Free speech is never free. Sinclair botches it.

I remember having to listen to various campus “preachers” at Wright State screaming at the top of their lungs about sin and damnation. Many overstepped their bounds. I remember one guy who liked to point at women dressed “provocatively” and yell “prostitute.” Needless to say- these people were a nuisance, they disturbed the peace and on one occasion, I remember one ending up in the moat “accidentally.”

These individuals, while expressing their rights of free speech, were doing so at the expense of others’ ability to study, enjoy the quad or to relax in a public place. The way to deal with them is to trespass them off for disturbing the peace. However, if they keep it down, and don’t force themselves or their literature on anyone- they should have every right to discuss anything they want from Scientology to Wicca.

Unfortunately, Sinclair seems to have decided it is above the First Amendment, and is trying to regulate the ability to speak on campus:

Four people were arrested and one was given a citation Wednesday, May 20, after a demonstration at Sinclair Community College got out of hand.

Charles Gift, director of public safety for Sinclair Community College, said campus police received a call about noon from a student who said demonstrators were disturbing her.

Officers spoke to the group, Faithful Soldier School of Evangelism, a ministry of Mercy Seat Christian Church in Milwaukee, Wis.

“Sinclair has set procedures for anyone who wants to speak on campus,” Gift said Wednesday night. “It is a public campus and we welcome anyone who wants to come and speak. All they have to do is follow the procedure.”

Gift said two members of the group were disorderly when they were told they could stay on campus if they got rid of their signs and did not distribute literature unless someone asked for it.

The two, a male and a female, were arrested.

via Demonstration at Sinclair ends in 4 arrests.

Of course, there is more to this story than what appears here, but no one is ever required to hand over a video recording device on demand:

According to Gift, the officer — who was not identified by name — noticed that a female in the group was recording the incident on either a camera phone or video camera.

The officer asked her for the device so a copy of the incident could be made, Gift said. She ran, hiding behind another male in the group. Both the female and male refused to turn over the device and, according to Gift, the man punched the officer in the face. (ibid)

This will be an expensive jaunt through the courts for both sides, when all could have been avoided with a little research on the subject of “campus speaking procedures” which have failed almost every time when tested in courts.

The real question is, what is Sinclair afraid of? What can anyone say that is truly that dangerous to the public? I witnessed much more vitriol at the “Dayton Tea Party” than I’ve ever seen from a campus preacher.

From the Dayton Tea Party: "Hitler gave great speeches"

From the Dayton Tea Party: "Hitler gave great speeches"

Institutions of higher learning should be bastions for free speech in this country, at least if we ever hope to aspire to the lofty expectations of the founding fathers.

If Sinclair were smart, it would try to work out a compromise immediately in exchange for no lawsuits and acknowledge that a misunderstanding took place and escalated by mistake of both parties. Let’s get back to educating and open discussion of issues. Another test case won’t do anyone any good.

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20 Responses

  1. John C May 21, 2009 / 11:47 pm
    Were you there?

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  2. David Esrati May 22, 2009 / 6:30 am

    @John C. I was at the Tea Party, I was not at Sinclair.

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  3. Gene May 22, 2009 / 10:39 am
    Liberals love freedom of speech, so long as you say what they want to hear. The Double Trouble Libs and Double Standards are alive and well.

    Your President is the same way – say what is ever on your mind, be free with speech, so long as it agrees with the liberal agenda.

    The Tea Party was given a bad name – Bill Maher more or less proclaimed these people as stupid bc he said they defended the rich yet they were not rich. And he continued to say everyone wants to be rich. Well, actually Bill, a lot of people are happy to voice their opinion against government and taxes and don’t necessarily have to be rich.  Government is a GD waste of time and money.  Freedom of speech, defended by the Left, only if you agree with the left. Now that is a GD joke.

    Liberals are the ones who are not tolerant.

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  4. Larkin May 22, 2009 / 1:12 pm
    The Bill of Rights defends tries to guarantee a number of freedoms. Freedom of speech is not the absolute most important, it does not, for instance take precedence over the right of individuals to a peaceable existence. (Which helps to explain why one is not allowed to yell “Fire!” in a crowded theatre, unless of course, there is a fire.) One is not more hallowed than the other. While the manner in which Sinclair chose to handle this may not have been the  most thoughtful, I think they are within their rights to set limits on their own campus. 

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  5. David Lauri May 22, 2009 / 2:07 pm
    Yes, liberals are very intolerant.  Damn the liberals for forming organizations to try to make “opposite marriage” illegal.  Poor Miss California should have the right to enter into an “opposite marriage” if she wants.

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  6. Larkin May 22, 2009 / 2:10 pm
    Poor Miss California should marry a toad. (Or maybe the Donald) At any rate I guess that would be a “same” marriage, not an “opposite” one. 

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  7. Gene May 22, 2009 / 3:50 pm
    Miss California should not get married anytime soon.

    Yes, a lot of liberals claim they are tolerant, and in fact with many things they are, but the minute a Miss California comes around the are not so tolerant, calling her a bitch and verbally beating her up. A tolerant person would respond to Miss California with something like, ” that is her opinion, I happen to disagree with her………” rather than call he a bitch. She could call gay people plenty of horrible names, but she remained professional and honest with an answer you did not like. I suggest you grow up a bit and be tolerant of people who may not like gay marriage. But it obvious this point can’t be understood by most – calling someone a bitch, verbally trashing her makes a person intolerant and therefore just as bad, if not worse in this case bc of the nasty tone, as the intolerant statement in the first place.

    Most woman wish they looked liked Miss California, that is just a fact Jack.

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  8. Gene May 22, 2009 / 3:54 pm
    BTW, I happen to disagree with what Miss California had to say – but it was her opinion and stance and therefore I accept her view and move on in life. For God’s sake it was a beauty pageant, who TF cares about those things. Evidently, Perez Hilton and maybe other gay men.

    I don’t even think straight men watch those things. Statistically straight woman and gay men watch these things, go figure.

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  9. David Lauri May 22, 2009 / 4:37 pm
    LOL, I never watch beauty pageants.  I’ve no interest whatsoever in seeing bikini-clad women.

    As for growing up a bit and tolerating people who may not like gay marriage, I’ve never called Miss California a bitch or verbally trashed her.  I have mocked her inept answer (don’t beauty pageant contestants know beforehand they’ll be called on to form coherent answers to questions, if not usually questions that are so controversial?). 

    And tolerance does not call for me to refrain from pointing out the problems in the arguments people who don’t like gay marriage make.  For example, when Miss California says, “Unless we bring men and women together, children will not have mothers and fathers,” is it intolerant of me to say that Massachusetts and Canada seem to have no shortage of mothers and fathers despite having had gay marriage for some time now?

    Intolerance would be to say Miss California has no right to her views or no right to speak, and I’ve never said that.  I’m glad Miss California’s out there saying the stuff she says.  It just shows that the anti-gay marriage folks really have nothing to back up their case.

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  10. Larkin May 22, 2009 / 6:24 pm
    Oh Gene, you’re so droll. And, my dear, as your are a gay man I would seriously doubt if you have the first clue about “what most women want,” or in particular what most women want to look like. In general, intelligent women stop wanting to look like Barbie before they are ten years old. 

    What is truly hysterical to me is that you get your panties all in a wad over something like this, yet you let important topics and concerns pass without comment. Surely that’s not an accurate reflection on your intellectual depth, is it? 

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  11. pizzabill May 22, 2009 / 7:10 pm
    David,

    How is David’s post a gay issue?  Your views on everything always twist to a gay issue.  You’re here, you’re queer.  We get it.  Many of us have no problem with that.  But for the love of Pete(er), please stick to the topic.

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  12. David Lauri May 22, 2009 / 9:23 pm
    @pizzabill:  Yes, I’m well aware that David’s post wasn’t about the gayz.  But it wasn’t David’s post to which I was responding but rather Gene’s comment, and yes, my responses had a gay slant, but they were indeed apropos to Gene’s comment. 

    Are we not to respond to one another’s comments?  If so, you shouldn’t have responded to mine.

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  13. truddick May 22, 2009 / 10:39 pm
    So, we’re going to the wall to protect the rights of rude, intolerant and ignorant faith-ministers to harass students who are just trying to go to class peaceably?

    True story: at my old campus, a bellowing faith preacher confronted two of my friends.  To the man: “YOU are a Homo-SEX-you-all!”  and to the woman “and YOU’VE been FORN-icating with him!”

    Freedom of expression is one thing; damnable stupidity is another.  Why don’t we get some courage of our convictions and take on the established west end ministry for its intolerant gay-bashing instead of sticking up for the ephemeral rights of dimwits to disturb the peace?  After all, these ignoramuses (ignorami?) had been informed of the reasonable standards and chose to ignore them.  Let ’em rot, says I.

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  14. David Esrati May 23, 2009 / 2:49 am

    Mr. Ruddick,
    The same “preacher” was at WSU when I was there. I have zero respect or tolerance for their tripe- but, again, the way to handle it is key.
    Stormtrooper policy doesn’t work well in our litigious society.

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  15. Jason Boston May 25, 2009 / 3:05 am
    This comments to this post got off course somewhere. I witnessed about twenty minutes of the disorganized/disruptive chaos. I did not witness the alleged assault and subsequent arrests. I had to leave the circus for political science class–ahh sweet irony.

    I fully support an individual’s or a group’s right to freedom of speech. However, they have to follow the rules. There were about a hundred people or so gathered in the quad participating in this unorganized and poorly planned testification. There were people scattered about shouting back and for at one another, and in my opinion, they were all causing a great disturbance. Gatherings like this one need to be planned and organized. The young bearded man in the red shirt who appeared to be the “ring leader” was standing on the steps across from the crowd. He had little to no control over anything that was transpiring. People were walking back and forth and just shouting whenever they felt the need to agree or disagree. Believers and non-believers were both equally represented by the (expletive deleted) in the crowd, and I thought to myself that this could be a potentially dangerous situation. Excepting my potential clairvoyance, it only took common sense to see that the intermingled mess of angry young people wasn’t going to be pretty.

    If this group had followed the rules this whole situation could have been avoided. The group and the students of all beliefs alike have the right to speak freely in a public place. The quad is not a public place. The campus is for prospective and current students, faculty, and alumni. If you wish to testify on behalf of your god, push your political beliefs, or sell your idea on plastic triangle widgets, there needs to be a time and a place so that people that do not wish to bear witness can choose to do so.  The unplanned chaotic nature of the event is what caused it to get out of hand.

    I believe that this entire circus side-show was definitely a disturbance. I normally visit the quad between classes to read, write, or study. This gathering made that impossible. I did not wish to hear or see any of this. This group’s right to free speech ends where my right to enjoy the quad begin. Please plan your testimony better next time, and don’t force me to see and hear your message in a place where I pay to free my mind on my terms. I applaud that the group was exercising their right to free speech, but don’t do it in a wanton and disruptive fashion. Print flyers, write to The Clarion, and spread the word about where and when you will have your event. I won’t be attending.

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  16. David Esrati May 25, 2009 / 7:38 am

    @Jason- welcome to the tangential world of esrati.com comments. Thanks for posting.
    Where do you come up with “the quad is not a public place.” It’s a public school, paid for with public dollars to begin with.
    The thing with free speech is it’s exactly that- free speech. Had it been Aretha Franklin singing a Capella you might not find it so offensive, yet she may still have been breaking the rules.
    Change it from Aretha, to Woodie Guthrie- and the speech becomes political. Is it still OK?
    Make it NWA singing “F the police” – now we have a riot when the private police show up.
    If we had to ask the man for permission, and then followed his rules this country might have never been formed. That’s the problem.
    I agree- these people suck. They bring hatred and turmoil with their brand of “religion.” We just have to be careful how we handle them. This time, we handled it poorly.

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  17. John Ise May 25, 2009 / 8:13 am
    For proof positive of the incoherence of the Tea Partiers, see: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/04/16/10-most-offensive-tea-par_n_187554.html

    If this is the opposition to Obama, he’s got nothing to fret.

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  18. David Lauri May 25, 2009 / 10:02 am
    Surely there can be some middle ground between “anyone may speak anywhere in whatever fashion” and “for large events there should be some planning and organization.”  I’m pretty sure even Nazis and the KKK have been able to get permits for their parades and rallies.

    Now should it ever become the case that unpopular groups are denied the right to march or rally, then sure, they should break the rules and insist upon their inalienable rights of assembly and free speech.  But I don’t think Sinclair’s policy is blanket denial of unpopular speech and assembly; instead they want some notice and organization.

    @pizzabill: was this on topic enough?  I didn’t even use the word “gay.”  Doh!

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  19. Jason Boston May 25, 2009 / 1:31 pm
    David,

    Thank you for the welcome! However it seems as if we disagree. Sinclair is one of those tricky public/private places. True it is funded primarily by taxpayer dollars, but disrupting the daily learning activities of students is clearly prohibited in the campus access policy.

    http://www.sinclair.edu/about/offices/bus/campusaccess/index.cfm?searchTerm=campus%20rules%20for%20assembly

    First Amendment

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    This group was not peacably assembled, it did not follow the rules that are available to anyone on their website, and it caused a great disturbance. Regardless of their message it is imperative that people be respectful of others. Planning an event that will not disturb students would be fantastic. I don’t care if Barack Obama himself came to campus, the rules must be followed. You draw a parallel to the Framers bucking the system. The Framers also owned slaves and denied women any rights. Does that mean it’s cool for me to start slappin around my girl and telling her she can’t vote? It was a time of revolution that eventually led to the supreme law in this country in which the powers were granted to the nation, states, and its people. Unless you are saying that the Constitution is old news and needs to be discarded, then I think you would agree that revolution is not necessary. Even if the purpose of this gaggle of retards was to bring about political revolution, their right to maintain a militia should be “well-regulated.” I don’t care if I absolutely LOVE the speakers message, song, or art of some sort, if you are causing a nuisance or endangering students, ya gotta go! Follow the rules, its not a revolution, it’s Christ. If you would have seen the crowd and the fashion in which they were organized you would agree that they were a problem. There was no focus, and at times the conversation was between 2-3 people while the horde was going crazy. The 2-3 people were having conversation that was inaudible to all, and it left the gathering with no leadership or order. If you want to “change” or make a difference you need focus or this sort of thing will happen.

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