First Amendment allows hate group leader to speak at UT

White nationalist group leader Matthew Heimbach plans to speak at the University of Tennessee Knoxville on February 17, even though campus officials are denouncing hate. Heimbach said it's the kickoff to his "National Socialism or Death" tour.

Messages of equality were painted on the campus's infamous sounding board, The Rock. Students and faculty stood against the hate group leader, but his speech at the public university is completely legal. 

"It is government property which means it has to allow speech on equal terms," said Akram Faizer, a law professor at Lincoln Memorial University.

Faizer said UT must allow Heimbach to talk because of the First Amendment. He said they can require security and that the speech be at certain hours or in safe places. However, he said it can not restrict speech as a governmental entity.

Free speech on campuses was something Tennessee lawmakers fought for last year. They passed the "Campus Free Speech Protection Act." State Rep. Roger Kane co-sponsored the bill.

"Each university was doing a different interpretation of what free speech meant and we tried to do some standardization," said Rep. Kane.

Part of the bill reads, "an institution must allow all students and all faculty to invite guest speakers to campus to engage in free speech regardless of the views of guest speakers." Representative Kane did not agree with Heimbach's group, but he believed the bill is doing what it was supposed to do.

"Conservative speakers or pro-life speakers were trying to come to college campuses and they were being shut down," he said.

If UT were to shut down Heimbach's event, Faizer said he could bring suit claiming he was denied in violation of the First Amendment.

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