A colleague called my attention to this article, which is from a pretty conservative site, the Washington Free Beacon, but who else would print it? The veracity of the report is demonstrated by photos, by a YouTube video that I’m unable to watch but I’ve embedded anyway, and by photos of the event at a Daily Fail article which largely repeats the Beacon prose. You be the judge. Knowing the way these things go, however, I don’t doubt that this happened pretty much as described. (See below; I’ve just found that the event was described in the Yale Daiy News as well.)
Click on the screenshot below to read. And remember, these are students at one of the nation’s most prestigious law schools, attending a debate about free speech that features both a liberal and a conservative looking for common ground (their organizations even worked together on the same side in a Supreme Court free-speech case). You’d think the law students would at least let the event proceed without interruption.
Not a chance.
More than 100 students at Yale Law School attempted to shout down a bipartisan panel on civil liberties, intimidating attendees and causing so much chaos that police were eventually called to escort panelists out of the building.
The March 10 panel, which was hosted by the Yale Federalist Society, featured Monica Miller of the progressive American Humanist Association [AHA] and Kristen Waggoner of the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a conservative nonprofit that promotes religious liberty. Both groups had taken the same side in a 2021 Supreme Court case involving legal remedies for First Amendment violations. The purpose of the panel, a member of the Federalist Society said, was to illustrate that a liberal atheist and a conservative Christian could find common ground on free speech issues.
“It was pretty much the most innocuous thing you could talk about,” he added.
That didn’t stop nearly 120 student protesters from crowding into the event.
The rest is pretty much predictable. About a hundred protestors—most of the audience— stood up when Waggoner was introduced, many holding signs protesting ADF. That organization helped appeal a case you’ll recall—that of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, when the cakeshop objected to designing a wedding cake for a gay couple. In 2018, the Supreme Court, by a 7-2 vote, decided in favor of the cakeshop, but on the narrow grounds that “that the Commission did not employ religious neutrality, violating Masterpiece owner Jack Phillips’s rights to free exercise.”
Waggoner argued the case on behalf of the cakeshop (the defendant); the two votes against were Ginsburg and Sotomayor, while liberal Kagan and middle-ist Breyer joined the other five in the majority vote.
You can argue about whether the owners of the cakeshop could justify their refusal on freedom-of-religion grounds (I disagree), but it is a debatable issue and, at any rate, not one that was even relevant at Yale given what the debate itself was about.
The debate was moderate by Kate Stith, a professor of criminal law at Yalel, and the protest wasn’t silent:
As they stood up, the protesters began to antagonize members of the Federalist Society, forcing Stith to pause her remarks. One protester told a member of the conservative group she would “literally fight you, bitch,” according to audio and video obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
With the fracas intensifying, Stith reminded the students of Yale’s free speech policies, which bar any protest that “interferes with speakers’ ability to be heard and of community members to listen.” When the protesters heckled her in response—several with their middle fingers raised—she told them to “grow up,” according to video of the event obtained by the Free Beacon.
The comment elicited jeers from the protesters, who began shouting at the panelists and insisting that the disturbance was “free speech.” Eventually, Stith told them that if the noise continued, “I’m going to have to ask you to leave, or help you leave.”
Bravo for Stith!
The protestors left noisily (and without comment or rebuke by Ellen Cosgrove, the associate dean of the law school who was in the audience), but proceeded to stomp, yell, and shout slogans outside the lecture hall. As the FB reports, “The din was so loud that it disrupted nearby classes, exams, and faculty meetings, according to students and a professor who spoke on the condition of anonymity.” Note that those who spoke about the “din” were so cowed about this that they wouldn’t give their names!
Finally, the panel concluded (I don’t know whether it produced any useful debate given the noise), and the cops showed up and escorted both Miller and Waggoner to safety, as there was some indication that there might be physical violence. (The cops were called by Heather Gerkin, dean of Yale Law School.)
Note too that Monica Miller is the “Legal Director and Senior Counsel at the AHA’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center and Executive Director of the Humanist Legal Society,” an organization that many of us support and some even see as too woke. I’ve been at several of their events, and pitting her against Waggoner would have been something to see. But I can find no report about the substance of the debate.
The AHA and ADF were in fact on the same side in a recent Supreme Court case, Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski, which decided last year by an 8-1 vote that a person whose free speech was violated, in this case a Christian who wanted to proselytize on campus but was prevented from doing so, has a right to sue for nominal damages. As the Beacon notes:
The American Humanist Association was one of several progressive groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, that filed amicus briefs in support of Uzuegbunam. But it was the Alliance Defending Freedom that actually argued the case before the Supreme Court, which ruled 8-1 in Uzuegbunam’s favor.
The one dissenting vote, curiously, was by Chief Justice John Roberts—a conservative who cast the only lone dissenting vote of his tenure to date.
Finally, there were the usual sequelae: a raft of accusatory letters and petitions as the entitled and angry students used the event to air their pet peeves:
In the two days following the panel, more than 60 percent of the law school’s student body signed an open letter supporting the “peaceful student protesters,” who they claimed had been imperiled by the presence of police.
“The danger of police violence in this country is intensified against Black LGBTQ people, and particularly Black trans people,” the letter read. “Police-related trauma includes, but is certainly not limited to, physical harm. Even with all of the privilege afforded to us at YLS, the decision to allow police officers in as a response to the protest put YLS’s queer student body at risk of harm.”
Signed by 417 students, the letter also condemned Stith for telling the protesters to “grow up,” and the Federalist Society for hosting the event, which “profoundly undermined our community’s values of equity and inclusivity.”
Whatever you think, the campus police weren’t there to inflict violence on “Black LGBTQ people,” but to escort the debaters peacefully from the venue.
This is an embarrassment to Yale, but of course Yale has shown itself immune to embarrassment over the last couple of years. And think of our future Yale lawyers, surely many of them participants in this idiocy. 60% of them signed the letter, noted above, supporting the “peaceful student protestors”! Peaceful my tuchas: they waved placards, interrupted the speakers rudely, and made a big ruckus outside the lecture hall. Do these future lawyers even know the meaning of words like “peaceful”, much less the principles of free speech? I think not.
I just found this tweet by Nicholas Christakis (remember him and the Yale Halloween Costume Brouhaha?):
Law students at @yale act immaturely — using florid language to voice their complaints, failing to ask well formulated questions of a speaker, and failing to understand the difference between protest and a heckler's veto. They are told to "grow up." https://t.co/KuRnVvXE64
— Nicholas A. Christakis (@NAChristakis) March 15, 2022
So the Yale Daily News verifies the gist of what happened as well. It’s amusing that the protestors took Kate Stith to task for telling them to “grow up.” For growing up is exactly what they need to do. If you don’t even realize that you need to grow up, you won’t. It’s just like the realization that one is an alcoholic is necessary to effect a lasting cure.
Here’s the video, which I can’t watch. You can tell me what’s in it.