8.2.04

GETTING THE RULES RIGHT. A First Amendment protection for yobbery at college sporting events? So suggests this USA Today article. Fortunately, some people have some sense left.
Kermit Hall, president of Utah State University, is an expert on First Amendment issues. He says free speech at public universities is ''at once the most obvious and the most paradoxical of constitutional principles'' -- obvious because the role of open expression is essential to academic freedom and paradoxical because it must be balanced against imperatives for civility and respect.

But Hall says the Maryland case is not a close call. He believes public universities have not only a right to eject students who chant obscenities but a responsibility to do so in consideration of others' rights to watch a game in a safe setting. Hall says students should be warned first, then have their tickets pulled.
Quite right. Cold Spring Shops is pleased to call attention to academic administrators who get things right. Utah State's student code is reasonable as such things go, confining student responsibilities to prepare for classes and mind their manners. No "inappropriately directed laughter" here. There is freedom to assemble not limited to free speech zones no larger than the mainsail on a Laser.

I will let the experts in political theory fire away at me, but my sense is that the First Amendment protects criticism of the Government, not yobbery directed at basketball players. Quoting from Federalist LI,
In a free government, the security for civil rights must be the same as that for religious rights. It consists in the one case in the multiplicity of interests, and in the other, in the multiplicity of sects. The degree of security in both cases will depend on the number of interests and sects; and this may be presumed to depend on the extent of country and number of people comprehended under the same government.
The quote suggests to me the bundling of freedoms later enumerated under the First Amendment. The context is the protection of the rights of minorities against the interests of majorities. Spectators at sporting events do not qualify as factions influencing government policies. Kick the yobs out, I say.

SECOND SECTION: U.S.S. Clueless, in a defense of propagandist Michael Moore against accusations of treason, makes a similar point about the role of the First Amendment.
That's why the First Amendment was proposed; except for its clauses relating to religion, it is intended to protect the right of citizens to speak and write criticism of the government without legal peril. More broadly, and including the clauses relating to religion, the real point of the First Amendment is to protect what could be referred to as freedom of conscience, the freedom of each person to form opinions and to make moral decisions.
The interpretation of its purpose is slightly different: Federalist LI clearly suggests that multiplicity of interest and multiplicity of sect are parallel freedoms. The construction of the First Amendment to apply to political speech is evident in Mr DenBeste's argument. Holding harsh views of the opposing team's basketball players does not qualify for such protection.

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