Breitbart Senior editor Milo Yiannopoulos’ college lecture tour has revealed, amongst many things, the growing threat of administration-imposed censorship of conservative and libertarian ideals on American college campuses.
Just this week, a MILO event scheduled for the University of Maryland was canceled after student organizers failed to raise the $6,500 fee that university administrators required them to raise to cover security costs. This incident has become just another in a series of deceptive plays by administrators to restrict and censor the expression of ideas that conflict with modern academia’s progressive orthodoxy.
Although it seems that university administrators will get away with the censorship of conservative and libertarian ideas under the guise of prioritizing the physical safety of their students, it is likely that the last minute security fee increase and venue change could be a violation of an important 1992 Supreme Court decision.
In Forsyth County v. Nationalist Movement (1992), the Supreme Court decided that government officials were not permitted to vary security fees for political events based upon an official’s subjective determination of “the amount of hostility likely to be created by the speech based on its content.”
As a public university, the University of Maryland is bound by the ruling in the 1992 Supreme Court case, which determined that increasing security fees based upon the anticipated hostility of an audience rather than the content of the speaker’s message is a tax on speech and therefore a violation of the First Amendment right to free speech.
“Speech cannot be financially burdened, any more than it can be punished or banned, simply because it might offend a hostile mob,” the Forsyth Court wrote, noting that “[t]hose wishing to express views unpopular with bottle throwers, for example, may have to pay more for their permit.”
It is important to note the distinction between a demand for increased security based upon the content of speech and a demand for increased security based upon the anticipated volatility of an audience’s reaction to said content. With regards to the incident at the University of Maryland, security fees were increased not as a result of the content of Milo’s speech, but out of concerns that their students wouldn’t be able to behave when faced with ideas that conflict with their own.
As the Court wrote in the Forsyth case, “Listeners’ reaction to speech is not a content-neutral basis for regulation.”
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a legal organization that protects student’s rights to free expression and due process on college campuses, has been tapped by Milo and The Dangerous Faggot Tour so that all legal avenues can be fully explored.
Tom Ciccotta is a libertarian who writes about Free Speech and Intellectual Diversity for Breitbart. You can follow him on Twitter @tciccotta or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org