Lee Bollinger, president of Columbia University and former dean of the University of Michigan School of Law, has written that the value of the First Amendment in American society is its ability to produce collective restraint in confronting anti-social behavior. The American commitment to free expression, and the need to exercise collective restraint, became apparent in the backlash against protests staged by the Westboro Baptist Church. With extremist views, the Westboro Baptist Church has gained infamy with its public protests. The Churchs actions ultimately led to a court battle aimed at preventing the Church from engaging in protests outside the funeral services for fallen service members. The United States Supreme Court eventually ruled that the Westboro Baptist Churchs actions were protected as free speech. Join Jeffrey Vernon to discuss Bollingers concept of The Tolerant Society, as it relates to recent events and a century of court decisions controlling extremist and anti-social speech.
Jeffrey Vernon is a doctoral candidate in modern legal history at The Ohio State University. His research focuses on the intersection of gender, sexuality and the law in American history. He received his B.A. in American history and political science from Indiana University Bloomington in 2003, and his Doctor of Jurisprudence from the Indiana University Maurer School of Law in 2007. Prior to starting graduate study at Ohio State, Mr. Vernon worked as a researcher with the Center for Constitutional Democracy in Plural Societies and as law clerk in the United States Senate. Over the past several years, Mr. Vernon has given a number of presentations on topics concerning American legal history at universities across the United States and Europe.