A price on free speech?
Some higher education administrators seem to have decided to bring back the 1960s – in a completely unacceptable manner.
Veterans of civil rights and anti-war demonstrations during the 1960s may remember one tactic employed against them: parade permits. Public officials who just didn’t want the protesters on their streets refused to grant them permits for parades and demonstrations. Too much potential for trouble, the officials said.
But the courts swiftly ruled that keeping the peace was the government’s job, and that no one could be denied freedom of speech just because trouble might occur.
Times change. Or do they?
On some campuses, officials have made it clear conservative groups and personalities are not welcome. But administrators knew simply refusing to allow them to gather and listen to speeches would be rejected by the courts.
So the sunshine patriots and outright leftists came up with another idea: Charge prohibitively high “security” fees. The University of Washington told College Republicans that if they wanted to host a conservative speaker, it would cost them $17,000.
Fortunately, a federal judge saw through the attempt to price free speech out of the marketplace. The college’s $17,000 fee “runs afoul” of the First Amendment, she wrote. She issued a temporary injunction that allowed the College Republicans’ event to proceed. It is to be hoped her final ruling will follow the pathway set forth in her decision to grant the injunction.
Unfortunately, there are grounds for concern about safety at conservative events. Too often, thugs use violence to break up speeches, rallies, etc.
But the answer to that is protecting those who want merely to discuss ideas and make their points – not making it too expensive for them to do so.