No free speech at Yale: Student radicals shut down talk about First Amendment case

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

A female, conservative, Christian lawyer was accosted, jeered, physically threatened, and shouted down at a panel discussion at Yale Law School because enraged students acted on lies perpetrated by the leftist propagandists of the ultra-rich Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

The SPLC, which holds even today that the nearly extinct Ku Klux Klan is a powerful force threatening to undermine society, falsely claims the conservative Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is an “anti-LGBT hate group,” so the appearance of an ADF representative on the campus triggered a rage-filled reaction from indoctrinated students.

The incident took place at a March 10 event that was hosted by the conservative Yale Federalist Society and featured Kristen Waggoner of the conservative Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and Monica Miller of the left-wing American Humanist Association.

The far-left protesters hate ADF because it is a pro-Christian organization whose views represent mainstream Christianity, or at least mainstream Christianity as it was before the woke communist Left began its march through the pews.

Religious freedom legal victories

ADF is abhorred in woke legal circles because it has won several religious freedom cases, including 2018’s Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission (pdf). That is the famous case in which bakery owner Jack C. Phillips refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding because he has religious objections to same-sex marriage. The couple brought charges under Colorado law and the state civil rights commission issued a cease-and-desist order against the bakery. Eventually, the Supreme Court ruled for the baker, finding the state law violated his First Amendment freedoms of expression and religious exercise.

In an opinion written by then-Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Supreme Court found that Phillips did not receive the “neutral and respectful consideration” to which he was entitled. “The Civil Rights Commission’s treatment of his case has some elements of a clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs that motivated his objection,” Kennedy wrote.

The court noted that one commissioner said at a meeting that “Phillips can believe ‘what he wants to believe,’ but cannot act on his religious beliefs ‘if he decides to do business in the state.’”

The same commissioner subsequently made the following statement, lumping religious believers in with Nazis and slaveholders:

“Freedom of religion and religion has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, whether it be slavery, whether it be the Holocaust, whether it be—I mean, we—we can list hundreds of situations where freedom of religion has been used to justify discrimination. And to me it is one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use to—to use their religion to hurt others.”

This, of course, is what the Left today believes: Religious freedom must give way to government power.

ADF defended Christian students’ right to free speech

But wedding cakes and same-sex marriage were not under discussion on the day in question at Yale. People were gathered to hear about a case known as Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski.

The case stretches back to 2016 when Chike Uzuegbunam, a student at Georgia Gwinnett College, a public college in Lawrenceville, Georgia, was on school grounds distributing literature and sharing his Christian beliefs when a college official approached him. The official advised Uzuegbunam that he was violating the rules by not speaking inside of one of the school’s two tiny officially approved campus “speech zones” where students were allowed to express themselves. Joseph Bradford, another student involved the First Amendment lawsuit, censored himself after learning how officials treated Uzuegbunam.

At issue was whether plaintiffs could sue over constitutional violations that did not cause economic harm. The college argued, stupidly, that Uzuegbunam’s religious speech rose to the level of “fighting words.” When school officials realized their grotesque mistake, they decided to rescind the policy to save face and argued that because the policy was gone they should get off scot-free for their assault on the students’ constitutional rights. For their part, the students agreed injunctive relief was no longer available but insisted that the case was not moot and that the court should nonetheless pass judgment on the school’s behavior. They argued that the case was still alive because they had sought nominal damages to make a point.

A federal district court ruled against the students, finding the claim for nominal damages was not enough to establish legal standing. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit upheld the dismissal.

But the Supreme Court disagreed, and with the assistance of Waggoner who personally argued the case before the high court, Uzuegbunam prevailed in an 8-1 decision (pdf) on March 8, 2021.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the court’s opinion which seven justices –including all three members of the liberal bloc— joined.

“For purposes of this appeal, it is undisputed that Uzuegbunam experienced a completed violation of his constitutional rights when respondents enforced their speech policies against him. Because ‘every violation [of a right] imports damage,’ … nominal damages can redress Uzuegbunam’s injury even if he cannot or chooses not to quantify that harm in economic terms.”

The lone dissenter was –surprise, surprise— the bizarre John Roberts, the conniving Chief Justice who routinely backs away from dispensing justice in complex cases because he thinks it somehow makes the Supreme Court look bad.

“The Court sees no problem with turning judges into advice columnists,” Roberts wrote in his lonely dissent. “In its view, the common law and (to a lesser extent) our cases require that federal courts open their doors to any plaintiff who asks for a dollar. I part ways with the Court regarding both the framework it applies and the result it reaches.”

In June of this year Uzuegbunam and Bradford settled the lawsuit in exchange for a payment of more than $800,000 by the college. Georgia Gwinnett College got off easy.

Woke assault on panel discussion

Which brings us to the March 10 panel that united the Alliance Defending Freedom and the American Humanist Association in the common cause of defending free speech on campus. Both groups backed the students in the case and the purpose of the panel was to demonstrate that a conservative Christian and a liberal atheist could set aside their differences and embrace the First Amendment, according to the Washington Free Beacon (WFB).

The American Humanist Association’s Miller said her group supported Uzuegbunam’s cause because “a lot of our clients are LGBT.”

If the lower court ruling remained on the books, “and LGBT rights were violated in the South, we wouldn’t be able to help them,” Miller added.

Interestingly, WFB reported that Miller characterized the ADF as a “hate group” during the event, perhaps out of fear of repercussions from her own people. Her admission makes her a collaborator with evil in the eyes of the woke and suggests she suffers from a kind of cognitive dissonance. Maybe there is hope for her if she ever comes to her senses – though betting on the future sanity of hardcore left-wingers is a risky thing to do.

Miller said lawyers have to keep the lines of communication open with the other side. “As lawyers, we have to put aside our differences and talk to opposing counsel,” she told the media outlet. “If you can’t talk to your opponents, you can’t be an effective advocate.”

The panel discussion was invaded by more than 100 woke Yale Law School students who tried to shut it down. The law students “attempted to shout down a bipartisan panel on civil liberties, intimidating attendees and causing so much chaos that police were eventually called to escort panelists out of the building.”

When law professor Kate Stith began introducing Waggoner, the interlopers stood up holding anti-ADF signs. Stith was forced to stop speaking as one of the protesters told a Federalist Society member she would “literally fight you, bitch.” As things heated up, Stith reminded the audience of Yale’s free speech policies that forbid any protest that “interferes with speakers’ ability to be heard and of community members to listen.” She was heckled and then responded by telling those taunting her to “grow up.”

Protesters then escalated their harassment of the panelists and loudly claimed that their effort to de-platform Waggoner constituted “free speech.” Stith told them to quiet down or “I’m going to have to ask you to leave, or help you leave.”

The activists left the room as one screamed “Fuck you, FedSoc” on his way out. In the corridor they started to stomp, shriek, sing, and pound on the wall, making it hard for the audience to hear the panel. They chanted “protect trans kids” and “shame, shame” loud enough to disrupt classes in progress.

According to the WFB report, Ellen Cosgrove, associate dean of the law school, witnessed everything but did nothing to stop the activists even though the disruption violated the university’s free speech policies.

“At times, things seemed in danger of getting physical. The protesters were blocking the only exit from the event, and two members of the Federalist Society said they were grabbed and jostled as they attempted to leave,” the report said.

“It was disturbing to witness law students whipped into a mindless frenzy,” Waggoner was quoted saying. “I did not feel it was safe to get out of the room without security.”

“As the panel concluded, police officers arrived to escort Waggoner and Miller out of the building,” according to the WFB.

Police presence hurt the disrupters’ feelings

The signers of the open letter whined about the police showing up.

“The danger of police violence in this country is intensified against Black LGBTQ people, and particularly Black trans people,” the letter states. “Police-related trauma includes, but is certainly not limited to, physical harm. Even with all of the privilege afforded to us at YLS, the decision to allow police officers in as a response to the protest put YLS’s queer student body at risk of harm.”

The letter attacked Stith for urging the temper tantrum-throwing protesters to “grow up,” and the Federalist Society for organizing the event, which “profoundly undermined our community’s values of equity and inclusivity.”

“Understandably, a large swath of YLS students felt that FedSoc’s decision to lend legitimacy to this hate group [i.e. ADF] by inviting its general counsel to speak at YLS profoundly undermined our community’s values of equity and inclusivity at a time when LGBTQ youth are actively under attack in Texas, Florida, and other states.”

ADF’s presence on campus was “deeply disrespectful” and the “faculty moderator’s dismissal of our peaceful action as childish” were hurtful to the left-wing snowflakes. They were offended that “armed police officers were called into the Sterling Law Building in response to our exercise of peaceful protest.”

Except, as shown above, it was hardly a peaceful protest and breaking up a free speech event is something only stormtroopers would do. You would think a bunch of lawyers in training would know that.

The WFB observed, it was “unclear whether the letter’s long list of signatures reflects genuine consensus or mass social pressure. In group chats, Discord posts, and emails reviewed by the Free Beacon, students sought to shame anyone who hadn’t actively condemned the event.

‘It feels wild to me that we’re at this point in history and some folks are still not immediately signing a letter like this,’ one student wrote to her class GroupMe. ‘I’m sure you realize that not signing the letter is not a neutral stance.’”

“Merely attending the panel was portrayed as an act of bigotry,” according to the WFB. “Before the event got underway, activists littered the room with flyers denouncing everyone in the audience.”

“Providing a veneer of respectability is part of what allows this group to do work that attacks the very lives of LGBTQ people in the U.S. & globally,” the flyers stated. “Through your attendance you are personally complicit, along with the Federalist Society, in platforming and legitimizing this hate group.”

But the student Maoists gave attendees the opportunity to redeem themselves by leaving the panel discussion.

“You know the power of this place because you go here. If you choose to leave the event, we appreciate your solidarity and encourage further reflection on the harm done by organizations that normalize bad actors.”

This disturbed thinking is more typical of law school graduates nowadays than one might expect.

Take the example of pro-Black Lives Matter cop-haters Colinford Mattis and Urooj Rahman, who firebombed a police car in New York City during the Democrat-approved George Floyd race riots of 2020. Mattis graduated with a degree from New York University School of Law after earning a bachelor’s degree in the pseudo-discipline of sociology from Princetown University. Rahman graduated from the Fordham University School of Law. It is unclear if they have been disbarred.

This is what Yale and most of the nation’s law schools are teaching their students, so it’s not surprising that law students actually believe this ugly nonsense.

Southern Poverty Law Center designated ADF as a “hate group”

The lies about the Alliance Defending Freedom’s hostility to LGBT individuals –as opposed to the radical LGBT political agenda— were invented by the scandal-plagued Southern Poverty Law Center. The SPLC’s millionaire huckster founder, fundraising impresario and conman Morris Dees, and its president, Richard Cohen, were forced out in 2019 for alleged racist and sexist behavior toward employees.

Operating from its headquarters dubbed the Poverty Palace, in Montgomery, Alabama, it is SPLC’s mission to smear mainstream conservatives and Christians by conflating them with real-life extremists and terrorists. The SPLC also dishonestly treats opposition to illegal or legal immigration, open borders, and multiculturalism as hate, and political expression of those views as hate speech.

The SPLC has assets of nearly four-fifths of a billion dollars ($769.7 million) as it disclosed to the IRS in a form dated June 6, 2022. To put that figure in perspective, it is half the operating budget of Georgetown University. In other words, the SPLC is funded well enough by guilt-ridden liberals and kooky woke activists to keep lying shamelessly about its enemies well into the 22nd century.

The SPLC has a record of promoting hate crime hoaxes, as well as downplaying or ignoring bias incidents against white people and Jews targeted on university campuses by Islamist and anti-Israel groups. In 2018, the SPLC coughed up more than $3 million as part of a legal settlement to former Muslim extremist Maajid Nawaz for wrongfully placing him and his now-defunct counter-extremism think tank, Quilliam, on an anti-Muslim hate list.

The SPLC also promotes what it calls the “Trump Effect,” which it claims caused thousands of cases of prejudice, bullying, and hate crimes in America’s schools. The argument, weakly backed by anecdotes, is that the 2016 election of President Donald Trump somehow let loose a tsunami of racial intolerance, white supremacism, and related hate crimes against minorities.

Supporters of the woke mob –most of Yale Law School’s student body— falsely claimed (pdf) in an open letter based on an SPLC report that ADF “defended state-sanctioned sterilization of trans people.”

Specifically, SPLC designated ADF as an “anti-LGBT hate group,” claiming ADF “defended state-sanctioned sterilization of trans people abroad” in a brief filed with the European Court of Human Rights in 2015.

In reality, ADF International filed a brief (pdf) with the European court about how governments should deal with changing a person’s sex designation –male or female— on official documents. ADF argued that European Union member states should be allowed to decide for themselves if medical sex-reassignment surgery should be a precondition for changing a person’s legally recognized sex in the public record.

The ADF says on its website that it “condemns forced sterilization of any person.”

“This bogus claim originated at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which deliberately spread false information about ADF International’s legal brief supporting the rights of European countries to establish their own laws, rather than have them imposed by international courts acting outside their jurisdiction. The legal brief had nothing to do with forced sterilization. Again, this claim is utterly and completely false.”

The ADF simply takes conservative Christian positions. As it states on its website, it doesn’t hate anyone:

“ADF believes that all people are made in the image of God and that everyone is worthy of dignity and respect. While ADF takes legal and policy positions that are informed by a biblically-based understanding of marriage, human sexuality, and the sanctity of life, we respect the human dignity of those with whom we disagree and win legal cases that also protect their freedom to express and advocate for their beliefs,” ADF states on its website.

Contrary to leftist propaganda, Christians don’t hate LGBT people. (Or is it LGBTQ or LGBTQ+ or LGBTQIA or LGBTQIA+ or LGBTIQAPD? It’s hard keeping up with the latest initialism du jour the movement uses. The initialisms keep changing and getting longer.)

But Christians do oppose this movement’s ever-expanding agenda and it is their right as Americans to do so.

Kristen Waggoner, who will become ADF’s president on October 1, condemned the disruption of the campus event, according to WFB.

“Yale Law students are our future attorneys, judges, legislators, and corporate executives,” Waggoner said.

“We must change course and restore a culture of free speech and civil discourse at Yale and other law schools, or the future of the legal profession in America is in dire straits.”

Photo: Washington Free Beacon (YouTube)

This column by Matthew Vadum appeared Sept. 8, 2022, at FrontPageMag. (Link rot. New URL for FrontPageMag article).