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Targeting Professor Terri Ginsberg's Academic and Speech Freedoms

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Targeting Professor Terri Ginsberg's Academic and Speech Freedoms - by Stephen Lendman

Post-9/11, anyone challenging America's war on terrorism faces possible recrimination, especially vulnerable Muslims, targeted for political advantage to incite fear to justify war.

Moreover, anyone critical of Israel leaves them vulnerable to vilification, intimidation and persecution. Even university professors are targeted, including distinguished tenured ones - censured, suspended and/or fired unjustly.

Yet America's First Amendment states:

"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."

Of all Bill of Rights freedoms, this one's most important because without it all others are at risk.

Some would also argue that academic freedom derives from First Amendment rights, including US Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas (1939 - 1975). In 1952, he cited it in an Adler v. Board of Education opinion, calling its denial a violation of speech freedom.

He also believed that doing so is "the most dangerous of all subversions....There must be no limit on the range of temperate discussion, no limits on thought. No subject must be taboo. No censor must preside at our assemblies."

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In Wieman v. Updegraff (1952), Justice Felix Frankfurter (1939 - 1962) concurred, saying:

"To regard teachers - in our educational system, from the primary grades to the university - as the priests of our democracy is therefore not to indulge in hyperbole. It is the special task of teachers to foster those habits of open-mindedness and critical inquiry which alone make for responsible citizens, who, in turn, make possible an enlightened and effective public opinion."

"They cannot carry out their noble task if the conditions for the practice of a responsible and critical mind are denied to them. They must have the freedom of responsible inquiry, by thought and action...."

In Sweezy v. New Hampshire, Justice Earl Warren (1953 - 1969) concurred with a High Court majority, saying:

"We believe that there unquestionably was an invasion of petitioner's liberties in the areas of academic freedom and political expression - areas in which government should be extremely reticent to tread. The essentiality of freedom in the community of American universities is almost self-evident....To impose any strait jacket upon the intellectual leaders in our colleges and universities would imperil the future of our Nation....Teachers and students must always remain free to inquire, to study and to evaluate, to gain new maturity and understanding; otherwise our civilization will stagnate and die."

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In Keyishian v. Board of Regents (1967), Justice William Brennan (1956 - 1990) notably said:

"Our Nation is deeply committed to safeguarding academic freedom, which is of transcendent value to all of us and not merely to the teachers concerned. That freedom is therefore a special concern of the First Amendment, which does not tolerate laws that cast a pall of orthodoxy over the classroom."

American jurisprudence today is much more hardline than earlier because two-thirds or more of all federal judges are from, affiliated with, or sympathetic to the extremist Federalist Society. It advocates rolling back civil liberties; ending New Deal social policies; opposing reproductive choice, government regulations, labor rights and environmental protections; as well as subverting justice (including speech and academic freedom) in defense of privilege.

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