Greg Lukianoff, the director of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a group I strongly support, says that he has multiple sources who have told him that the Oklahoma legislature, or some members of it, are “investigating” Richard Dawkins’ appearance at the University of Oklahoma recently.
I have received indication from numerous sources that the Oklahoma legislature is pressing ahead with an investigation of the event, probably to divine if any state funds were used. Dawkins, for his part, adamantly denies accepting a single cent for the speech. He specifically waived his normal honorarium, because this would be a mainly student audience. Even if he had taken money, however, the University department that invited Dawkins would have been perfectly within its rights to pay him. If this investigation is indeed taking place, what the state legislature needs to understand is that in court cases dating back to the days of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, even investigating clearly protected speech on the basis of its viewpoint violates the First Amendment.
Think about it: If every time a student or faculty member invited, say, Rick Warren to speak on campus, they knew they would be subjected to a thorough and time-consuming investigation by state officials, you can all but guarantee that schools across the country would think twice before inviting Rick Warren. This would be a great way for state legislatures to chill speech they dislike without ever having to find the speaker guilty of a single thing. Talk about your un-American activities.
Given the fact the legislature clearly is concerned with nothing other than Dawkins’ viewpoint, such an investigation is improper and should end immediately.
I couldn’t agree more. Lukianoff is trying to find out more at this point, but I haven’t seen any update yet, either on the Dawkins site or on FIRE’s blog. I’ll keep an eye on this.