Ohio ACLU Criticizes Board of Education’s Exclusion of Anti-Radical-Islam (and Possibly Anti-Islam and Anti-Muslim) Speaker

Here’s the Ohio ACLU’s statement, on the national ACLU’s Web site:

Today, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio expressed disappointment and concern over the cancellation of an event to be hosted by the Mansfield North Central Ohio Tea Party Association at Mansfield Senior High School on Monday, March 28, 2011. After consultation with city police, Mansfield City Schools Superintendent Dan Freund withdrew permission for the event over safety concerns on Monday morning. A coalition of advocacy groups opposed to the message of the keynote speaker was scheduled to host a press conference later that afternoon.

The scheduled speaker was Usama Dakdok, and the Tea Party described his talk as “reveal[ing] the ways we are not just losing our freedoms, but that we are surrendering them to our enemy, radical Islam.” Civil rights groups claimed Dakdok’s message was anti-Islam and divisive.

“While we might disagree with the message of the speaker, they have a right like any other group to fully air their views, without interference by government officials. Public officials — Sheriff and Superintendent included, have a duty to provide a safe venue for all speakers. Shutting down an event because some individual or group does not like the message is dangerous to a free society and the democratic process,” said ACLU of Ohio Executive Director Christine Link.

“Those offended by the message of this group or any other must instead answer offensive speech with more speech, not suppression,” added Link. “Now is the time for groups protesting the speaker to amplify their message, not shut down their opponent.” …

The Mansfield News Journal reports on how the speech in the alternate venue went:

The tea party group was able to arrange an alternate location for the Monday speaking event, an office complex at 1456 Park Avenue West. More than 350 people crowded into the space to hear Dakdok. Tea party members receptive to the lecture bumped elbows with concerned listeners from the Mansfield chapter of the NAACP and the Islamic Society of Mansfield.

Dakdok’s 150-minute lecture prompted a few outbursts but no major public disturbances.

On the other hand — a 150-minute lecture? There ought to be a law against that. For past posts on this event, see here and here.