It appears that some people have forgotten that they are free to not attend events sponsored by the Federalist Society.
There is a controversy bubbling at George Mason University School of Law because the law school’s chapter of the Federalist Society has invited Nonie Darwish to speak at an event. Darwish has been described as a “notorious Islamophobe” who argues that Islam should be “annihilated.” Some people on campus, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, have asked the law school to disinvite Darwish.
Come on, people. We live in a world where Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gets to speak at the U.N. (to say nothing of Columbia University). Ahmadinejad has been described (by me) as a “notorious a**hole” who argues that the Holocaust “didn’t happen.”
The world is just going to be a lot easier to navigate if the Federalist Society can invite whom they want and the American Constitution Society can invite whom they want…
Let’s distinguish this situation from other cases of controversial speakers. The Federalist Society inviting whomever they want is a lot different than, say, the University of Michigan Law School inviting an anti-gay speaker to talk at commencement. There, Michigan was effectively forcing students to sit and listen to a guy with divisive views.
Here, the Federalist Society isn’t forcing any student to come to the event. If you don’t like what Darwish has to say, don’t go to her Federalist Society talk. When I was in law school, I opted to not go to loads of Federalist Society events. It was no big deal.
To be clear, I’m not defending the Federalist Society’s right to choose their own speaker because I’m secretly anti-Muslim. It appears that Darwish is an ass to all sorts of people:
Darwish does not limit her rhetorical attacks to Muslims. On her personal blog, she wrote: “When I saw and heard American kids singing for Obama, I felt a chill of fear. The scene reminded me of how, as children, we were forced to sing for the dictator.”
So, maybe she’s an idiot. So what? Let her speak. Next week maybe the Federalist Society will invite Louis Farrakhan to balance out the crazy.
Student organizations are allocated budget by the Student Bar Association in order to allow them, among other things, to bring speakers to the law school. Neither the law school nor the university can be taken to endorse such speakers or what they say. Law school administration is not consulted about these invitations, nor should we be. Sometimes speakers are invited who are known to espouse controversial points of view. So be it. So long as they are here, they are free to say whatever is on their mind within the bounds of law. They cannot be silenced and they will not be.
Just as speakers are free to speak, protesters are free to protest. They must do so in a place and in a manner that respects the rights of speakers to speak and listeners to listen, and that is in all other ways consistent with the educational mission of the university. Student organizations which hold contrary points of view have every right to schedule their own programs with their own speakers, and these speakers’ rights will be protected in just the same way.
The law school will not exercise editorial control over the words of speakers invited by student organizations, nor will we take responsibility for them, nor will we endorse or condemn them. There has to be a place in the world where controversial ideas and points of view are aired out and given space. This is that place.”
This seems like a sensible policy. Speakers are allowed to speak, and protesters are allowed to protest. Again, it’s not like Dean Polsby is holding diplomas hostage until the students listen to Darwish’s crazy views. Go to the speech, or don’t go to the speech; law students at George Mason should really be able to make that choice for themselves.
So lay off the Federalist Society on this one. If you are are really that annoyed, have your student organization run some counter programming.
P.S. Speaking of Fed Soc events, Lat is giving a talk tomorrow to the Tulane Federalist Society.