Thursday, February 08, 2007

San Francisco State University violates the First Amendment

Ah, San Francisco, that shining beacon of tolerance and acceptance -- unless you happen to desecrate the wrong flag (that of Hamas and Hezbollah) instead of the Stars & Stripes.

Here are the facts: In October, the College Republicans held a rally on the San Francisco State University campus. During said rally, some of them apparently stomped on the flags of terrorist groups Hezbollah and Hamas. Unbeknownst to them, allegedly, these two flags contain the Arabic name for "Allah." As a result, various Muslim groups complained to SFSU officials, who are now investigating the incident. Here's the email from SFSU to the College Republicans (hat tip:

I am writing to you as President of the College Republicans to follow-up with you regarding the letter of complaint that was received by the Office of Student Programs and Leadership Development on Thursday, October 26, 2006, notifying the office of alleged violations of University policy. The complaint is in regards to alleged actions at a College Republican sponsored event, "Anti Terrorism Rally," that occurred in Malcolm X Plaza from 12-2 PM on October 17, 2006. The complaint describes alleged actions of walking on a banner with the word "Allah" written in Arabic script. I am writing to inform you that the Office of Student Programs and Leadership Development has concluded its investigation into the events that occurred on October, 17, 2006 in Malcolm X Plaza. The investigation was put in place to review the following alleged violations of University Policy as were addressed in the written complaint:
1. Allegations of attempts to incite violence and create a hostile environment
2. Allegations of actions of incivility (Standards for Student Conduct Title V, 41301)

The only problem with this, as Prof. Volokh notes on his site, is that this investigation blatantly violates the First Amendment. Flag desecration is not a crime, even when it contains religious imagery that certain religions consider sancrosanct. Last time I checked, we lived in a secular democracy, not theocratic Iran, so what exactly is SFSU planning to do? What if SFSU concludes the flag stomping was "incivil" -- will it sanction or disband the College Republicans for engaging in political debate?


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