Free speech means free for all

Letter from Karen Porter, Daily Local News, 9/1/15 (not online at their site)

I probably disagree with Lincoln University’s Prof. Kaukab Siddique on most issues. In fact, his publicized opinions on many issues are odious to me.

However, I disagree just as much with State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams’ call for Lincoln University to discipline Prof. Siddique. Sen. Williams’ words are just as dangerous as Prof. Siddique’s opinions. We can dismiss the professor’s opinions as absurd. However, Sen. Williams is a public official elected to a position of public trust and a position in which he should protect our freedoms, not try to take them away.

We live in the United States, not some totalitarian country with no civil or human rights. Sen. Williams’ call for discipline of this professor frightens me more than Prof. Siddique’s often absurd easily dismissible opinions. For a public official to call for squelching anyone’s First Amendment freedom – a freedom so many have fought and died for – is a travesty and a disservice to the senator’s constituents. I teach a graduate course in International Communications Law (and I have taught it both here and in Russia), and a huge part of that course is First Amendment freedom – and the lack thereof in many parts of the world. Sen. Williams would do well to take my course.

Sen. Williams should be the one disciplined, not the professor, whose opinions we can dismiss as being on the fringe. Sen. Williams is not supposed to be on the fringe, but that’s where his “call for discipline” takes us. Sen. Williams is treading on dangerous ground – much more dangerous than the opinions he attacks. He can disagree with the professor and make his disagreement known in many ways. However, he has no right to use his elected position of power to censor speech. I have seen firsthand where suppressed speech takes a society, and it isn’t pretty.

I urge Lincoln’s President Richard Green to ignore this kind of official pressure and to protect his faculty’s First Amendment rights and academic freedom. Once those rights and freedom are lost, particularly when stolen by public officials, there’s no going back. The citizens of too many other countries have already learned this lesson. Sen. Williams needs a course on constitutional law.

Karen Porter, esq.
West Chester

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Filed under Karen Porter, Rights, Justice, Law

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