Frequently Searched

Freedom of Speech, Now More Than Ever

September 13, 2017

Thousands of people silently gathered on the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville on Wednesday night, holding aloft candles in peaceful protest of the tragic violence that struck the city last weekend. The Goldwater Institute joins them in condemning those hateful acts of racism and rage.

Their quiet demonstration is the latest exercise of First Amendment rights to capture America’s attention. Today there is an ongoing debate over free speech on college campuses — and instances where speech has been unconstitutionally censored and squelched. From California to Michigan to Vermont, protesters have shouted down speech and stifled debate, at times in violent fashion — harming individuals, damaging property, and leaving the First Amendment in tatters.

In response to this growing assault on liberty, the Goldwater Institute has proposed model legislation to protect and strengthen our constitutional rights. North Carolina is the latest state to enact a law based on the Goldwater Institute’s idea, and today it is being considered in four other states. Jim Manley, a senior attorney at the Goldwater Institute’s Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation, explained in a recent interview how the legislation ensures a peaceful exchange of ideas at our public universities:

We’re in a situation where the first impulse is to shut down speech that someone disagrees with.

Our bill aimsto correct that and open up a dialogue so we can talk about issues that separate us.

We’re putting the First Amendment back at the core of the campus community. We do that by wiping

away speech codes, safe spaces, trigger warnings, and university policies that are designed to protect

people’s feelings. Another aspect of our bill is to call for consequences when students engage in a

‘shout down,’ interfering with the free speech rights of others.

Certainly there is speech we may disagree with, that is despicable, and that cuts against the core of our country. But Manley says censorship isn’t the answer.

“Now more than ever, we need a commitment to free expression and an exchange of ideas so we can talk to each other, rather than resorting to violence. We are firmly on the side of free expression, both for speakers and for protestors, so long as they are there to present an alternative viewpoint — not to silence debate.”

Goldwater in the News this Week

The Goldwater Institute Annual Dinner honoring former world chess champion and human rights activist Garry Kasparov is being held on October 19 in Phoenix. Tickets and sponsorships are available now online.

Listen to Jim Manley’s full radio interview about protecting free speech on campus, streaming online at WHO Newsradio.

Once again, special interest groups are trying to stop parental choice in education. Goldwater Institute senior fellow Jonathan Butcher explains what’s at stake in The Daily Signal.



More on this issue

Donate Now

Help all Americans live freer, happier lives. Join the Goldwater Institute as we defend and strengthen freedom in all 50 states.

Donate Now

Since 1988, the Goldwater Institute has been in the liberty business — defending and promoting freedom, and achieving more than 400 victories in all 50 states. Donate today to help support our mission.

We Protect Your Rights

Our attorneys defend individual rights and protect those who cannot protect themselves.

Need Help? Submit a case.

Get Connected to Goldwater

Sign up for the latest news, event updates, and more.