Irvine California and the Rights of Muslim Hecklers

Ten Muslim student were convicted in Irvine California yesterday for conspiring to disrupt and disrupting the speech of the Israeli Ambassador on the Irvine campus. One by one the students stood in a large ballroom and yelled at the Ambassador. Despite the interruptions the Ambassador was able to complete his speech. The discussion of the case has emphasized that the First Amendment is not an absolute and that the students have no First Amendment right to disrupt a speech. But the First Amendment is more complicated. Free speech does not imagine a dominant speaker with a polite audience. The history of free speech involves speech-audience interaction and considerable heckling is a vital part of the First Amendment tradition. Indeed, the California Supreme Court itself many year ago in In re Kay invalidated the convictions of hecklers who chanted "What About the Grape Boycott?" to the speaker Congressman John Tunney who…

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