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First Amendment Week 2015

Cover of Quill Magazine, journal of the Society of Professional Journalists, in the aftermath of the January Charlie Hebdo murders

Every year the Department of Communication and the Department of Government host First Amendement week to celebrate the freedoms of speech, press, religion, and assembly.  This year, the events were held between April 13 and 16 across the EKU Campus.

 

Deborah Givens (Department of Communication) and the Society of Professional Journalists hosted a pair of events on the First Amentment in Kentucky to start off the week.  They invited Jon Fleischaker of the Kentucky Press Association to speak on speech and journalistic issues in Kentucky, and Kathryn Foxhall, recipient of the Society of Professional Journalists Sunshine Award to speak on government records and freedom of information.

The Department of Government sponsored three events in the midweek.  On Tuesday night, Dr. Matthew Howell discussed government transperency in the context of both popular culture and whistleblowing.  He did this through the 1998 comedy the Pentagon would like you to forget about (at least according to defense journalist Matthew Gault), The Pentagon Wars.  The movie is a comedic dramatization about the fights within the Pentagon in the 1980s to produce new weapons systems that worked, rather than just spent a lot of money.  When the disputes within the Pentagon could not be resolved through traditional bureaucratic knife-fighting, a campaign of leaks was launched, culminating in Congressional hearings.  At least, that's what the movie shows, and that's what people remember when they compare modern projects, such as the F-35, to the movie.  Dramatization, though isn't reality, and Dr. Howell discussed how the First Amendment makes a lot of the original material available for citizens to draw their own conclusions.

Wednesday, Dr. Jane Rainey chaired a panel discussion with Dr. Dan Bennett and Dr. Matthew Howell -both of the Department of Government -on same-sex marriage and its implications for free speech, religious exercise, and civil rights in the United States.  Dr. Bennett discussed the ongoing cases before the US Supreme Court, with emphasis on the response by conservative Christian and religious activists, Dr. Rainey discussed the interaction of civil rights and religious liberty, and in particular the response by liberal Christian and religious activists, and Dr. Howell discussed the history of the policy through the Federalist System.   Afterwards, the students in the audience and the faculty held a wide ranging discussion on the future cases for the First Amendment.

The final Government event was an open discussion of religious satire and free speech, hosted by Dr. Jane Rainey, and including Drs. Howell and Benntt, along with Dr. Deborah Givens from Communication and Dr. Randi Polk from French.  The conversation took as its starting point the Charlie Hebdo murders from January of 2015, but ranged across the concerns of French culture, post-colonial social relations, and the sharp elbows of satirists across the Atlantic.

The week also saw the No Free Lunch event sponsored by the Society of Professional Journalists.  In all, a successful week demonstrating once again that free speech is the language of Eastern.

Published on April 28, 2015

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