The raging debate over conservative firebrand Ann Coulter delivering a speech at the University of California, Berkeley, has seen two very neatly divided camps.
Except for one outlier: The American Civil Liberties Union.
The ACLU stands for many liberal positions: Opposing the death penalty, supporting same-sex marriage and abortion. Just yesterday there was this headline: “ACLU Sues Catholic Hospital On Behalf of Transgender ‘Man’ Who Wanted A Hysterectomy.”
But the ACLU sometimes – rarely, but sometimes – takes a stand purely on principle, leaving behind its hard liberal bent. That’s what they did on Wednesday.
The unacceptable threats of violence that have led to the ‘hecklers’ veto’ of Ann Coulter’s speech at Berkeley are inconsistent with free speech principles that protect us all from government overreach,” ACLU Legal Director David Cole said in a statement. “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 powers 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.
Coulter announced on Wednesday that she was canceling the speech, citing security concerns. “I looked over my shoulder and my allies had joined the other team,” she said. “It’s a sad day for free speech,” she told The New York Times. “Everyone who should believe in free speech fought against it or ran away.”
The group that sponsored the campus speech, Young America’s Foundation, said there was simply no way the speech could go on. “Berkeley made it impossible to hold a lecture due to the lack of assurances for protections from foreseeable violence from unrestrained leftist agitators.”
“Berkeley should be ashamed for creating this hostile atmosphere,” the group said in a statement.
Coulter praised the ACLU (that has GOT to be a first!).
And she left open the possibility that she may show up on campus anyway. So, stay tuned…