This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, December 31, 2018:
In his freshman year at Pierce College, Kevin Shaw joined YAL – Young Americans for Liberty – and decided to get active. He stood on the sidewalk in the middle of the sprawling community college campus serving Los Angeles and started passing out copies of the United States Constitution.
It didn’t take but about an hour for the administration to shut him down. He was violating the board’s “free speech zone” mandate: Shaw could only exercise his First Amendment rights inside a 616 square foot rectangle at the edge of the 426-acre campus. And only if he obtained permission to do so first. The enforcers gave him another option: if he didn’t like the rule, he could leave the campus.
Shaw stayed and grew a backbone. He had enough knowledge to know that his rights had been violated and he began to seek help. He found FIRE – the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education – and they helped him find his voice. FIRE – a foundation founded in 1969 by a libertarian professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Alan Kors, to provide support for students like Shaw who felt their First Amendment rights had been violated – filed suit.
FIRE’s director of litigation, Marieke Tuthill Beck-Coon, explained:
More than two years ago , administrators wrongly told Kevin he was not allowed to hand out copies of the U.S. Constitution in the center of his public college campus. He’s been standing up for his First Amendment rights every day since, and in the process has vindicated the rights of every student in the district….
Shaw was also told that he must fill out a permit application to use the free speech zone – requiring him to get a permission slip to exercise his First Amendment rights. He was informed that he would be asked to leave his own campus if he refused to comply.
The ruling issued last Friday forced the district not only to reverse its “free speech zone” policies on all nine campuses, but to pay Shaw’s legal fees of $225,000 as well. It also expanded First Amendment freedoms for the 150,000 students attending the largest community college district in the country.
Shaw said that the education he got through the two-year process “was not without its difficulties,” but has left him “optimistic about the guiding principles of my country.”
This was clearly a victory for those involved in the freedom fight, but it left many questions unanswered: Why did the district allow the lawsuit to proceed, costing Los Angeles taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and court costs when they knew they couldn’t win it? Did they not know they were violating students’ rights through their demands that free speech could only be exercised on a tiny part of the campus? What kind of speech was being allowed or required on the rest of the sprawling campuses? Isn’t (or shouldn’t) the entire campus be open to free speech? Isn’t that part of what education is about?
Other rulings obtained by FIRE in quashing similar “free speech zones” (about one in every ten public universities has such limits on free speech) should have informed these public officials that their case had no merit.
Perhaps the ruling and the capitulation that followed informs those in the freedom fight just how imbedded the tyranny of political correctness is. If this district rules that “free speech zones” may only be allowed on certain tiny parts of their campus, how many other tyrants are issuing such edicts elsewhere across the country?
Isn’t, or shouldn’t, the entire United States be considered a “free speech zone” protected by the First Amendment (“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”)?
For those involved in the freedom fight, it’s nice to know they do not labor alone. FIRE has won dozens of similar First Amendment cases, while YAL (an offshoot of Ron Paul’s presidential campaign in 2008) have much in common in the freedom cause. They support the Constitution in its original intent, YALers have protested the war in Iraq and the TSA’s violations of personal rights; they have sought to pressure Congress to reduce the national debt. YAL hosts national conventions attended by hundreds of students who hear uplifting and encouraging comments from Ron Paul and his son, Rand, along with Rep. Justin Amash (R – Mich.), who has a 94 Freedom Index rating from the John Birch Society and Judge Andrew Napolitano, among others.
What is Kevin Shaw going to do now that he has won his case and opened up freedom of speech for thousands of his fellow students? Following his 15 minutes of fame, is he going to slink back into obscurity, attend to business as usual, and forget what he has accomplished all by himself? Or will he be looking for other places into which to pour his considerable energy and abilities to expand freedom for others?
As he learns more about the threats facing the republic, is it too much to ask that he learns about the “deep state” and its connections to conspiracies dating back to the 18th century? Would he then realize that he couldn’t expose it all by himself and seek a group that is filled with similar souls who have both backbones and knowledge of the tenuousness of freedom?
Might he read John McManus’ The John Birch Society – It’s History Recounted By Someone Who Was There? Shaw would learn that the reason the society has been attacked so viciously for so long (making Trump’s troubles pale in comparison) is that it represents an existential threat to that “deep state” through its educational and action programs and projects. Shaw would learn why, despite its relatively small membership, it has always, as McManus wrote, “fought above its fighting weight” in the freedom fight.
If a single individual like Kevin Shaw could accomplish what he has, imagine what an army of Kevin Shaws could accomplish working together!
Amazon: John Birch Society-Its History Recounted By Someone Who Was There, by John McManus