Law School statement on free speech

Free speech has been topical issue in New Zealand, with controversies at Massey and Auckland universities in past months. lso internationally.

From a statement on free speech from the Dean of the Notre Dame Law School in Indiana, USA ahead of a speaking engagement by William Barr, Attorney General of the United States:

Freedom of speech matters. As Frederick Douglass once said, “To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker”.

Just as speakers are free to speech, protesters are free to protest. They must do so in a place and manner that respects the rights of speakers to speak and listeners to listen…

Notre Dame Law School will neither endorse nor condemn invited speakers. An institution of higher education must be place where controversial ideas and points of view are expressed, heard and discussed.

This is such a place.

The full announcement:

But where politics (and political appointees) are involved it provoked the ‘only free speech that I like’ brigade. Tweets in response condemned both Barr and Notre Dame Law School. Like:

Winston Smith @2plus2isSTILL4

The invitation brings shame to your institution. It is a statement that you do actually accord respect to a man who has disgraced himself and his office.

Tessa Sainz  @tessasainz

So being a traitor to this country and party to unprecedented corruption is a “controversial point of view” the University deems worthy of discussion? Does @NotreDame gain anything from Barr’s corruption? I’m guessing there’s a lot of financial reasons behind this decision

KB851  @KB8511 (Lawyer and College Faculty)

So now Notre Dame joins Florida in completely screwing this up People are smart They get there is a difference between a conservative voice and allowing trump jr or Barr to do NOTHING but lie You are dead wrong ND as are you, my alma mater, Florida

I am ashamed

Megan Schweppenheiser  @schweppenheiser

There is still time to boycott. Who would want to listen to that liar and gadlighter who is complicit in bringing down our democracy? Don’t go. Non-violent protest. Bring whistles. Stand up for the rule of law and ethics! Don’t give him a platform!

There were more bitter political opponents.

But there were also a smattering of supportive tweets:

Mary Miskimon  @MaryEM106

The only reason Bill Barr is controversial is because students disagree with his boss. That’s not controversial; that’s diverse thought, and it’s what we do here in America. It’s sad that ND has to explain to the students it admitted (presumably bright).

Joseph Rio  @josephwrio

It’s utterly amazing that Dean Cole has to issue such a common-sense statement. But judging by the replies on this thread by people who evidently believe they have been blessed with revealed truth, it was absolutely necessary. Difference of opinion is not evil.

Politically and on free speech issues the USA is a badly divided country.

American Conservative on Barr’s speech at Notre Dame – Bill Barr: Religious Liberty Warrior

Last week, US Attorney General William Barr gave an extraordinary speech about religious liberty at Notre Dame Law School. I have not been able to locate a transcript, and only found time to watch it this morning. Here’s a video of the entire thing. The speech itself begins at about the four-minute mark.

The AG begins by talking about the capacity for self-government, meaning not the form of administration of a liberal democracy, but the ability of individuals to master their own passions, and subject them to reason. Can we handle freedom? That, says Barr, is a question that preoccupied the Founders.

No society can exist without the capacity to restrain vice, he goes on to say. If you depend only on the government to do this, you get tyranny. (This, by the way, is what’s happening in China; many Chinese actually support the tyrannical Social Credit System, because communism destroyed civil society and social trust.) But, says Barr, licentiousness is another form of tyranny. People enslaved by their own appetites make community life impossible. (This, I would say, is what we are more endangered by in America today … and it will ultimately call forth tyranny, Chinese-style.)

Barr offers this quotation from Edmund Burke:

“Men are qualified for civil liberty, in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites; in proportion as their love of justice is above their rapacity; in proportion as their soundness and sobriety of understanding is above their vanity and presumption; in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good, in preference to the flattery of knaves.”

Why is religion a public good? Because, says Barr, it “trains people to want what is good.” It helps to frame a society’s moral culture, and instills moral discipline. No secular creed has emerged that can do what religion does, he says. And by casting religion out, we are dismantling the foundation of our public morality.

“What we call ‘values’ today are nothing more than mere sentimentality, drawing on the vapor trails of Christianity,” says the AG.

Barr took the gloves off, saying that religion is not jumping to its death; it’s being pushed.

“This is not decay,” he said. “This is organized destruction.”

He named secularists in academia, media, and elsewhere as figures who are not neutral at all, but have rather inculcated a kind of religiosity in their own project of destroying religion. They conduct their own inquisitions and excommunications for heresy.

Here’s a link to AG Barr’s entire speech. 

Leave a comment


  1. Gezza

     /  16th October 2019

    The Dean has got it absolutely right.

    The twiiterers spewing their ignorance, hate, & venom don’t even seem to have taken note of the topic of Barr’s speech. Hopeless lot.

    They have idea how precious freedom of speech really is. That’s the problem when you grow up in a country where it’s become so common that the truly ignorant & intolerant take it for granted.

    • Gezza

       /  16th October 2019

      *no idea

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  16th October 2019

        I wish that Americans wouldn’t call Notre Dame ‘Noter Daym.’

        • Gezza

           /  16th October 2019

          What can you expect from folk who also pronounce en route as “N rout”?

          Altho, to be fair, as they speak American, which is a largely phonetic version of English, at least they are consistent in pronouncing everything phonetically in American.

          There do seem to be rather a lot of them who say the word nooclear (nuclear) as “noo-kyew-la”, tho. I put this down to ignorance or poor education. However, as this is a considerable digression from the main topic I shall leave it that.

  2. David

     /  16th October 2019

    Lets see an end of the hecklers veto. The supposed liberals always seem to be the most illiberal and the ones engaged in further education seem to be the ones least receptive to learning something from a different perspective.

  3. Alan Wilkinson

     /  16th October 2019

    Meanwhile in the land of the free:

    Straight bureaucratic fascism is the reason I have boycotted that country since 9/11 gave GWB licence to kill and arbitrarily imprison.

    • Gezza

       /  16th October 2019

      British holidaymakers who accidentally drove into US spend days detained with infant

      Lol. 😄

      This is happening in your hero Trump’s Amerika, Al !!!

      Unbelievable. Only YOU could find a way to make it look like some former President’s fault.

      Stop embarrassing your family, please! 😶

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  16th October 2019

        If you think this behaviour by the US border authorities doesn’t long predate Trump you are more clueless than I thought, G.

        • Gezza

           /  16th October 2019

          It actually long predates 9/11, Al. My first experience with US border control was in October 1988, on a business trip to London, passing thru LAX.

          I had several stop offs, travelling there & back.

          Jesus, US Immigration were bloody horrible. The worst border crew I encountered. Impatient, rude, arrogant (snapped their fingers at people queued up in what seemed like chromed cattle pens) “Hurry up!”

          Even the black female immigration officer was a snarling nazi.

        • Gezza

           /  16th October 2019

          PS: Neverthess, the current US Moron-in-Chief is the only President I’ve heard constantly (& often vacuously) praising “Our great law enforcement, Our great ICE officers, Our great Border Patrol” no matter what horrors, indignities & human rights breaches they inflict on varioua groups & individuals.

          And this is the same prick who in reality cares so little about them (or anyone but himself) that he refused to pay them for several weeks & caused a shutdown because he was throwing a tantrum at the Dems.

  4. adamsmith1922

     /  16th October 2019

    BTW Universities in NZ are not renowned for allowing free speech or acceptance of varying views

  5. Gotta love the irony of someone called Winston Smith condemning free speech. Even has the handle 2plus2isSTILL4, ignoring that in the book this phrase is preceded by the words “Freedom is the freedom to say…”

    It’s up there with the fellow who once defended Trump’s support of eminent domain with the handle “JohnGault”!

  1. Law School statement on free speech — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition

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