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Head of ACLU Free Speech Projects Says First Amendment ‘One’ among Group’s ’12 or 15 Different Values’

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The head of the ACLU’s free speech, privacy, and technology project recently excused the group’s shift toward advocating for progressive causes over free speech by saying that the First Amendment is just one of the group’s “12 or 15 different values.”

The comments by the ACLU’s Ben Wizner came during an interview with the New York Times, in which he noted that the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) had taken a strong lead in defending free speech on college campuses.

“FIRE does not have the same tensions,” Wizner said. “At the ACLU, free speech is one of 12 or 15 different values.”

The report recounts incidents in which the ACLU seemingly took the side of progressive values over free speech on campus, including in 2015 when activists and a journalism professor physically blocked a student journalist at the University of Missouri from taking photos and talking to demonstrators at a protest against racism on campus.

Two national ACLU officials applauded the “courageous” leadership of student activists and faculty members but made no mention of First Amendment rights.

The ACLU responded similarly after an incident at the University of Connecticut in 2019 in which two white students, walking home late at night, loudly repeated a racial slur and were arrested by university police and charged with ridicule on account of race. The ACLU of Connecticut demanded that the university hire ten black faculty and staff members and require a freshman course on ending racism on campus.

However, the group did not mention the First Amendment implications of arresting students for speech and instead asserted only that the police force is “an inherently white supremacist institution.” 

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