First Amendment rights are under fire on the UC Berkeley campus according to conservative student groups.
The Berkeley College Republicans and Young America's Foundation have filed a lawsuit, saying the university discriminates against conservative guest speakers who are not being allowed to speak on campus. An event with conservative commentator Ann Coulter was scheduled to take place later today, but was canceled after threats of violent protests over Coulter's controversial views.
Coulter tweeted on Wednesday that the university canceled her speech saying:
"I'm so sorry Berkeley canceled my speech. I'm so sorry YAF acquiesced in the cancelation. And I'm so sorry for free speech crushed by thugs."
The school says it had never been officially scheduled in the first place.
Following news of Coulter's cancellation, the ACLU tweeted out a statement from ACLU's National Legal Director David Cole.
"The unacceptable threats of violence that have led to the 'heckler' veto' of Ann Coulter's speech at Berkeley are inconsistent with free speech principles that protect us all from government overreach. Hateful speech has consequences, particularly for people of color, LGBTQ people, immigrants, and others who have been historically marginalized. But if the government gets to decide which speech counts as hate speech, the pwoers that be may later feel free to censor any speech they don't like."
"For the future of our democracy, we must protect bigoted speech from government censorship. On college campuses, that means that the best way to combat hateful speech is through counter-speech, vigorous and creative protest, and debate, not threats of violence or censorship."
It was just the ACLU that got in on the free speech action. Comedian Bill Maher admonished the one-time cradle of free speech on his show Real Time with Bill Maher last week.
Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, attempted to correct the record in a message to the campus community on Wednesday saying:
“Contrary to some press reports and circulating narratives,” he wrote, “the UC Berkeley administration did not cancel the Coulter event and has never prohibited Ms. Coulter from coming on campus. Instead, we received a request to provide a venue on one single day, chosen unilaterally by a student group without any prior consultation with campus administration or law enforcement.”