article at Legal Insurrection discusses an email from “The Foundation
for Individual Rights In Higher Education (FIRE)” with regard to the
Departments of Justice AND Education mandating that ALL universities and
colleges that receive federal funding MUST establish speech codes.
Government Mandated Speech Codes On All Campuses.
article states that the codes are unconstitutional, and ignore years of
legal decisions. A letter sent to the University of Montana states that
“sexual harassment should be more broadly defined as ‘any unwelcome
conduct of a sexual nature’” including “verbal conduct” (that is,
speech). It then explicitly states that allegedly harassing expression
need not even be offensive to an “objectively reasonable person of the
same gender in the same situation”—if the listener takes offense to
sexually related speech for any reason,
no matter how irrationally or unreasonably, the speaker may be
punished. This is so broad that, just asking another person out on
a date could be classified as sexual harassment.
Among the forms of expression now punishable on America’s campuses by order of the federal government are:
expression related to sexual topics that offends any person. This
leaves a wide range of expressive activity—a campus performance of “The
Vagina Monologues,” a presentation on safe sex practices, a debate about
sexual morality, a discussion of gay marriage, or a classroom lecture
on Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita—subject to discipline.
- Any sexually themed joke overheard by any person who finds that joke offensive for any reason.
- Any request for dates or any flirtation that is not welcomed by the recipient of such a request or flirtation.
What the DOJ and Department of Education are NOT looking at is the mountain of unintended consequences that would arise. Special
interest groups like the LGBT, etc. could be hit big-time.
Conversations that were held in public before would be quashed under
this new mandate, as any listener could deem it as sexual harassment due
to the subject matter. Friends would have to find non-public areas to
have conversations to prevent someone’s feeling getting hurt by
overhearing a joke. People dating would also have to ensure that there
are NO PDAs or cutesy talk happening in case someone finds people
kissing or using pet names offensive.
speech is already censored at colleges and universities (just ask
someone who is conservative or Christian about their rights denied)
This would be so over-reaching that it is frightening. Do you get a
12” thick manual to memorize so that you understand the do’s and the
don’ts about what speech is allowed? Why does one person who isn’t even
in a conversation get to quash another person’s free speech?
We may be past the year 1984 but it sure looks like we are getting there – just 29 + years later.