Christians, Muslims, the heckler’s veto, and liberal judges

August 29, 2014

I often hear about how liberals are for suppressing supposed “hate speech,” and for suppressing Christian advocacy, and conservatives are for protecting it. The reality, I’ve argued, is that views on such matters are quite mixed, among both liberals and conservatives. The Bible Believers heckler’s veto case, in which the Sixth Circuit upheld the suppression of Christian anti-Muslim speech at the Arab International Festival, because the speakers were being attacked by the crowd, is an excellent example:

  1. Of the three judges who decided in favor of the speech restriction — the trial judge and the two-judge panel majority — one was appointed by a Democratic President (Judge Bernice Donald), and two by Republican Presidents (Judges Patrick Duggan and Samuel Mays).
  2. The judge who wrote the (rather sharp) dissent, in favor of speech protection, was appointed by a Democratic President (Judge Eric Clay).

Obviously, one can’t infer much from just these four data points (and party of appointment, while a proxy for whether a judge is liberal or conservative, is of course far from a perfect proxy). I cite simply because they illustrate the much broader pattern that I’ve discussed before, in much more detail.

Eugene Volokh teaches free speech law, religious freedom law, church-state relations law, a First Amendment Amicus Brief Clinic, and tort law, at UCLA School of Law, where he has also often taught copyright law, criminal law, and a seminar on firearms regulation policy.
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