Alliance Defending Freedom sent a letter last week to the University of Minnesota–Morris after one of its professors encouraged students to trash all copies of an independent student publication because of the views it expressed. The following day, all the papers disappeared from their bins. Police say they are investigating.
Since that time, another edition of the frequently satire-driven conservative
paper has been defaced. The ADF letter asks the university itself to
investigate, publicly condemn the thefts, and take steps to protect the paper
from further violations of its First Amendment freedoms.
“Universities should encourage the free exchange of ideas. They should not
stand idly by while some people in the campus community engage in unconstitutional
censorship,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel David Hacker. “While professors and
other members of the UMM community are entitled to their personal opinions,
they are not entitled to incite theft or deface property.”
In November of last year, an entire edition of The North Star, an
independent campus publication published by a university-approved student
organization, was stolen from campus distribution bins the day after UMM
Professor Paul Z. Myers wrote a blog post inciting students to trash the paper
because of its views. Myers, who called the newspaper a “disgrace,” wrote in
the post that, “the North Star has worn out its welcome and must go.
Treat their scattered papers as a hate-filled trash and dispose of it
Two months later, approximately 100 additional copies of The
North Star were defaced after a pro-life article was featured on the cover.
UMM has not publicly condemned any of the actions.
The ADF letter explains that “regardless of Professor Myers’s right to express
his opinion about The North Star, as a government employee he has
chilled The North Star’s speech by advocating that people steal the
paper and throw it in the trash. When a government employee engages in acts
that ‘would chill or silence a person of ordinary firmness from future First
Amendment activities,’ he violates the First Amendment.”
“We ask UMM to publicly condemn these instances of theft and destruction,
investigate what happened, and prosecute those responsible,” added ADF Senior
Counsel Kevin Theriot. “The university must take steps to protect The North
Star and all other student publications from such viewpoint-based
censorship in the future.”