March 24th, 2014

News from Free Expression Network members can now be found at

You can browse the new feed at

The Free Expression Network (FEN) is an alliance of organizations dedicated to protecting the First Amendment right of free expression and the values it represents, and to opposing governmental efforts to suppress constitutionally-protected speech. FEN members provide a wide range of expertise, resources and services to policy-makers, the media, scholars, and the public at large. Members meet on a quarterly basis to share information and strategies.

We also create public programs and events on current free expression issues. This website provides information and descriptions of each member organization, as well as a brief look at the services they provide and the primary issues on which they focus. It is also a means of providing information about First Amendment issues to the public at large and to facilitate private communication among FEN members. FEN meetings and other activities are planned and organized by the FEN Steering Committee, which is composed of volunteers from member organizations. All FEN members are eligible to participate in the steering committee.

Organizational requests to join FEN or nominations for membership will be addressed by the steering committee, which will consider whether the mission of the organization seeking inclusion in FEN is consistent with FEN’s goal to protect the First Amendment and promote free expression. FEN is coordinated by the National Coalition Against Censorship. For Inquires Contact the FEN coordinator, Michael O’Neil.

January 16th, 2014

Dixie State’s Refusal to Recognize First Amendment Gains More Attention

Last week, a new semester began at Dixie State University, and while the classes may have changed, the school’s refusal to uphold its students’ First Amendment rights to free expression and free association remains the same. 

After senior Indigo Klabanoff re-applied for official recognition for her student group, Phi Beta Pi, FIRE wrote a third letter to the school on December 18 explaining—again—why Dixie State cannot ban Greek letters in club names just to avoid a “party school” image. We sent the letter to Dixie State’s trustees, as well as the Board of Regents of the Utah System of Higher Education.  

Disappointingly, Indigo’s group was denied recognition—again—on January 8, reaffirming Dixie State’s placement on FIRE’s 2013 list of the “10 Worst Colleges for Free Speech.” With continuing media coverage of the case, Dixie State administrators’ supposed efforts to protect the school’s reputation are achieving the opposite effect. 

On Monday, the Dixie Sun News student newspaper reported on the university’s inclusion on FIRE’s dishonorable list and relayed remarks from two communication professors at Dixie State. Professor Eric Young said that Dixie State’s restrictions on club names “interdicts what free speech is all about.” Professor Randal Chase also questioned ...

FIRE - The Torch

January 16th, 2014

CBLDF Joins Coalition Opposing Book Rating Proposals in Pennsylvania, Virginia

Updated-CBLDF-Bone-Email-264x300This week, CBLDF joined the other sponsoring members of the Kids’ Right to Read Project to support students’ and teachers’ free expression rights in two separate but similar cases that would restrict the right to read. CBLDF joins coalition efforts like these to protect the freedom to read comics. Censorship manifests in many ways, and the unique visual nature of comics makes them more prone to censorship than other types of books. Taking an active stand against all instances of censorship curbs precedent that could adversely affect the rights upon which comics readers depend.

In the first letter, KRRP responds to a proposal in the Muhlenberg School District in Pennsylvania that would require teachers to flag any books in their classrooms with content that could be considered “mature, sexual, violent or religiously offensive.” Obviously, these labels are highly subjective and could conceivably be applied to many books considered classics. Addressing the Muhlenberg School Board, KRRP points out:

Recent news reports tell of efforts to ban or restrict  books like The Diary of Anne Frank, Persepolis, The Invisible Man, The Family Book,and The Dirty Cowboy – to name only a few – because someone considered something in ...

Comic Book Legal Defense Fund

January 16th, 2014

Did you catch it? NCAC Allies Shine in Al Jazeera Conversation About Book Censorship

Last night, Al Jazeera America’s The Stream dedicated its show to a topic near and dear to NCAC’s work and hearts: book challenges and bans in the U.S. Joining the show was author Carolyn Mackler, whose works NCAC has defended throughout the years, as well as partners-in-activism Isaiah Zukowski and Lynn Bruno.

Isaiah spoke out as a high school senior when a school board member tried to ban books from the high school summer reading list in his district. Lynn, an 8th grade literacy teacher from Glen Ellyn, was on the front lines of the battle over classroom libraries and access to The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

The Stream is very social media integrated leading to lively commentary and debate on the issue. It was great to see that so much of the tweeting was supportive of the freedom to read!



Blogging Censorship

January 16th, 2014

Universities Must Not Intrude Upon Freedom of Conscience in ‘Values’ Statements

This winter, FIRE is running a series of blog posts about what makes a “green light” policy. So far, we have examined how universities can craft policies on harassment, civility, and computer usage that achieve their aims while still respecting students’ right to freedom of speech. Today we are going to talk about policies that infringe on students’ right to freedom of conscience, and about how universities can share their values with students without crossing the line into mandating agreement with those values. 

Just as the First Amendment protects freedom of speech, it also protects freedom of conscience—the right to keep our innermost thoughts free from governmental intrusion and to be free from compelled speech. As the Supreme Court declared in the landmark case of West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624, 642 (1943): “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.” The Court concluded in Barnette that “the purpose of the First Amendment to ...

FIRE - The Torch