blog where he posts under the name of Freder Frederson.
5.8.2008 5:00pm
John McG (mail) (www):
So, JFT, only "non-provocative" speech is safe from vandalism.

I suppose I can proceed with my planned display on the tastiness of ice cream. Thanks for the green light.

Perhaps you would be so kind as to provide a list of provacative and non-provative topics? It would sure be helpful to know when the First Amendment applies and doesn't apply.
5.8.2008 5:03pm
Arkady:
The news story says the following (at EV's link):


The display, sponsored by Pointers for Life and planted on Isadore Street outside the Health Enhancement Center, is called "Cemetery of the Innocents" and features crosses and anti-abortion and religious signs, one of which reads "Seek Jesus."


I'm not taking the side of the guy who tore down the crosses, I think he's a nitwit, but is this not a religious display on public property? I'm asking EV -- can the school's administration authorize a religious display on the university's (public) property?
5.8.2008 5:09pm
Jay:
"How can a "content neutral policy" ban something based on content? "Content neutral" means all content is the same."

You're dangerously attempting to use logic to understand modern 1st Amendment caselaw.
5.8.2008 5:10pm
MXE (mail):
J. F. Thomas is a troll; please stop indulging him.

Yep.
5.8.2008 5:13pm
MXE (mail):
And I'm the troll?

J.F., it's not a perfect heuristic, but if you get called a troll all the time (and, let's face it, you do), you just might be a troll.

Of course it's always possible that everyone else is wrong, all the time. Then again, if you believe that, there's also a good chance you're a troll.

I hope this comment doesn't constitute meta-troll-feeding...
5.8.2008 5:15pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
It would sure be helpful to know when the First Amendment applies and doesn't apply.

Where did I say the 1st amendment doesn't apply? I am just stating a simple fact. Abortion is a topic that gets people very upset. Any display that takes a side in the abortion debate, and I imagine many that tried to be neutral, are going to controversial.

Look at Sea Lawyer, he wants to get into a debate about whether or not abortion is murder when I am sure he can recite all sides of the debate in his sleep (although I am sure that he is certain that his point of view is the only correct one).
5.8.2008 5:15pm
EH (mail):
Liberals and conservatives alike use the language of "rights" to justify being a dick.

It would be interesting to contrast the actions here with those of the people opposed to the display of crosses signifying dead soldiers in the Iraq War in Lafayette, California (maybe Orinda, but on private property nonetheless).
5.8.2008 5:17pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
J.F., it's not a perfect heuristic, but if you get called a troll all the time (and, let's face it, you do), you just might be a troll.

Or it might be that you don't like my opinion. I never get called a troll on the liberal sites I post on.
5.8.2008 5:19pm
Anderson (mail):
Since it's a right, you don't have the right to challenge it

Genius. Obviously a logic major.

can further partake of the wit and wisdom of JF Thomas on the Althouse blog

J.F. -- *Althouse*??? Say it ain't so. There are better uses of your time ... drowning kittens, say, or collecting ear wax for candles.
5.8.2008 5:19pm
MXE (mail):
I never get called a troll on the liberal sites I post on.

I'd wager that's because it takes less restraint and civility to avoid being sucked into massive flame wars all the time when you're around birds of a feather.
5.8.2008 5:23pm
MXE (mail):
Genius. Obviously a logic major.

And he'll probably end up with his foot in his mouth when the Supreme Court rules in favor of the 2nd Amendment in a month or two.
5.8.2008 5:26pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Arkady: A public university indeed may authorize student groups to erect religious displays on its property. What's more, if it creates a "designated public forum" by generally allowing speakers access to its property for their own speech -- or if the property fits within the category of "traditional public forum" -- the public university must allow religious speakers the same access as it gives to other speakers. See Rosenberger v. Rector and Capitol Square Review Bd. v. Pinette. (It generally could, however, require speakers to expressly mention that the display is a private group's, and not the university's.)
5.8.2008 5:28pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
So, JFT, only "non-provocative" speech is safe from vandalism.

Considering all the billboards advertising innocuous products I have seen with graffiti, roadsigns with shotgun and bullet holes in them and so on, this is certainly not true.
5.8.2008 5:30pm
DG:
JF, I'm strongly pro-choice, as I believe most of the posters here probably are, and I think you're a troll. By vandalizing this display, this foolish person had given the pro-life demonstrators a chance to be victims, as well as suppressing their freedom of expression - remember that great liberal value? The answer to speech you don't like is more speech.
5.8.2008 5:31pm
Daryl Herbert (www):
Nothing less than expulsion is proper.

Universities have standards to uphold.

If he truly has psychological problems, they could suspend him until he gets his s*** in order. If that's the route they take, I would expect him to be required to promise that he won't commit similar attacks on free speech, before he is allowed to return. (I don't like forcing people to apologize, so I wouldn't require that.)
5.8.2008 5:31pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
EH.
What people are you talking about? The posters here, or the nutcase at the U?
Or the people who oppose the crosses representing dead soldiers?

BTW, do the latter pull up those crosses? Or is "opposing" some kind of censorship?
5.8.2008 5:35pm
The Unbeliever:
I suppose I can proceed with my planned display on the tastiness of ice cream. Thanks for the green light.

Not so fast! You just offended all the campus vegans, you insensitive clod. I sentence you to a 3 credit course in Alternative Dietary Studies and 100 hours sensitivity training.

/sarcasm
5.8.2008 5:35pm
Dave D. (mail):
...Once again, for the umpteenth time, Mr. Thomas perverts the thread and changes the subject to : J.F. Thomas. You'd think the punch bowl would tire of it.
5.8.2008 5:36pm
olddude:
This was on the university web site. Take it for what it's worth.

UWSP statement in response to a
May 1 incident on campus

The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point has received several communications regarding the May 1, 2008, display by the student organization, Pointers for Life, and the disruption of that display by opposing students.

The university values free expression and the open exchange of ideas. Pointers for Life is a recognized student organization that followed university procedure in staging its event.

The student who disrupted the display not only exhibited inappropriate behavior, but demonstrated intolerance that is unacceptable on the UWSP campus.

University procedures are being followed. In accordance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which protects our students from disclosure of their educational records, results of those procedures will not be made public.

For more information, contact Stephen Ward, Executive Director of University Relations and Communications, at (715) 346-3827 or sward@uwsp.edu
5.8.2008 5:36pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
Anon!
I spent the next half hour collecting all of the newsletters and depositing them in the dumpster. And I don't feel bad about it.
You should have left them up to let people know that there are White Supremacists in their neighborhood. People are more active when they don't think that "racism is dead."

Everyone thinks their town is Pleasantville until the Klan rally makes the evening news.
5.8.2008 5:37pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
Daryl Herbert,
Nothing less than expulsion is proper.
That's a bit extreme, in my opinion. He didn't permanently damage anything. People are expelled for much greater offenses.

Just make the kid copy (by hand) the great works on free speech.
5.8.2008 5:41pm
The Oracle of Syracuse:
Well, Professor, it looks like you're not hurting for comments with this post. (Cf. the Pakistani divorce disappointment.)

I mean, you really found the elements for a perfect storm here: abortion, free speech on campus, fundamentalist Christians, leftist "counterspeech" of the shouting-down variety, and most importantly, Wisconsin.
5.8.2008 5:44pm
WTF?:
Mr. King's present and former teachers, take a bow.
5.8.2008 5:44pm
Arkady:
Thanks, Eugene.
5.8.2008 5:45pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Once again, for the umpteenth time, Mr. Thomas perverts the thread and changes the subject to : J.F. Thomas. You'd think the punch bowl would tire of it.

Now how am I changing the subject to me. I am taking the unpopular POV and defending the student who pulled up the crosses. I have stayed on topic, deflected efforts to veer off into discussions about abortion itself.

Personally, I think that King's method of showing his displeasure with the display was misguided and sophomoric. But apparently he is a sophomore.

But I also do honestly believe that EV is overstating it when he implies that this is not protected speech (however obnoxious).
5.8.2008 5:49pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Seems to me the people who are making the thread about me are those of you who are attacking me just because you don't like my point of view.
5.8.2008 5:51pm
George Smith (mail):
Why are you guys even talking to JF? What on Gaia's green earth is to be gained from it?
5.8.2008 5:52pm
Justiciability Guy (mail):
Chris Bell


You should have left them up to let people know that there are White Supremacists in their neighborhood.


It could mean that there are White Supremacists in the neighborhood. Or, it could be one Chris Bell with a printer thinking that "people are more active when they don't think 'racism is dead.'"
5.8.2008 5:56pm
Anderson (mail):
Nothing less than expulsion is proper.

Right, because when people are fundamentally ignorant about their own society and government, the solution is to evict them from an educational institution.

He should pay the costs of his vandalism and, assuming a clean record, be put on probation by his school. In addition to being required to take a civics class.
5.8.2008 6:07pm
Cole M. (mail):
It would be deliciously ironic if this angry and misguided fellow were forced to take some sort of sensitivity training as a result of his intolerant behavior towards those who are different than he is. Bah, I should stop my dreaming...
5.8.2008 6:27pm
mischief (mail):

Right, because when people are fundamentally ignorant about their own society and government, the solution is to evict them from an educational institution.


Suppose he were ignorant of his ABC's? Would it be the university's duty to educate him? Of course not. People are not entitled to attend educational institutions when they have not mastered the lower level knowledge to make them fit for them.
5.8.2008 6:35pm
KeithK (mail):
He should pay the costs of his vandalism and, assuming a clean record, be put on probation by his school. In addition to being required to take a civics class.

Sounds about right, Anderson.
5.8.2008 6:36pm
Anderson (mail):
People are not entitled to attend educational institutions when they have not mastered the lower level knowledge to make them fit for them.

Given the abysmal results of polling on subjects like the First Amendment, I think that your criterion would exclude most people attending college.

"I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" is a counterintuitive notion that frequently needs explaining even to otherwise literate people.
5.8.2008 6:42pm
common sense (www):
Maybe a con law course. I don't think any pro-lifer says that SCOTUS made a constitutional right in Roe v. Wade-isn't that the argument of the opposition? Besides, his complete misunderstanding of what a right entails is scary.
5.8.2008 6:46pm
Mac (mail):
That's a bit extreme, in my opinion. He didn't permanently damage anything. People are expelled for much greater offenses.

Really? What about the white, Jewish student who wanted some sleep and peace and quiet and yelled "Water Buffalo" out the window at a few black women who were making a lot of noise at 1 or 2 am.? It wasn't even clear if he knew they were black esp. as water buffalo is not any derogatory racial term I have ever heard.

He was expelled. That was his only offense. I mean, water buffalo? Sheesh!
5.8.2008 6:51pm
Anderson (mail):
I don't think any pro-lifer says that SCOTUS made a constitutional right in Roe v. Wade-isn't that the argument of the opposition?

That was the other funny part. "What seven justices have ordained, let no man set asunder."

Though I think the "rights never reversed" theory has been argued respectably in the field of habeas corpus, whose scope is said to ratchet only outwards.

--- Btw, I always have to look that up: given the later controversy, it's remarkable that Roe was a 7-2 decision. Weren't there only 2 Democratic appointees on the Court?
5.8.2008 6:53pm
Anderson (mail):
He was expelled.

Um, actually, not. Though certainly the university went berserk against him.

Even so, Jacobowitz's Penn experience was not eclipsed by the water buffalo incident. The following year, he joined the Penny Loafers, Undergraduate Assembly, University Council and the First Amendment task force, moving on but bearing in mind lessons he learned from "a bad experience, but a learning experience."

After initial proceedings, he received a plea bargain, which he considered "a blow." He rejected it, outwardly telling the University to "shove it up your ass," but secretly returning to his dorm to cry in solitude.

For Jacobowitz, the experience with judicial proceedings was a precursor to his decision to pursue a law degree at Fordham University after his December 1995 graduation and a brief public relations career.
5.8.2008 6:59pm
Ontario Emperor (mail) (www):
I was a college student once also, and some maturity kicks in during and after the college process. Eventually Roderick Eugene King will learn that, even if you don't agree with different points of view, you should allow them to be heard.
5.8.2008 7:08pm
berlet98 (mail) (www):
What I don't get is all the uproar over this whole matter! Why get all exercised over an incident that's hardly unique?
Leftists are by nature narrowminded and intolerant. It's what makes them leftists. Ask former libs Bernard Goldberg or David Horowitz about campus intolerance and abuse.

The trouble--well, one trouble--with "liberals"/leftists is that their godless philosophy of life dictates their actions. Thus, to shout down and/or refuse conservatives the right to articulate their views--as in vandalizing a pro-life display--simply reflects their, and their university's, ignorance and venom.

Pity them. They know not what they do.
5.8.2008 7:20pm
whit:
based on what i read, what this "senator" admitted to doing is not (criminal) vandalism - my state calls it "Malicious Mischief". iow, not a crime. that's because the code requires PHYSICAL DAMAGE. there apparently were SOME crosses physically damaged and signs torn up, but not that this guy admitted to. he supposedly only admitted to pulling up the signs. so, you can call it "vandalism" in the layman's sense, but it's not a crime. except being a total jerk.

iirc, there is some sort of law in my state that specifically criminalizes messing with real estate signs in any way, and some sort of federal law that references messing with campaign signs, even if you don't damage them. not sure about that, but that's what i hear.

clearly, regardless if what he did was criminal, it was clearly unacceptable and totally in violation of the pro-lifers right to exercise free speech.

there was a case a while ago that was much more serious, where a university professor was caught actually vandalizing a pro-life display. needless to say she was finally dealt with.

the kid should certainly not be expelled. i could see some minor punishment being justified though, imo.

i strongly disagree with the "he's a college student, so how could he be expected to know about free speech" argument, though. talk about "soft bigotry".
5.8.2008 7:26pm
glangston (mail):
So, the University should actually issue vandalism/free speech/anarchy permits....just check the appropriate box.
5.8.2008 7:36pm
Jim Rhoads (mail):
Some arguments have little appeal, JFT. Yours seems to fit that category at least on this thread.

Have you paused to consider why that might be?

Here is a suggestion. Whether or not King's actions were vandalism (you imply the answer should turn on whether King destroyed or damaged the crosses) his actions clearly destroyed the impact of the anti abortion folks' display. Destroying anothers' speech does not seem to be the kind of counter speech contemplated by the First Amendment, does it?

To take it one step further, you argued:

By the same token, free speech does not mean that extremely provocative speech has to be tolerated in silence.


I have no problem with those offended by the provocative speech engaging the provocative speakers in debate, or peacefully (and even provocatively) counterprotesting the display.

But I draw the line between protected free speech at destruction of the other persons' chosen communication.

Organized disruption to shout down a speaker is not speech which is "free" and need not be tolerated, whereas walking out or turning one's back, or silently raising fists with armbands should be "free" and must be tolerated.
5.8.2008 7:47pm
Railroad Gin:
The idiot should just be required to write an apology letter and attend some sort of free speech "sensitivity" training. I could possibly see him being forced to resign from student government. But expelling him is going overboard.

On the other hand, its hard not to put this in context of academia's approach to free speech in other contexts -- the Water Buffalo incident, Affirmative Action Bake Sales, keeping conservative speakers off campus -- you're familiar with them all. And one has to wonder how the university would be handling this if it were a pro-life student taking down a pro-choice display.

So as childish as it is, a part of me would like to this idiot treated the same as Jacobwitz or other victims of political correctness.
5.8.2008 7:48pm
frankcross (mail):
JF Thomas, we have a reverse precedent. I remember students creating shacks on campus to serve as shantytowns in solidarity with South African blacks under apartheid.

A couple of times, kids, apparently from a frat, came and took them down and took them away. That was considered to be wrong, as I recall, at the time.

It is kind of impressive that the guy did this so openly but that doesn't make it his right or free speech
5.8.2008 7:55pm
Dave N (mail):
Anderson,

I agree with you regarding the apprpriate sanction. That makes sense to me as a just result.

With respect to the partisan breakdown of the Supreme Court when Roe v. Wade was decided, there were 3 Democratic and 6 Republican appointees on the Court (Justices Douglas, White, and Marshall were appointed by Democratic Presidents). Additionally, Justices Brennan, appointed by President Eisenhower, and Justice Powell, appointed by President Nixon, were also Democrats.

The other four justices were appointed by either Presidents Eisenhower (Justice Stewart) or Nixon (Chief Justice Burger and Justices Powell,Blackmun, and Rehnquist).

Oh--and of this group one Democrat (Justice White) and one Republican (Justice Rehnquist) dissented in the 7-2 decision.
5.8.2008 8:06pm
wfjag:

I was a college student once also, and some maturity kicks in during and after the college process. Eventually Roderick Eugene King will learn that, even if you don't agree with different points of view, you should allow them to be heard.


You hope. There appear to be a lot of examples to the contrary.
5.8.2008 8:08pm
Chimaxx (mail):
I have to echo alkali's point here. It seems highly likely that King thought that Pointer for Life were vandalizing the green with their crosses, and he was trying to prevent them from doing so.

All the reports indicate that he stopped pulling up the crosses once campus Protective Services said that the display had been put there with permission, that there was no signage indicating the student group's involvement in the display or the University's permission until after the controversy.

If I had gotten up one morning to see rows of crosses placed on the quad at my small liberal arts college years ago, I would have assumed it was an act of vandalism and intimidation by some off-campus group. Unlike Mr. King, my first step would have been to call the Dean's office to report the infraction.
5.8.2008 8:09pm
Chimaxx (mail):
I'm not sure what people see themselves as gaining by dragging Jacobowitz into this discussion. He, like King, was the one trying to suppress the free speech of others, King by ripping up their signs, Jacobowitz by shouting them down.
5.8.2008 8:20pm
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
When loud drunks are keeping you awake in the middle of the night and you try to get them to quiet down, you're "trying to suppress the free speech of others"? Really?
5.8.2008 8:47pm
Chimaxx (mail):
When you do it by shouting at them out the window, yes.

What their sobriety or the hour has to do with whether their speech is protected, I don't know.

If the campus has content-neutral rules about noise levels at certain hours (and I'm sure it does), there are more appropriate ways to handle it than shouting out the window--just as there were more appropriate ways for Roderick King to handle the apparent vandalism of the campus green by an unidentified group.
5.8.2008 8:56pm
Germanicus:
"When loud drunks are keeping you awake in the middle of the night and you try to get them to quiet down, you're "trying to suppress the free speech of others"? Really?"

Yes, but for a good reason, which is unrelated to the speech's content. Telling someone to shut up is a perfectly respectable way to attempt to suppress free speech. Whether it's an effective way is another question.
5.8.2008 8:59pm
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
I'm also sure the university has rules about noise levels, which means that Jacobowitz was surely trying (however ineptly and rudely) to enforce perfectly valid restrictions, which means that the womens' speech was not "free speech" in the usual sense of speech protected by the 1st Amendment.
5.8.2008 9:16pm
MXE (mail):
Leftists aren't intolerant by nature; they're just intolerant on college campuses, where they can afford to steamroll people who disagree with them, because they constitute a local supermajority. Unfortunately, many of them will do so while loudly proclaiming themselves to be paragons of tolerance and free thought, which is annoying. But I think it's just part of human nature to be a bigger jerk when you can get away with it.
5.8.2008 9:18pm
Dave D. (mail):
...I've suppressed the free speech of many loudmouth, early morning, public drunks. I've suppressed their freedom, period. But I never thought to call them Water Buffalo's.
5.8.2008 9:22pm
wooga:
I kind of like "Water Buffalo" as an insult. It is certainly more creative than "Fat Cow."
5.8.2008 9:47pm
Seamus (mail):
I'm also sure the university has rules about noise levels, which means that Jacobowitz was surely trying (however ineptly and rudely) to enforce perfectly valid restrictions, which means that the womens' speech was not "free speech" in the usual sense of speech protected by the 1st Amendment.

Or to put it another way, what Jacobowitz was doing was analogous to a content-neutral regulation of time, place, and manner of communications. That, Climaxx, is "[w]hat their sobriety [manner] or the hour [time] has to do with whether their speech is protected" (to which I might add place [underneath Jacobowitz's window]).
5.8.2008 9:50pm
~aardvark (mail):
AntonK "A better caricature of the Angry Left would be hard to conjure up."

Hmm. You might be correct. But is there a better caricature of back-to-the-stone-age Right than such pro-life groups?

Besides, if the Angry Left has a constitutional right to burn the flag, surely their rights to stomp on others' symbols of religious expression are equally protected.

The real constitutional question is whether the right to be stupid (no matter which side you are) should be protected.
5.8.2008 9:56pm
Jim Rhoads (mail):
It appears Mr. Thomas has left the building.

And no one here called him a dipstick, either.
5.8.2008 9:57pm
ReaderY:
A sensitivity course sounds about right. And maybe a therapy session or two.

Expelling people over this sort of thing is counterproductive. The student's problem is he overreacted and was over-emotional. An overreaction in response would solve nothing.

I suspect most employers are sane and mature enough (i.e. sufficiently insulated from lawyers) to realize that just because more things or on camera than before doesn't mean adolescents have fundamentally changed, so hopefully this guy and his future employers will be able to get over this one. If everybody with some past blemish can't get hired, eventually a complete lack of workers will make employers come to their senses.
5.8.2008 10:26pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
JF Thomas = Freder Frederson? That makes perfect sense. He was a schmuck over on becker-posner-blog as well.
5.8.2008 10:33pm
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
I would think that "their rights to stomp on others' symbols of religious expression" exist only to the extent that they own said symbols and do not go around stomping on those bought and paid for by others. Similarly, I think many flag-burners can be prosecuted, because they burn flags that they have stolen from Post Offices or other government buildings or the front porches of patriotic citizens and that is prosecutable as theft. However, as long as they buy their own flags to burn, they're protected. Similarly, there's no doubt in my (non-lawyer) mind that Mr. King could have bought or made his own crosses and kicked them over to his heart's content, though there are surely some restrictions on where and when and how noisily he could do so. He might want to avoid burning a Koran, even one bought and paid for by himself, but the difficulty there is practical (likely death threats) rather than legal or constitutional. Any lawyer care to disagree with this analysis?
5.8.2008 10:35pm
AndrewK (mail):
This sort of oppressive, illiberal behavior makes my blood boil. I realize the kid is young and clearly comes from a sheltered environment where his ideas are not challenged, but he is paradigmatic, and to that end I would love him to be disciplined. He will rant and rave and feel victimized, but hopefully the experience will do him some good, and perhaps one day he will look back on his actions with embarrassment. Of course.... in all likelihood someone will suggest a lawsuit, the university will back down, and he will learn nothing.

Man, though, where was this kid when Lochner was still good law?
5.8.2008 10:39pm
Fred the Fourth (mail):
Come on, aardvark: Right to burn "the" flag? I think not. Burn "your own" flag, in an appropriate location? Sure, go ahead.
I'll leave part B as an exercise for the reader:
Stomp on "other's" symbols? .......
5.8.2008 10:50pm
whit:
"But is there a better caricature of back-to-the-stone-age Right than such pro-life groups? "

you are kidding me, right. im pro-choice but i don't see any evidence these guys are stone-age at all. that's just mindless rhetoric imo. sure, some pro-lifers are stone age. so, are some pro-choicers. but these?

"Besides, if the Angry Left has a constitutional right to burn the flag, surely their rights to stomp on others' symbols of religious expression are equally protected. "

you have the right to stomp on any SYMBOL you want. as long as you OWN it. burn a flag? fine. dunk a koran in urine? go nuts. cross in a jar of urine? knock yourself out.

as other's posted, the problem is not the act of smashing a symbol, it's that it wasn't HIS symbol to smash.

and as for the double standard. i have yet to hear of one incident (maybe it's happened, but i haven't heard of it) of anybody in the US publically defacing a koran.

apparently, credible threats of violence are a much better deterrence to certain behaviors than The Law(tm).

anybody who lives in a heavy mafia neighborhood knows this. old (and young) ladies in many of these areas can walk completely unmolested at 2 am alone. not because the perps fear the police. but because they fear the mafia enforcers. near certainty of swift violence is a strong deterrent.
5.8.2008 10:54pm
jabroni:
Par for the course. When I was in college (at another Big 10 school) some lefties stole thousands of newspapers to stop the release of a pro-life ad. When they were caught, they tried to cover it up by claiming they stole the papers not because of the ad, but because a comic in the paper was offensive toward feminists. Apparently, none of these dolts realized that the cover story was just as offensive as the truth.
5.8.2008 10:59pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
"I'd just like to say, as a strong progressive who's also pro-choice, pro-separation of church and state, etc: this guy is an idiot. And I would hope that the intelligent readers of this blog wouldn't lump him in with any particular political group, except morons."

Amen. I must say his defenders have not done credit to themselves.
5.8.2008 11:02pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
UW Stevens Point is NOT a Big 10 school... I think it's D3.
5.8.2008 11:10pm
Mac (mail):
Anderson,

Thank you. I think the school was going to expel him until he went on national TV. Your memory appears to be much better than mine, so I certainly won't argue the point.

As to abridging a drunk's free speech by yelling at them from the window, as someone suggested, i think that is the only sensible place to yell from. Most drunks have a habit of not being too rational and of being agressive. Could get your nose bloodied with a personal encounter. One may be dumb, but plum dumb is not advisable.
5.8.2008 11:25pm
richard gould-saltman (mail):
OK, I'm in with Jake on this one; as a self-proclaimed pro-choice pro-church-state-separation progressive, I'd call Mr. Student Senator an embarassing bonehead at best (someone PLEASE tell me he was an engineering student, or a dairy science student; tell me he wasn't studying any subject in which he'd actually be expected to have read the Constitution...)


On the other hand, many of the posters on this thread need to take a long look at Doc Volokh's comments policy, below...

r gould-saltman
5.9.2008 12:15am
Anderson (mail):
Thanks, Dave N -- Byron White always seems Republican to me ....

Your memory appears to be much better than mine, so I certainly won't argue the point.

Memory? Ha! If only I could use Google to figure out what my wife wanted from the store ....
5.9.2008 10:44am
Orson Buggeigh:
So the student senator proves to be a nut-boy. Unfortunately, he's had plenty of allegedly grown up role models for his behavior. It's only been two years since Sally Jacobsen, a faculty member at Northern Kentucky University, took her class out to trash an anti-abortion display. During class time. I agree with Anderson, a punishment that fits the crime ought to be handed out in these cases. Especially to the people who are supposedly mature, adult people who understand the difference between legitimate exercise of free speech and the heckler's veto.
5.9.2008 10:59am
GG (mail):
This situation is similar to what happened at Dartmouth College in 1986. I remember it well, as I was a freshman there at the time. Some students protesting Dartmouth's unwillingness to divest its South African investments built a mock shantytown on the central green of the college. This was not permitted in advance by Dartmouth, but Dartmouth took no action to cause the shanties to be removed. If I recall correctly they were there for about a month. Some of the protesters were sleeping in them overnight, one night, when a group of students, some of whom were affiliated with the conservative newspaper The Dartmouth Review, knocked down the shanties with slegehammers. Nobody was injured. An exacerbating circumstance is that the knockdown took place on Martin Luther King's birthday. It's debated whether the shanty-knockers actually knew it was MLK's birthday -- not typically a day they would focus on. A campus uproar ensued, and classes were suspended for a day in order to have auditorium "forums" on the subject (many of us spent the day off partying, if I recall correctly, not in celebration of the knockdown but in celebration of the day off).

Of course Dartmouth is private not public so the same free speech laws don't apply as at UW, and anyway in neither case was there any state action, but there was still the nagging issue that it's not acceptable in civil society to exercise your own speech by denying someone else their speech. [That's the whole point, J.F. Thomas -- IT'S NOT ACCEPTABLE TO EXERCISE YOUR OWN SPEECH BY DENYING SOMEONE ELSE THEIR SPEECH -- and if you don't get that, then I have to agree with everyone else on your character as a troll.]

At Dartmouth, the shanty knockers (ok, shanty vandals) were suspended but most eventually returned and graduated as far as I know. Had there been violence against persons, I think they would not have been invited back. I thought suspension was the appropriate punishment for the offense.

GG
5.9.2008 11:37am
Bob from Ohio (mail):
Next time JF Thomas comments, ask him to educate you on the principal of "conservation of energy". I understand his alter ego Freder is an expert on that.
5.9.2008 11:42am
Aultimer:

GG:

Some of the protesters were sleeping in [Apartheid-divestiture protest shantys] overnight, one night, when a group of students, some of whom were affiliated with the conservative newspaper The Dartmouth Review, knocked down the shanties with slegehammers. An exacerbating circumstance is that the knockdown took place on Martin Luther King's birthday. It's debated whether the shanty-knockers actually knew it was MLK's birthday -- not typically a day they would focus on.

If ignorance of MLK day is an excuse there, the Wisconsin Mr. King gets a bit more slack for ignorance of the legal import of his actions (which in whit's and my states is a summary offense/non-crime at worst).


Orson Buggeigh:

Especially to the people who are supposedly mature, adult people who understand the difference between legitimate exercise of free speech and the heckler's veto.


I don't think that means what you think it means. The "heckler's veto" is more like a prior restraint by government officials fearing the outcome of counter-speech.
5.9.2008 12:13pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Of course Dartmouth is private not public so the same free speech laws don't apply as at UW, and anyway in neither case was there any state action, but there was still the nagging issue that it's not acceptable in civil society to exercise your own speech by denying someone else their speech. [That's the whole point, J.F. Thomas -- IT'S NOT ACCEPTABLE TO EXERCISE YOUR OWN SPEECH BY DENYING SOMEONE ELSE THEIR SPEECH -- and if you don't get that, then I have to agree with everyone else on your character as a troll.]

I agree. It is not acceptable in a civil society for the Nazis to march through a predominately Jewish suburb, the KKK to hold a white power rally and burn crosses on MLK day, or to call a soldier a "baby killer". It is also not acceptable in a civil society to harass women who are entering abortion clinics accusing them of murdering their babies. But those activites are protected by the First Amendment. It is also protected speech to try and shout down speech you don't agree with. If you are disruptive, you might be removed from the building, but you will not be arrested for the mere act of being a jerk.

Smashing something with a sledgehammer in the middle of the night is different than what occurred here--where the student pulled up the crosses without damaging them in the middle of the day and was perfectly willing to identify himself and debate (however inarticulately) the people who placed the display.

I have said--and the subtlty seems to be lost on all of you who just want to attack me--that I think it would be a different situation if the crosses had been removed at night, stolen or damaged.
5.9.2008 1:03pm
Chimaxx (mail):
It still seems--from his comments in the video, from the fact that he stopped when college security told him the display was legitimate, from his later demand that the student organization behind the display be identified at the site of the display--that he initially thought it was an off-campus group vandalizing the campus green. That still doesn't excuse his actions--he should have contacted campus security or the appropriate dean rather than ripping them up himself--but it does make his actions more along the lines of Jacobowitz's: definitely boneheaded and worthy of some sanction but not the crime against freedom of speech some here would like to make it out to be.
5.9.2008 2:06pm
Jim Rhoads (mail):
So you are not arguing that King should be spared prosecution because his activities were protected "free speech". But you are arguing that he should not be prosecuted because his activities of pulling up the crosses were not criminal.

Do I have that right, JFT?
5.9.2008 2:15pm
Mac (mail):
Anderson wrote:


Memory? Ha! If only I could use Google to figure out what my wife wanted from the store ....

Anderson, that has nothing to do with memory. It is a proven fact that men are genetically incapable of getting what their wife wanted at the store, even with a detailed list that any first grader could decipher. My source? Ask any,and I mean any, wife.
5.9.2008 2:45pm
chicopanther (mail):
Roderick King said, "In 1973 it was made a Constitutional right for a woman to have an abortion. It's not your responsibility. Since it's a right, you don't have the right to challenge it.... Do not put this [display] in front of all of us ... it is not your right."

Um, one thing he conveniently forgets--abortion "rights" were never made law by any legislative body who passed a law. Instead, those "rights" to murder your unborn offsrping were created of whole cloth by the judicial branch. As I recall, it is not the purpose of the judicial branch to create laws, only to review already existing laws. It is ONLY the legislative branch who can make laws. Of course, that was an example of judicial activism that just makes more folks lose respect for the 'law.'

-- chicopanther
5.9.2008 2:45pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
but it does make his actions more along the lines of Jacobowitz's: definitely boneheaded and worthy of some sanction
A bunch of people are partying loudly outside your room while you're trying to study, you call out, "Hey, shut up you jerks, some of us are trying to study!", and you think this is "boneheaded" and "worthy of some sanction"?
5.9.2008 3:23pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
So you are not arguing that King should be spared prosecution because his activities were protected "free speech". But you are arguing that he should not be prosecuted because his activities of pulling up the crosses were not criminal.

I am arguing that his actions were free speech and not criminal.

I am not arguing that he was civil or articulate (in fact he was pretty obnoxious). But as far as I know, and EV can correct me if I am wrong, being civil or articulate is not a factor in 1st amendment jurisprudence. What he did was the equivalent of shouting down a speaker or disrupting a rally. When told to stop by the authorities, he did.

It is a close call. If he was breaking the crosses or refused to heed the orders of the security personnel, I might agree with Eugene. But I don't see that in the video.
5.9.2008 3:26pm
plutosdad (mail):
This is the same as people who shouted down and ran onstage when speakers from that Minutemen group wanted to talk. They had no problem trampling on other's rights of speech and assembly, and called their shouting them down and driving them off the stage a "victory for free speech".

I don't get people like that. Is it that they are afraid their position won't stand up to debate? Or do they actually feel the average person is too stupid and will believe the "wrong" side if they listen to debate?
5.9.2008 3:53pm
WTF?:
Assuming that Kennedy's little fit was protected speech, that does not mean that he would avoid sanction.

If Kennedy damaged just one of the hundreds of crosses he intentionally unearth, he violated a Stevens Point criminal ordinance that states, "Whoever intentionally causes damage to any physical property of another without the person's consent is subject to a forfeiture of not more than $200.00 and in lieu of such payment assessed imprisoned for not more than sixty (60) days in the county jail."

As a restriction on speech, it would qualify as a law of general applicability that imposed nothing more than time/place/manner restrictions, was content and viewpoint neutral, and left open any method of speech that did not amount to the unauthorized, wilfull damage of another's physical property. Thus, an application of the vandalism statute against Kennedy would probably survive First Amendment scrutiny.
5.9.2008 4:39pm
PersonFromPorlock:

University procedures are being followed. In accordance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which protects our students from disclosure of their educational records, results of those procedures will not be made public.



Whatever happened to "Justice must not only be done, but seen to be done?"
5.9.2008 5:02pm
T-web (mail):
Plutosdad: Is it that they are afraid their position won't stand up to debate? Or do they actually feel the average person is too stupid and will believe the "wrong" side if they listen to debate?

My impression is that the goal of such tactics isn't to defeat another person's ideas with one's own, but it's to make the other person's ideas unacceptable to hold, to make them taboo to express or even think.
5.9.2008 5:15pm
George Smith (mail):
Maybe if someone had just clocked the guy.
5.9.2008 5:16pm
Kathi Smith (mail):
Libertarian response: the student senator was presumably elected by the students; university should stay out of it.
5.9.2008 5:23pm
Dave D. (mail):
..." you will not be arrested for the mere act of being a jerk " - J.F. Thomas

.....I wouldn't be overly reliant on that principle Mr. Thomas. While a great theory, it has been my personal experience that many jerks were insufficiently versed in penal law to know that they were much more than 'mere' when they ascended into jerkdom.
5.9.2008 5:25pm
Libertarian1 (mail):
Um, one thing he conveniently forgets--abortion "rights" were never made law by any legislative body who passed a law. Instead, those "rights" to murder your unborn offsrping were created of whole cloth by the judicial branch. As I recall, it is not the purpose of the judicial branch to create laws, only to review already existing laws. It is ONLY the legislative branch who can make laws. Of course, that was an example of judicial activism that just makes more folks lose respect for the 'law.'

-- chicopanther



If I remember correctly before the decision from SCOTUS several individual states had legislatively enacted laws that allowed abortion- see NY. After all state legislatures have approved of the death penalty- see Texas. That should be their prerogative. If they have the legal justification to enact a death penalty they are the ones who can draw wherever line they wish.
5.9.2008 6:49pm
Fred the Fourth (mail):
(I know, don't feed the troll, but...)
JFT: regarding the question of vandalism: consider the hypothetical anti-war protest using essentially the same materials: an array of crosses with soldier's names, installed in the same lawn, and described in the permit request as an "expressive artistic installation". (I know, that's a new element, but it's certainly entirely plausible.)
If I come along and start pulling up crosses, don't you think the "artists" are going to think I am vandalizing their "artwork", even if the individual crosses are not damaged?
5.9.2008 9:18pm
Randy R. (mail):
I'm glad everyone here is so pro-free speech. I came across an article today:

"Atlanta: A federal judge says a gay rights wegb sie sanctioned by the Georgia Institute of Technology cannot use language that discriminates against religions that condemn homosexuality. The Safe Space sie, a campus resource for gay and lesbian students, gave an overview of various religions' views toward homosexuality. For instance, it called the Mormon Church anti-gay and the Episcopal Church more reception to gays."

So there you have it: Freedom of speech under attack by conservatives who are unhappy with speech. they would prefer to shut down the website that to see something they dislike, and a judge agreed with them. Why do conservatives hate free speech so much?
5.9.2008 11:48pm
Jim Rhoads (mail):
Who says so, Randy?

Don't you think maybe this was a group who protested that a State sponsored website should not make value judgments about religious denominations because to do so would impinge on the free exercise of religion contra the First Amendment?
5.10.2008 12:01am
jabroni:
I don't get people like that. Is it that they are afraid their position won't stand up to debate?

That is exactly why they do things like this. Liberals do not have a monopoly on this by any stretch, but the campus lefties in particular seem eager to stifle debate rather than address issues on the merits.
5.10.2008 1:40am
Randy R. (mail):
Jim Rhoads: "Don't you think maybe this was a group who protested that a State sponsored website should not make value judgments about religious denominations because to do so would impinge on the free exercise of religion contra the First Amendment?"

Then they are free to start up their own website and say that Mormons really love gays.

Or are you saying that you would prefer to silence speech you don't like? I thought everyone on this thread agreed that the best response to bad speech is more speech. And how exactly does a website 'impinge' upon thee free exercise of religion? They offered no harm, and demonstrated none. They were free to worship as always.

Your comment just proves that conservatives are all in favor of free speech, unless they disagree with it. Something that you accuse liberals all the time.

And that's my point: both liberals and conservatives can be jerks about speech they don't like. But the answer isn't to go to court or silence another. The answer to is rebut bad speech with your own good speech.
5.10.2008 1:42pm
Gaius Marius:
Typical liberal way of dealing with free speech.
5.10.2008 2:16pm