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Issues - Political Speech

Koch Foundation Buys Academic Slots
(November 13, 2014) - The Charles Koch Foundation's massive funding of university programs and professors comes with big ideological strings attached.

Untangling the Steven Salaita Case
(September 4, 2014) - The University of Illinois' last-minute withdrawal of a job offer because of anti-Israel tweets has created a nationwide controversy. What are the legal issues? How does academic freedom fit in?

The Lamentable State of Public Employee Free Speech Law
(June 25, 2014) - Last week's Supreme Court decision in Lane v. Franks was welcome, but does little to repair a wrong-headed and murky distinction in public-employee free-speech law.

In "Subversives, It is the FBI, Not Student Radicals, Who Subvert the Constitution
(April 29. 2014) - Journalist Seth Rosenfeld litigated for thirty years against the FBI to obtain the files that form the basis of his book.

Does Academic Freedom Protect Teachers or Institutions - or Both?
(October 28, 2013) -Marjorie Heins dissects this and other questions in her "Davis Markert Nickerson" Academic Freedom Lecture at the University of Michigan.

What's In a Name? The Mismeasure of Terrorism
(July 17, 2013) -It's argued that civil liberties must give way to fighting terorrism - but some definitions of terrorism are dangerous broad, and include nonviolent protest.

Prurience and Homophobia During the Red Scare
(July 16, 2013) - A book about the notorious Johns Committee of Florida chronicles a vicious assault on gay men and lesbians.

Academic Freedom or Harassment?
(April 14, 2013) - Appalachian State University has punished a professor for showing an anti-pornography film in class.

AAUP Challenges Yale
(December 6, 2012) -In an open letter to the Yale University community, the American Association of University Professors asks 16 questions about academic freedom, discrimination, and working conditions on its planned new campus in the repressive city-state of Singapore.

Battles Continue Over Internet Filters
(November 11, 2012) - Two recent court cases have challenged discriminatory blocking of web sites that support gay and lesbian rights and that provide information on nonmainstream religions.

Trading Academic Freedom for Foreign Markets
(July 30, 2012) -The current controversy over Yale University’s planned campus in Singapore is, at bottom, an argument over how much compromise on free speech is justified in exchange for the presumed benefits of locating branches of U.S. universities within authoritarian regimes.

The Family Shakespeare
(April 23, 2011) - A new play re-imagines the notorious Bowdler family and debates the eternal question of literary censorship.

Guilt By Association: Georgia's Anti-Subversive Test Oath
(Aug. 17, 2010) - The performance artist Karen Finley has refused to sign an oath denying revolutionary ideas or associations - a Cold War witch hunt era relic of the sort that the Supreme Court invalidated more than 40 years ago.

Banning Political Speech in the Name of Fighting Terrorism
(June 22, 2010) - The Supreme Court has upheld a law that some consider the most significant repression of political speech in recent memory.

Can Anti-Gay Marriage Petitioners Keep Their Identities Private?
(Nov. 2, 2009; updated July 27, 2010) - An ongoing First Amendment battle pits the public interest in openness and disclosure against the constitutional rights to anonymity and privacy.

The Demise of Academic Freedom?
(February 12, 2010) - The president of the American Association of University Professors offers a blistering critique of the current state of universities.

Citizens United: A Win for Free Speech or a First Amendment Disaster? (January 22, 2010) - The Supreme Court's radical revision of longstanding campaign finance law dramatizes profound differences about what the First Amendment really means.

Can the Government Ban Political Speech in the Name of Fighting Terrorism?
(December 10, 2009) - In February 2110, the Supreme Court will hear argument in what is probably the most significant case about government repression of political speech in recent memory.

Justices Are Skeptical of a Law Criminalizing Pictures of Cruelty to Animals
(October 7, 2009) - What about cockfights? Bullfights? Hunting? Stuffing geese to make foie gras? The examples are not far-fetched in the case of U.S. v. Stevens.

What Makes a Conscientious Objector?
(June 9, 2009) - Some problems with Ohio's anti-terrorist oath.

On Human Frailty and Public Interest Law
(May 1, 2009) -Wendy Kaminer's chronicle of turmoil at the national ACLU raises hard questions about clannishness, the herd instinct, and the inevitable realities of organizational life.

Free Speech in the Age of Obama: Proposals for Year 1
(January 20, 2009) - On Inauguration Day 2009, FEPP proposes a few changes from the policies of George W. Bush.

The Insidious Persistence of Loyalty Oaths
(May 24, 2008) - A pacifist teacher in California is the latest casualty of an enforced ritual of political conformity imposed on public employees.

The Rest is Noise
(December 22, 2007) -Alex Ross's much-admired new book raises tantalizing questions about music, politics, and censorship.

Can Cellphone Companies Censor Text Messages?
(October 24, 2007) - Verizon's blocking of a Naral/ Pro-Choice America message might be illegal if text messages, like phone calls, are covered by "common carrier" rules.

A Proposal to Police "Morality" in Domain Names
(August 24, 2007) - ICANN is considering a plan to ban any "generic top-level" domain names that "undermine religious, family or social values."

Supreme Court Carves Out a New Exception to Student Free Speech
(June 25, 2007) - The Court's decision in the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" case draws a murky line between advocacy of illegal conduct (not protected) and political dissent (protected - at least sometimes).

The Campaign Finance Page
(April 27, 2007; most recent update January 22, 2010) - FEPP's roadmap to the intricacies of the McCain-Feingold law, its gradual undoing, and the stakes for free speech and democracy.

Secrecy and Freedom
(April 10, 2007) - The government tries to airbrush history when it demands recantation of torture allegations in exchange for a Guantanamo prisoner's plea bargain.

Confusion Reigns At "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" Argument
(March 21, 2007) - Justice David Souter seemed outnumbered at the Supreme Court argument on March 19 in Morse v. Frederick, the most important student free speech case to reach the Court in 20 years.

The Truth Seeker
(March 13, 2007) -The first biography of D.M. Bennett, who was jailed for selling a pamphlet that argued against the institution of marriage, highlights the connection between organized religion and censorship.

National Coalition Against Censorship Urges Full First Amendment Protection for Student in "Bong Hits for Jesus" Case
(February 21, 2007) - FEPP was co-counsel on a friend-of-the-court brief to the the Supreme Court, arguing that school officials had no right to punish a student who held up a controversial banner on a public street.

Fact Sheet on Political Dissent and Censorship
(December 2006) - In the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and of U.S. government efforts to combat terrorism by often secretive or constitutionally dubious means, questions have arisen about the scope of First Amendment protection for political dissent. This Fact Sheet outlines the history and constitutional status of political protest, and the free-speech implications of government surveillance and secrecy today.

Internet Filters: A Public Policy Report
(May 2006) - Internet filters categorize expression without regard to its context, meaning, and value. Yet these sweeping censorship tools are now widely used in schools and libraries. This fully revised and updated report surveys nearly 100 tests and studies of filtering products through 2006. An essential resource for the ongoing debate.

Patriot Act Reforms Are Defeated
(March 17, 2006)
- Despite passionate opposition, the most controversial provisions of the "USA Patriot" Act were renewed by Congress and signed into law by President Bush.

Of Threats, Intimidation, Sensitivity, and Free Speech:
The Muhammad Cartoons

(February 22, 2006) - Some basic facts and principles about blasphemy, defamation, incitement, and media self-censorship to help guide the debate.

Patriot Act Renewal Stalls in Congress
(January 10, 2006) - Congress' compromise reauthorization bill takes a few baby steps toward restoring civil liberties.

Universities, Free Speech, and Military Recruiting
(December 16, 2005) - The Solomon Amendment denies all federal funding to universities unless they give military recruiters access and support of exactly the same kind that they give to employers that don't discriminate. In Rumsfeld v. FAIR, the Supreme Court will decide whether this condition on funding violates the First Amendment.

New Patriot Act Update
(October 15, 2005) - Two sections of the "USA Patriot Act" threaten our right to read - one is up for renewal in Congress. Meanwhile, courts are questioning whether the government really needs these extraordinary powers.

Censorship at Ground Zero
(August 30, 2005) - Why are Governor Pataki and the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. threatening the very freedoms that the terrorists were trying to destroy?

Free Expression in Arts Funding: A Public Policy Report
(2003) - A survey of free-expression policies among state and local arts agencies, including ways of anticipating and dealing with attacks on controversial art. Includes background on the arts funding wars of the 1990s, and candid interviews with agency officials.

For additional Materials on Political Speech in 2001-04, go to the Archives Page.


The Free Expression Policy Project began in 2000 to provide empirical research and policy development on tough censorship issues and seek free speech-friendly solutions to the concerns that drive censorship campaigns. In 2004-2007, it was part of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. The FEPP website is now hosted by the National Coalition Against Censorship. Past funders have included the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Educational Foundation of America, the Open Society Institute, and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

All material on this site is covered by a Creative Commons "Attribution - No Derivs - NonCommercial" license. (See http://creativecommons.org) You may copy it in its entirely as long as you credit the Free Expression Policy Project and provide a link to the Project's Web site. You may not edit or revise it, or copy portions, without permission (except, of course, for fair use). Please let us know if you reprint!