Caution, You Are Entering a No Free-Speech Zone

Bruce Kothman engaged in prohibited activity — reading out loud from the Bible.

When University of Virginia alumnus Bruce Kothman planted himself on the steps of the Rotunda last week and began reading from Isaiah 40, a university police officer ordered him to stop. He was violating rules promulgated by the university in the aftermath of the Nazi/Klan rally last year restricting the right of people “unaffiliated” with the university, which includes alumni, to speak on the grounds without properly obtaining permission from the administration.

Kothman, who is Jewish, was appalled by the United the Right rally last year, which included a torch-lit parade across the Lawn accompanied by chants of “Jews will not replace us.”

But he also worried about the freedom-of-speech implications of the new university rules. He decided to test them last week — and he lost, reports the Washington Post.

To the broader public, Kothman is a much more sympathetic character than Jason Kessler, an Alt-Right provocateur who organized the United the Right rally and has made it his business to get in the face of progressives, lefties, and Charlottesville city officials. While 99% of the population may find his behavior hateful and obnoxious, he hasn’t been convicted of breaking any laws. But when he began visiting the law school library to read up on his law — apparently, he’s the subject of civil litigation — a library employee tipped off local activists who then began harassing him. Kessler engaged in argumentation with them and posted on social media referring to the protesters as “stalkers” and “Alt-Left scumbags.”

The university then banned Kessler from the grounds, issuing the following statement by way of explanation:

The warning was issued due to multiple reports from students that Mr. Kessler threatened them, targeted them through cyber-bullying and cyber-harassment, and targeted them based on protected characteristics. Kessler also intentionally and purposefully misled officers of the University Police Department regarding the torchlight rally that he helped organize on Aug. 11. His conduct on Aug. 11 threatened the health and safety of members of the University community.

Given his role in the United the Right rally, it is totally understandable that the university would regard Kessler as a malign presence. But he was not looking for trouble when he visited the library. To the contrary, the protesters were the ones who precipitated the confrontation.

There seems to be a new logic taking hold in Virginia universities. When the presence of a non-leftist person or group causes campus leftists to get agitated and disruptive, the non-leftists are held responsible — and their activities are curtailed. (I have been informed that Virginia Tech is charging the Young Americans for Freedom and Turning Point, two conservative organizations, for the security costs of their speakers rather than disciplining the students who threaten to shut them down. But I have not confirmed the accuracy of this information.)

It’s not controversial to ban a reviled character like Kessler. But it’s a slippery slope when people like Bruce Kothman are prohibited from reading from the Old Testament out loud on the Rotunda steps. And the trend is all the most troubling when the restrictions are applied in such a way that members of protected groups can engage in harassing and disruptive behavior without suffering any consequences at all. I had hoped that Virginia institutions of higher education would prove resistant to the creeping totalitarianism on college campuses, but I’m not encouraged by what I see.

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17 responses to “Caution, You Are Entering a No Free-Speech Zone

  1. None of us is allowed to exercise our “free speech” at any venue we want to – even in public places.

    It has nothing to do with trying to “suppress” the content of the speech.

    We cannot want into the Post Office or a Hospital or even a County Courthouse and begin blathering….. You can’t walk into a a lecture hall at UVA and begin blathering …

    The grievances just keep on coming these days from the right and I guess Bacon just has to do his part also…

    Public venues do not “protect” your “right” to “free speech”.

    You cannot exercise your “free speech” at any public venue simply because it is a “public space”.

    And EVEN in some public spaces that allow it – you’re limited to 3 minutes and they cut your mike off and if you don’t leave, an officer will escort you away.

    I imagine we could fix this issue fairly easy. Each University would designate a place where anyone could say anything – for 3 minutes… then you’re done.. just like if you were exercising your free speech in front of the Board of Supervisors!

    You never had the right to exercise your free speech anywhere you wished!

    • There’s a big difference between stating your views on an issue while standing in front of or inside a Post Office or courthouse and disrupting a class in a university or making raucous noises inside a hospital. So long as a person is not also impeding the flow of walkers, the functions of the Post Office or courthouse, or using a bull horn, etc., a person can engage in free speech.

      Kothman has every right to do what he has done. If I was Northam, I’d ask for the UVA president’s and vice presidents’ resignations immediately.

  2. It’s fundamental that you can regulate speech and you can regulate the person speaking, but these must be kept separate. You cannot, in this Country, forbid speech simply on the basis that you don’t like the speaker, or a category of people that includes the speaker. Even convicted criminals have the right to communicate with the press.

    We forbid certain speech that incites a mob or mob-like behavior — e.g., yelling “Fire” in a crowded theater, or after a declaration to a mob to disperse by law enforcement officers — but there is a Constitutional presumption that such exceptions should be narrowly construed. We forbid certain speech across the board in certain circumstances — e.g., in a library reading room — but non-discriminatory application and the availability of an alternative forum will be examined. Forbidding “hate” speech is a particularly slippery slope as you say. Is there a risk of a mob reacting out of control? What if the perception of hate is highly subjective? What if its reception as hateful was not intended or even perceived by the speaker? What if it consists merely of the speaker disagreeing with the audience, which considered itself “dissed”? What if the subject is something else protected by the Constitution, like religion?

    Here, it sounds like Mr. Kothman found a way to provoke the University bureaucracy and create a good test case, if he wants to pursue it.

  3. Extremely well stated Arbar.

    It is quite obvious that your are still a very able lawyer. Let us hope that Mr. Kothman pursues his rights.

    I suspect without knowing for sure that this Gentlemen in part was also motivated the recent shut down of the Jewish Center open house discussion by left wing Uva. student activists.

    This raises a collateral point. The more ideological and leftest our universities become, the more that university officials and faculty actively shut down any dissenting expression whatsoever, while they simultaneously abet or tolerate, and actively refuse to enforce the law and maintain order against, leftists who violate the rights of others, whether by hecklers vetoes or other bad and threatening conduct, including violent behavior. This will be one of the lasting legacies of Teresa Sullivan’s Administration at Uva.

    • But Larry this wasn’t a Board of Supervisors meeting. Kothman was outside in a public place owned by the people of Virginia reciting from the Old Testament. I just don’t see the corollary. This is curtailment of free speech by an organ of government pure and simple.

      I assume that if I went to UVa, stood on the steps of the Rotunda and read the Declaration of Independence I would also be told that was impermissible without prior agreement of state employees.

      I’m sorry but that’s simply unacceptable. As a side note, it would be equally unacceptable to me if a person reading from Das Kapital on the steps of the Rotunda were disrupted by Teresa Sullivan’s jack booted enforcers.

      Liberalism is becoming fascism.

    • University of Virginia professor Gerard Alexander, “nicely put.”

      In today’s sea of cowards and bigotry, and hypocrites and tin horn racists and fascists, you have stood up and stand your ground amid it all. I hold you in high regard. Keep the faith for your entire sick profession and its corrupt academy. Help is on the way.

      • To read the University of Virginia’s professor Gerard Alexander’s very balanced, nuanced, insightful and understated Sunday critique of today’s America Liberals, including those who dominate the America’s elite academy, is to suddenly realize how lonely his voice is in this monolithic cabal of people and their babel that purport to teach our children and to preserve and pass along to them the best thought and interpretation of the histories of the human experience, and to suddenly comprehend the depths of that elite academy’s malpractice, its daily crimes against our children and their rightful heritage. And to grasp the depravity of that great majority of professors and their handlers who so willingly swim silently or gaily in the sea of cowards, bigotry, hypocrites and tin horn racists and fascists, that constitute today’s cream of America’s system of elite higher education.

        For details see:

        https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/12/opinion/sunday/liberals-youre-not-as-smart-as-you-think-you-are.html

        • It’s nice to know that someone with Alexander’s political proclivities is still teaching political science at a preeminent American university today. There aren’t many like him left.

        • Speaking of tin horn fascist at our elite Virginia universities:

          Please recall Patrick Hogan. He has been President Sullivan’s executive Vice President and Chief operating officer at the University of Virginia since 2012. Since that time Virginia taxpayers and students mortgaged to the hilt, have paid to Mr. Hogan a salary said to be roughly $450,000 annually. On Jan. 19, 2018, Mr. Hogan sent out an email community advisory to all of UVA’s students, faculty, and staff.

          Therein Mr. Hogan sounded an alarm, and issued a call to arms, to all at the University of Virginia, including its police, specially that:

          “If you witness individuals engaged in suspicious activity, including posting offensive flyers or other material in violation of the University’s Policy on Exterior Posting and Chalking, please call 911.

          The University Police Department and the Ambassadors (translated student spies) are aware of this information and will be closely monitoring activities on and near Grounds. (Parentheses added)

          We will be maintaining an enhanced security environment across Grounds this weekend. The safety and wellbeing of every member of the University community remains our top priority, and we ask for your assistance in remaining vigilant of your surroundings.”

          End Quote.

          Now we know better who President Teresa Sullivan and her administrators brand as “individuals engaged in suspicious activity, such as spreading offensive memes, are, and how those individuals are closely monitored at UVA.

          The culprits, for sure, now include JEWS who read the OLD TESTAMENT, including Isaiah 40, on or near the University of Virginia.

          We do not know how far this particular Jew got in his reading of Isaiah 40. We presume he read from a Hebrew text, but in the interest of solidarity (a word endlessly deployed by leftist liberals, including President Sullivan) we recite below the King’s James version.

          “1 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. 2 Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD’s hand double for all her sins. 3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: 5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. 6 The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: 7 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. 8 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever. 9 O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God! 10 Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. 11 He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young. 12 Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? 13 Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counsellor hath taught him? 14 With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding? 15 Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing. 16 And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering. 17 All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity. 18 To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him? 19 The workman melteth a graven image, and the goldsmith spreadeth it over with gold, and casteth silver chains. 20 He that is so impoverished that he hath no oblation chooseth a tree that will not rot; he seeketh unto him a cunning workman to prepare a graven image, that shall not be moved. 21 Have ye not known? have ye not heard? hath it not been told you from the beginning? have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth? 22 It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in: 23 That bringeth the princes to nothing; he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity. 24 Yea, they shall not be planted; yea, they shall not be sown: yea, their stock shall not take root in the earth: and he shall also blow upon them, and they shall wither, and the whirlwind shall take them away as stubble. 25 To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One. 26 Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth. 27 Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the LORD, and my judgment is passed over from my God? 28 Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. 29 He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. 30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: 31 But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary, and they shall walk, and not faint.” End quote.

          While we do not know how far this single JEW got in his reading from the works of his people and his heritage, before he was forced by the UVA police Department into utter silence, we do know that the American Academy of elite Higher Education works every date to silence Bruce Kothman’s and his peoples’ faith, and to also silence and exile that faith as it is inflected through many other Christian traditions, like the King James version cited above.

          IN ADDITION:

          This is UVA’s current version of how students, faculty, and administrators on the Grounds celebrate tolerance and diversity, as regards individuals, groups, and races, that are not currently in their favor.

          Hopefully this fascism and intolerance at the University of Virginia will die with the Sullivan’s Administration’s termination next fall and that such intolerance and jackboot tactic developed and deployed by her people will never return to the Grounds of the University of Virginia.

  4. If you want to see regulated “speech”, I invite you to just about any Board of Supervisors meeting in the Commonwealth.

    You ARE limited in WHAT you can say, WHEN you can say it as well as how long you can say it and there are other rules .

    You have 3 minutes and you are warned to not attack others.

    There is often a deputy on duty to enforce the rules.

    We’ve had people get up and when told to sit down – claimed their free speech rights were being violated… but the deputy escorted them away even as they complained.

    My point in relating this is to point out that there are “rules” and “free speech” is not what we as individuals want to define it.

    I’m not a lawyer but I can see that different venues enforce different rules and the bottom line is that there are rules.

    Perhaps those that are lawyers here can explain how there can be such rules… that apparently are legal and Constitutional.

  5. I spoke against govt. corruption, “outed” conflicts of interest, gave information on people who spoke without revealing conflicts of interest, all fact based, and have had the City of Chesapeake remove my comments from the public record. No notice that editing was done. I caught it and the minutes seem to be either missing or different. These are from Feb. and March. When I spoke on something in December, the audio was killed for all. No one outside of me was told that they would not have their comments for the public to hear, and to maybe come back when the “technical” issue was completed.

    Myself and others have been harassed and cyberbullied. We have had this for only the challenger candidates, several local groups, and there are ties to current Chesapeake City Councilmembers. On top of that, I saw what can be considered religious and gender discrimination from these “people”.

    This is our govt. So not surprised that a university would attempt to do the same thing. I agree that reading the OT is probably a stroke of genius because he now has concerns both on religious discrimination and First Amendment issues.

    The funny thing is that we can speak that on here, but the Virginian Pilot and the 3 news stations do nothing. I’ve seen on more than one instance that the VP blatantly misses issues. I had Dale Gauding blast me for about being him being biased as a 30 year military person. Apparently Mr. Gauding needs to go back and read the law on differences in the ADA federal law, which has nothing to do with being a military veteran. He obviously didn’t know the difference, in a story he reported, the ADA difference between a service dog and an emotional support dog. When you get reporters like that, who blow up when they are obviously incapable of reporting the right facts and using a story in a way to teach, this is the kind of journalism we get.

    Not the only issue I’ve seen with the VP either.

  6. VN,
    You really failed to miss the point on this one. He has a right to say it, but he doesn’t, nor did you, have the right to have your remarks published by VP. They still have the right to print what they want to print, not what you want them to print.

    Larry, there is no question that an institution such as a city council has a right to limit how much speech citizens get at the council’s meeting. It is their meeting, they can control even how much time each other has to speak on any issue. However, I would hasten to distinguish that from true “public venues”, like a street, even if that “disrupts” or “offends” someone else. See the case of Hess v. Indiana, 415 U.S. 105 (1973) in which a student was arrested for disorderly conduct during an anti-war demonstration for loudly proclaiming, “We’ll take the fucking streets later”. SCOTUS reversed his conviction by the state court.

  7. Crazy… we may be close to agreeing. I don’t see a problem with people speaking on the street or in the parks etc… like they say.. get up oh your soap box… like some fire and brimstone guy does ever year at the Urbanna Oyster Festival.. He kind of adds to the general mayhem…

    but in other venues..there are rules… and it’s not about your speech – left or right , loon or rightie…

    what folks are missing – you honed in on… people are allowed to express their speech – always – that does not mean others need to provide them a venue for it. ‘

    Consider recently – the hearings for confirming Gina Haskel and folks starting expressing their views about her – and the were summarily escorted out.

    Now the folks complaining about Colleges.. I wonder how they feel about folks “free speech” at Congress; if that’s not the soul of free speech what is! And yet… you ain’t gonna do it.

    Same thing at the General Assembly.. you get your little butt up in front and start blathering and out you go!

  8. Jefferson weeps.

  9. Larry, you’re mixing situations where someone just wants to express his or her views on an issues, such as with Kothman, with situations where someone is intending to disrupt a meeting or some other function.

    I am free to protest the action of the Fairfax County BoS in increasing the real estate tax rate by picketing the County government center or making speeches outside the building. I may even be able to do the same in the lobby. But the County can prevent me from disrupting a meeting with my speech or refusing to give-up the speaker’s platform after my 3 minutes are up. I question whether it could stop me from holding up a reasonable sized sign or silently handing out leaflets during the board meeting.

  10. Last night I finished streaming the PBS American Experience series on the US in WWI, and throughout there was a heavy emphasis on the suppression of free speech, the persecution and imprisonment of any who questioned the war and Wilson the Wise, in that dark period of American Fascism ushered in by the Great Progressive. I commend it to you Larry, and I would commend it to the leaders of Mr. Jefferson’s sad university. It can happen here, because it has happened here. It is one thing to require civility and courtesy in public discourse, especially during meetings and in public places, but Mr. Kothman was ushered off the steps of a great temple to America by the police while being perfectly civil and courteous. Chilling. It would have been a simple step to add incarceration to insult. A few more Mr. Kothman’s and somebody will suggest it.

    A Hutterite conscientious objector was starved to death, starved to death, in Leavenworth after being chained half naked because the authorities would only let him dress in a military uniform, which his faith forbade. Careful, Larry, because that’s the future if the current trends continue.

    • This is a wonderful comment. And very true.

      Woodrow Wilson for most of the 20th Century was considered by intellectuals, including elite college professors, to be among the very best of all American Presidents in history.

      In fact, Woodrow Wilson was a virulent racist and ideologue, a President who routinely torn up the US Constitution to get his way, simply because he never failed to convince himself that, in all matters under the sun, he knew far better what to do than anyone else.

      Hence, being a virulent racists, Woodrow Wilson more than anyone else in America revived the Jim Crow laws in the south. And he drove the newly inspired segregation policies and the KKK in the “New South.” Woodrow Wilson did this despicable work simply to gain and keep his national power as president that depended on a unified Southern political party that could carry him into the White and keep him in the White House.

      Woodrow Wilson was still an icon and political hero among the liberal progressive wing of the Political Science Department at UVA as late as the 1960s. Why? Because he was a local boy. Born and bred and in Staunton, Virginia, he was raised in the South by academics and he briefly attended UVA law school (one year) but gave up the law to became a liberal university professor who specialized in history and Political Science and who later became President of Princeton University. I believe after a good deal of study that Wilson’s policies as the President of the United States directly contributed, made almost inevitable, the Second World War.

      Woodrow Wilson is the true father of today’s liberal progressive leftist movement in America.

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