Your free speech rights shouldn’t have to be violated in order for you to defend them.
That’s what Goldwater Institute Senior Attorney Matt Miller writes in a new In Defense of Liberty post. This week, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral argument in Speech First v. Fenves, a case involving a challenge to a set of speech-chilling rules at the University of Texas at Austin. Campus free speech nonprofit Speech First is “challenging the University’s creation of so-called ‘campus climate response teams,’ the purpose of which is to investigate allegations of ‘incivility,’ ‘harassment,’ and ‘rudeness’ on campus,” Miller says.
At this week’s oral argument, Miller explains, Speech First contended that “one does not need to wait for his or her free speech rights to be violated before they can bring suit under the First Amendment.” At the same time, the University claimed that the harm from a First Amendment violation must be “certainly impending” before a speech policy can be challenged. But, Miller writes, “[i]f the government enacts a policy that opens you up to ideological harassment and intimidation, how much harm must you suffer before you can sue to defend your constitutional rights?”
The Goldwater Institute, joined by the Texas Public Policy Foundation and the Cato Institute, has filed an amicus brief in support of Speech First. You can read that brief here.