Silencing Free Speech

by Andrew P. Napolitano

“In short, we do not need good laws to restrain bad men. We need good men to restrain bad laws.” — G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936)

Why do people in power try to silence speech with which they disagree?

Last week produced news about the suppression of speech on university campuses. There, the suppression usually occurs through the power of intimidation before the speech is given. Yet, most public lectures on college campuses are public accommodations, meaning the landowner — the university — cannot bar the entry of audience members because of their political views, nor can it silence the speakers because of theirs.

Ordinarily, the owner of private property can impose whatever regulations he wishes upon those who voluntarily come upon his land. But in our era of ubiquitous government, state legislatures have enacted laws that require that if you invite the public, you must take whoever shows up. And if you accept money from the state or the feds — and there are only a handful of colleges and universities that do not — you must abide the same First Amendment standards as the government.

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