Patterico's Pontifications

2/21/2020

Free Speech And Ridicule Law Under Microscope At U Of Connecticut

Filed under: General — Dana @ 11:37 am



[guest post by Dana]

The AP reports:

Free speech concerns that were raised following the arrests of two University of Connecticut students accused of saying a racial slur have led state legislators to consider repealing a century-old law that bans ridicule based on race, religion or nationality.

The episode on campus involving two white students in October was recorded on video and sparked protests against racism. Many people applauded their arrests, but civil liberties groups condemned them as an affront to First Amendment rights.

Police said the students, Jarred Karal and Ryan Mucaj, uttered the racial slur several times while walking through the parking lot of a campus apartment complex and were recorded by a black student. They said that they were playing a game that involved saying offensive words and that it was not directed at anyone in particular.

They were charged under a 1917 law that makes it a misdemeanor for anyone who “ridicules or holds up to contempt any person or class of persons, on account of the creed, religion, color, denomination, nationality or race of such person or class of persons.”

Legislation to repeal the law is in the works, and a public hearing on the matter is scheduled for today.

Penalties for the ridicule charge can include up to 30 days in jail.

Opposing views include:

“It is so clearly unconstitutional under the First Amendment that it’s hard to believe that it’s still on the books,” said William Dunlap, a professor at the Quinnipiac University School of Law in North Haven, Connecticut. “It punishes speech based on the content of the speech, and that it is one of the key concepts of the First Amendment — that the government cannot punish speech based on its content.”

…and from the state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, who have asked the repeal law be rejected:

At a time when hate and bias incidents are on the rise, it is critical that the state not remove these types of prohibitions that aim to deter or punish this unacceptable behavior.

Meanwhile, a federal lawsuit has been filed by the two students against the university. They claim that their free speech rights have been violated.

More speech, not less.

–Dana

18 Responses to “Free Speech And Ridicule Law Under Microscope At U Of Connecticut”

  1. Hello.

    Dana (4fb37f)

  2. Free speech concerns that were raised following the arrests of two University of Connecticut students accused of saying a racial slur have led state legislators to consider repealing a century-old law that bans ridicule based on race, religion or nationality.

    This law should absolutely be repealed.

    time123 (36651d)

  3. Yep, it seems like their freedom of speech has been violated and the law should be repealed.

    Nic (896fdf)

  4. What were the motivations behind the 1917 law being passed? That’s the 64,000 question for me. In then-much more hoity toity Connecticut, was it the Irish/Italians/Catholics raising up? Part of a package with some prohibition-like or blue laws.

    urbanleftbehind (184b87)

  5. In defending UConn, the state attorney general’s office has filed court documents saying UConn officials deny any proposed discipline is based on the students’ use of racial slurs, but instead is based on their violation of the “disruptive behavior” provision of the student code.

    Which is a transparent fig-leaf that could be stretched to cover campaigning for an unpopular candidate or cause.

    Ragspierre (d9bec9)

  6. The answer to bad speech is better speech. If you want to root out bigotry, let the bigots identify themselves.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  7. If this isn’t a gift to satirists, what is?

    John B Boddie (286277)

  8. #5: Taken literally, “disruptive behavior” could include mouthing off to administrators.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  9. …or asking the wrong question in class or a debate.

    Ragspierre (d9bec9)

  10. Don’t believe ‘All In The Family’ could be produced and make it to broadcast today.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  11. …or almost any Mel Brooks movie

    Ragspierre (d9bec9)

  12. It could, but Archie would have to receive comeuppance or bewilderment by the 20:00 mark, as many people observe about white guys in modern commercial advertising.

    urbanleftbehind (5eecdb)

  13. Don’t believe ‘All In The Family’ could be produced and make it to broadcast today.

    Much harsher takes on bigotry show up all the time. The recent “Watchmen” series comes to mind. Admittedly not “broadcast.”

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  14. @11.…or almost any Mel Brooks movie

    A consumer must pay to see a Brooks flick in a theater- not licensed commercial broadcaster where it is subjected to editorial standards and practices when telecast over the public airwaves w/commercial content [and, often unbeknownst to viewers, sped up slightly and/or ‘shaved’- often frame by frame- to shorten scenes and expand commercial time available for sale and profitability;] and if it makes it to a cable outlet, which is chiefly unregulated, and where consumers do pay for access, it is still often edited for content, depending on the self-imposed rules and regs of the carrier.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  15. Besides, Archie is president now.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  16. @13. Broadcast is the key. Though it is mildly amusing that Lear ‘developed’ [not created] the whole Bunker thing from the BBC – a government broadcast platform; Archie Bunker is the Alf Garnett character from ‘Till Death Do Us Part’. Back in the day the BBC would broadcast an episode of ‘Till Death Do Us Part’ and then a mirrored episode of ‘All In The Family’ back to back. It was startling to see. It says more about Lear’s capacity to exploit rather than his creative skills; he did the same thing w/ Sanford and Son— a direct ripoff of the BBC’s Steptoe and Son.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  17. The law is clearly unconstitutional. So why didn’t the ACLU go after it? Simple, it helps the left suppress speech they don’t like. It has a chilling effect. Of course, now that its become NEWS, the ACLU has to put out a STATEMENT.

    “fighting words” can be banned because of the threat to public order. But simply using a “bad word” because it offends cannot be outlawed. if so, then laws against profanity and blasphemy are constitutional too.

    rcocean (1a839e)

  18. Youtube had an All in the Family episode where Archie uses a bunch of anti-homosexual slurs. Pansy for one. Of course, the whole point of the episode is to push for tolerance of Gays. But the language upset so many, that the episode got banned.

    rcocean (1a839e)


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