Marquette Warrior: Do Political Scientists Believe in Free Speech?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Do Political Scientists Believe in Free Speech?

This came to us via e-mail:

Ensure Academic Freedom and Freedom of Speech
for APSA Members in Canada

Whereas the APSA is committed to “promoting scholarly research and communication, domestically and internationally; . . . defending the legitimacy of scholarly research into politics and government; . . . encouraging the application of rigorous ethical and intellectual standards in the profession; [and] serving the public, including disseminating research and preparing citizens to be effective citizens and political participants” [];

And whereas the Association in its policy for determining the site of its annual meeting states as a general guideline that the “APSA is committed to high standards of professional conduct and ethics in siting, planning, and conducting its meetings, including protection of academic freedom, equitable access to opportunity, and a commitment to non-discrimination,” and moreover now encourages “enhanced engagement with host cities on state and local issues of importance to the APSA”

And whereas Canada’s Human Rights Commissions (HRCs) have recently sought to suppress speech and impose legal penalties on speakers for expressing opinions on issues ranging from the morality of homosexual conduct and the question of legal recognition of same-sex unions to the threat to freedom posed by violent extremists acting in the name of Islam — speech that, according to all accounts, would be protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States;

And whereas, while we know of no direct suppression of academic freedom that has yet occurred in Canada, yet the writ of Canada’s HRCs runs without evident limit to encompass any speech, academic or otherwise, to which potential complainants take “offense”— and whereas, the arbitrariness and procedurally unconstrained practices of the HRCs create an air of uncertainty regarding whose speech, on what subjects, before what audiences, will be targeted next;

And whereas members of the Association ought to be able at the 2009 annual meeting to present research and argument on controversial topics, such as public policy concerning homosexuality or the character of and proper response to terrorist elements acting in the name of Islam, without fear of legal repercussions of any kind,

THEREFORE we petition the Council and staff of the APSA to take all steps necessary to ensure that academic freedom and free speech, even on controversial topics such as these, are not threatened at the 2009 annual meeting, including soliciting legal advice and seeking the assurance of the Government of Canada and local authorities that the civil rights and liberties of members to free speech and academic freedom will be secure.

To add your name to this petition, please send an e-mail confirming your electronic signature to: (APSA Members Only)

Initial Signatories (institutional affiliations for identification purposes only)

William B. Allen, Michigan State University; Hadley Arkes, Amherst College; Stanley C. Brubaker, Colgate University; Robert L. Clinton, University of Southern Illinois; Patrick J. Deneen, Georgetown University; Matthew J. Franck, Radford University; Robert P. George, Princeton University; Carson Holloway, University of Nebraska at Omaha; Charles R. Kesler, Claremont McKenna College; Harvey C. Mansfield, Harvard University; Paul D. Moreno, Hillsdale College; Richard Morgan, Bowdoin College; Anthony A. Peacock, Utah State University; Ronald J. Pestritto, Hillsdale College; Ellis Sandoz, Louisiana State University; Colleen Sheehan, Villanova University; James R. Stoner, Louisiana State University; Bradley C.S. Watson, St. Vincent College; Bradford P. Wilson, Princeton University; Jean Yarbrough, Bowdoin College

Please direct inquiries either to Bradley Watson at and (724) 805-2145 or to James Stoner at and (225) 578-2538.

Attached was the following statement, outlining free speech problems in Canada (most of which we have blogged on):
What’s the Matter with Canada?

“Freedom of speech is an American concept, so I don’t give it any value.” Canadian Human Rights Commission investigator Dean Steacy1

Canadian Human Rights Commissions have repeatedly used complaints by “offended” parties to initiate legal proceedings against Canadian citizens who have engaged in political speech. As a result, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association has found it necessary to speak out against Human Rights Commissions getting into “the business of restricting free expression of opinion.”2 While such proceedings have not yet been initiated against any scholar, Canada’s Society for Academic Freedom and
Scholarship has raised the concern that “current HRC practice is a danger to the academic freedom of both faculty and students.”3 Canadian human rights commissions have carried out proceedings against:
  • MacLean’s, Canada’s leading periodical, and Mark Steyn, one of Canada’s most prominent political journalists, for publishing excerpts from Steyn’s book critical of radical Islam.4
  • Ezra Levant, publisher of the Western Standard, for re-publishing Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed.5The Catholic Bishop of Calgary, for publishing a pastoral letter against gay marriage.6
  • The Rev. Stephen Boissoin, for criticizing homosexuality in letters to the editor of a local newspaper.7 Rev. Boissoin has been “ordered to desist from communicating his views on this subject ‘in newspapers, by email, on the radio, in public speeches, or on the Internet’ so long as he should live. He has been ordered to pay compensation to” the person offended by his views and “further to make a public recantation of beliefs he still holds.”8
According to David Warren of the Ottawa Citizen: “Before Canada’s ‘human rights’ tribunals, a respondent has none of the defences formerly guaranteed in common law. The truth is no defence, reasonable intention is no defence, nor material harmlessness, there are no rules of evidence, no precedents, nor case law of any kind.”9 The nature of radical Islamism and the relationship of public morality and homosexual conduct are issues of vital public importance to which the scholarship of many political scientists is addressed; and all political scientists have a professional interest in a full and open scholarly debate on such topics. It would be unseemly for the APSA to turn a blind eye to these attacks on freedom of speech, and it is unacceptable for it to risk exposing its own members to them. In Canada’s legal environment, how can the APSA ensure “protection of academic freedom” and “a reasonable basis for feeling welcome” – two key principles of its siting policy10 – for all of its members, regardless of the scholarly opinions they plan to express at the convention?

8 Deafening Silence
9 Show Trial
10 APSA Policy for Siting the Annual Meeting and other Conferences
This, of course, is a response to the actions of the APSA which, faced with a demand from its internal gay lobby that the the city of New Orleans be boycotted (since Louisiana does not recognize gay marriage), refused to boycott the city, but promised to “engage” on the issue. This meant, supposedly, that while the APSA was not necessarily going to boycott states whose policies are not sufficiently “gay friendly,” such places might be discriminated against. Or perhaps just berated.

But if the APSA is going to bring political considerations into the siting of its conventions, what about places whose very liberal and politically correct laws violate free speech?

This petition is, quite simply, a litmus test to determine whether the APSA is willing to uphold the most basic and fundamental of human rights, or whether it’s just another politically correct bunch of liberal and leftist professors.

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Blogger Blazingcatfur said...

Thank you. I hope APSA does cancel, Canada should be considered a pariah nation.

12:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Delighted to see that you've posted the TorontoAPSA petition! There's now a website with the petition and occasional updates of signatories. Former APSA president James Q. Wilson has signed.

6:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is this a joke? I thought The Onion was not out until later this week!

2:43 PM  

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