Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Yale Law School Restricts Access To FedSoc Free Speech Panel Today To Avoid Repeat Of Last Year's Controversy

Following up on my previous post:  Kristen Waggoner (General Counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom), 'Keep the Faith': How A Hostile Encounter With Yale Law Students Emboldened Me To Speak The Truth With Kindness:  Aaron Sibarium (Washington Free Beacon), Looking To Tamp Down Controversy, Yale Law School Restricts Access to Free Speech Panel:

Yale Law Logo (2020)In March 2022, hundreds of students at Yale Law School disrupted a panel with Kristen Waggoner, a conservative lawyer who has argued religious liberty cases before the Supreme Court, arguing that her presence was a "slap in the face" to "queer students." Yale's response to the incident left the school with egg on its face: Though the protest clearly violated Yale's free speech policies, which do not allow protesters to disrupt speakers, not a single student was disciplined.

Now Waggoner is returning to Yale Law for another talk. And this time, administrators aren't leaving anything to chance, banning press and anyone without a Yale Law School ID, including undergraduate students, from the event. They are also trying to prohibit covert cell phone recordings, which picked up audio of last year's disruption. It is not clear whether the ban on media includes the Yale Daily News, Yale's flagship student paper, whose editor in chief, Lucy Hodgman, did not respond to a request for comment.

The event, scheduled for noon on Tuesday and hosted by the Federalist Society, will also feature Nadine Strossen, the first female president of the American Civil Liberties Union. Yale's draconian measures aren't sitting well with her. She is calling the school's decision to ban the press "unjustifiable," telling the Washington Free Beacon, "For an event that is discussing important First Amendment issues—and is designed to illustrate Yale Law School's announced recommitment to free speech—it is sadly ironic that elementary freedom of speech principles are being violated."

Waggoner and Strossen are set to discuss a pending Supreme Court case about the First Amendment—Waggoner argued the case last month—on which the two politically opposed women largely agree. The event comes two months after the law school issued a statement reaffirming its commitment to free speech and is widely seen as a do-over of Waggoner's abortive talk last year. ...

Though students will be allowed to record the event, they will be prohibited from doing so surreptitiously—a rule the law school introduced after Trent Colbert, a second-year law student, recorded administrators pressuring him to apologize for using the term "trap house" in an email. While the law school has said that this policy will "encourage the free expression of ideas," critics have attacked it as a thinly veiled ploy to avoid future scandals. ...

Waggoner is the president of the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal nonprofit that defends religious liberty. Yale's chapter of the Federalist Society has invited her and Strossen to discuss 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, a case about a Colorado web designer who refused to make sites promoting same-sex marriage. The case is a sort of spiritual successor to Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which Waggoner argued and in 2018 won.

Though Strossen supports same-sex marriage, she told the Free Beacon that she agrees with Waggoner's position in 303 Creative LLC. She agreed to participate in the event, she said, to illustrate that liberals and conservatives can find common ground on free speech issues. That was also the premise of the March 2022 event, which featured Waggoner and Monica Miller, an attorney with the American Humanist Association.

Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:

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