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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Experiencing the 1st Amendment at UCLA

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
The 1st Amendment to the United State Constitution

The 1st Amendment is designed to protect all forms of speech, even - or, more accurately, especially - offensive speech.

I was reminded of this a couple years ago while at the UCLA campus.

Please note: the following images are both graphic and disturbing.

On May 18, 2010 the Center for Bioethical Reform, a pro-life (what others would refer to as anti-abortion) organization based in Southern California, set up a large display at the base of Bruin Walk.

Massive and graphic images focused students' attention on the issue of legalized abortion.

This is looking north from the 2nd floor of Ackerman Union.

The displays consisted of a twenty-foot high ring of images and text.

"Live Action," the UCLA student organization that acted as the sponsor and helped bring this display, the "Genocide Awareness Project," on campus.

Students on both sides of the issue were engaged in meaningful discussion on what continues to be an emotionally charged issue. A student with a handmade sign voiced a dissenting opinion.

Despite the very graphic images, the conversation remained civil and respectful.

The fence around the display was designed to prevent vandalism from counter-protesters. The small sign on the left says: "warning: for security purposes, video monitoring is in progress in this area."

A quick look inside the circle of images.

A student volunteer engaged in conservation.

As a UCLA alumni, I certainly hope that those who are pro-choice (that is, pro abortion-rights) would respect the 1st Amendment rights of those they disagree with, and protect their right to erect this display in the center of campus. Campuses like UCLA constantly speak of "celebrating diversity." That sounds great - if it means diversity of opinion.

photo credit: Los Angeles Times

In a related story, today's Los Angeles Times featured an article about Melinda Guido who was just released from the hospital. Melinda was born on August 30 - four months premature - weighing just nine ounces at birth, making her the smallest baby ever born in California, and the second smallest ever born in the United States. Incredible. Here's the link to the story.

Over the years, both as a student and then working at UCLA, I've seen and heard groups and causes that I absolutely disagreed with, yet respected their right to be heard.

That's how the 1st Amendment works: even - especially - with what many may find offensive.

Even - or especially - in L.A.

© 2012



Anonymous said...

great post - thanks

Anonymous said...

What I find interesting here is the confluence of both free speech and religion. Although this anti-choice group is, and should be able to, exercising free speech, it is also advocating the state/the government take their religious position, and thus stepping on the 1st Amendment even while exercising another basic 1st Amendment right. This, to me, has always been the great conundrum of this issue from the perspective of these basic rights and law. Gene