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  • The dividing line between free expression of religion and free speech

    Posted by TM Lutas on August 29th, 2016 (All posts by )

    Clemson University has stepped into controversy by enforcing its free speech zone on a clear case of religious expression. An off campus preacher came on campus to invite students to pray with him. This was shut down as a violation of the university policy requiring an approval process and limiting activity to free speech zones. Unfortunately for Clemson, what was going on was not solely free speech. It was free exercise of religion as well.

    Clemson University’s overall rating of respect of individual rights in education is low. It is rated red by FIRE (its lowest rating) but not for its facility policy which is marked green (FIRE’s highest rating). According to a Clemson official in their media relations department, there is no restrictive policy on religious expression just like there is no restrictive policy on freedom of the press. So why is Clemson able to restrict religious expression but not journalism under their free speech zone policy?

    At posting time, there is no answer.

     

    17 Responses to “The dividing line between free expression of religion and free speech”

    1. Mike K Says:

      Waiting for Muslims to challenge in 3, 2, 1….

      I expect a Muslim foot bath and prayer room by Christmas. Whoops ! Winter Solstice.

    2. Mrs. Davis Says:

      Hare, Hare, Krishna, Krishna

      Getcher Watchtower here. Big story…

    3. PenGun Says:

      “Unfortunately for Clemson, what was going on was not solely free speech. It was free exercise of religion as well.”

      Interesting. So what part of the ‘free exercise of religion’ is not speech?

    4. dearieme Says:

      “So what part of the ‘free exercise of religion’ is not speech?”

      Burning heretics. Hanging witches.

    5. TM Lutas Says:

      PenGun – Since you’re from Canada, you might not have read the details of the US first amendment. Here’s the text.

      —-
      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.
      —-

      The freedom to freely exercise one’s faith is protected separately from freedom of speech as is the freedom of the press. Both the press and the religious speak. Speaking is a fundamental component of both these two freedoms. But Clemson is simultaneously maintaining that restrictions on religious freedom are automatically included in their free speech zone policy while the policy does not offer any restrictions on freedom of the press.

      In normal america, all five of the freedoms protected by the 1st amendment are similarly protected. There are some minimal time, place, and manner restrictions on all of them but it’s hands off for the most part on all fronts without favoring one of these freedoms over the other. Clemson is stepping all over that traditional constitutional interpretation and elevating freedom of the press over freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

    6. Subotai Bahadur Says:

      Quoting what I said this morning elsewhere about this atrocity:

      42 USC 1983 of the US Federal statutes.

      1) Clemson accepts Federal government funds, and therefore is subject to Federal regulation.
      2) 42 USC 1983 makes it an actionable offense for a government official to deny the civil rights of anyone under color of law.
      3) It is one of the very few exceptions in American law where sovereign immunity DOES NOT hold. The organization AND the specific officials may be sued personally with no immunity for damages for the violation of civil rights.
      4) This is the same statute, and the same legal path that convicted felons use to sue prisons and jails. The fact that there is no other path still remaining for redress of grievances by the general public against schools and the government in general says much about how they view us.

      Subotai Bahadur

      And in reference to Pengun, he/she/it is Canadian. In Canada, the purpose of the Canadian Constitution [in both its written and unwritten parts as codified in the Constitution Act of 1982 is to allow freedom except when the government wants to restrict it. There are no absolutes, and like in Britain, the Parliament can do anything. It is a different viewpoint than ours.

      The UK and Canada views the government as the guardian ad litem for the people who are viewed as legally incompetent and in their custody. The American view in the Constitution as written is that the government is the employee, agent [with revocable agency], and servant of the people who are competent to determine their own fate. Part of the problem we face today, is that both major parties have adopted the UK/Canadian view with that additional perk of being able to line their pockets and be above the law completely. That view is not agreed to by the American people, or at least not all of them, and the issue is currently in dispute.

    7. PenGun Says:

      “Clemson is stepping all over that traditional constitutional interpretation and elevating freedom of the press over freedom of religion and freedom of speech.”

      I may be confused, but it looks more like, to the same standard.

    8. TM Lutas Says:

      Subotai Bahadur – If you’re curious, I think this page has a picture of PenGun:
      https://www.dpreview.com/members/5649468954/overview

      PenGun – Clemson does not actually have a policy restricting freedom of religion. It does not have a policy restricting freedom of the press. It does have a policy restricting freedom of speech by non-Clemson associated people on campus. How is it equal treatment when two freedoms that do not have explicit policies are not treated similarly and only one of them is treated as if it doesn’t exist as a separate right?

    9. Subotai Bahadur Says:

      TM Lutas Says:
      August 29th, 2016 at 11:10 pm

      Wo3 de5 ma1 he2 ta1 de5 feng1kuang2 de5 wai4sheng5 dou1 !

    10. PenGun Says:

      “How is it equal treatment when two freedoms that do not have explicit policies are not treated similarly and only one of them is treated as if it doesn’t exist as a separate right?”

      It does have a policy restricting freedom of speech by non-Clemson associated people on campus.

      I dunno. As you point out, it’s the non Clemson people kept in a box. Makes sense to me. I mean you sure don’t want me showing up and trashing the entire concept you hold dear.

      That is my picture. ;)

    11. TM Lutas Says:

      PenGun – I think you have not properly considered what a university is supposed to be. In that setting, you do indeed want people showing up and trashing the entire concept that others hold dear. That’s a major part of the mission of academia, to strengthen people so that they can successfully defend what they believe in and consider alternate intellectual beliefs to replace ideas that can’t be successfully defended. But that sort of free access has to be for all sides. No playing favorites or you betray the mission of the university. The trashing has to be within certain parameters agreed to ahead of time but otherwise unchallenged.

      I very likely could manage to piss off college administrators with free exercise of religion that did not say a single unsolicited word were I of a mind to. That’s not generally how it works but there are exceptional circumstances…

      But I don’t want to forget to mention, the whole point of the post in the first place is that Clemson is not properly treating freedom to exercise. That’s separate from speech but everybody’s so used to getting worked up about freedom of speech that the impulse is to turn something that is not a freedom of speech issue and make it one.

    12. Ginny Says:

      The thinking on freedom of – and indeed to – religion – has become so hazy and clouded, discussion is often disturbingly stupid and authoritarian. I suspect that the framers would be surprised by how much of the speech and religion rhetoric is freedom from – listening to, hearing about, being in any way made uncomfortable by another’s exercise of these rights.

    13. Anonymous Says:

      SB and Ginny,
      Well said.

      Death6

    14. Anonymous Says:

      Ginny – I think that you’re right and the only thing keeping us from having a major flashpoint is the mistaken viewpoint that this is a country that has a vast christian majority. That’s no longer the case. When the large denominations start seriously cranking up missionary work, I expect there to be trouble and overfull jails with catholics and others committing civil disobedience.

    15. PenGun Says:

      No university should need to provide a soapbox to anyone. Certainly not anyone not affiliated with it. You are allowed to set them up, I believe, anywhere it’s not forbidden.

      That an institution might want to limit the free expression of every person with an agenda, that shows up, just speaks to sanity. You can be a ‘principled person’ almost anywhere you want already. ;)

    16. Anonymous Says:

      PenGun – The whole conversation is to what extent is a government bound by the restriction that it follows the rule of law and may not make any law restricting free exercise of religion allowed to make blanket bans on religious expression. It’s not sane that painted naked ladies wander Times Square on most days but that’s one of the consequences of these sorts of restrictions. Sanity, as a measuring stick, went out the window a couple of hundred years ago. You cannot discriminatorily apply sanity as a yardstick to some rights but not to other rights.

      Do you see the problem now? This discriminatory treatment is exactly what Clemson is doing.

    17. PenGun Says:

      “It’s not sane that painted naked ladies wander Times Square on most days”

      You have a problem with naked women? Your Muslim brothers seem to be in your corner here.

      That you would want to set up your crappy soapbox where you are not wanted speaks to, your agenda of disrupting their operation. This in the name of religious freedom, is just hypocrisy.