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Auckland freedom of speech court case will get world attention

  • July 22nd, 2018

The court hearing on 30 July of the Free Speech Coalition’s application to reverse Mayor Goff’s ban on “divisive” speakers in Auckland’s public halls will get world-wide interest. The application is supported by the top US civil liberties law professor, who was the president of the American Civil Liberties Union for more than 16 years.

Mayors who’ve decided they are above the law get international attention for their cities. Most of us heard of Toronto’s cocaine-using Mayor and of Red Ken Livingstone, former Lord Mayor of London who fawned on anti-semitic and homophobic Islamic clerics. Duterte, the the Philippines President who urges his police to murder suspects, came to notoriety as Mayor of Davao.

They say all attention is good attention, for a politician. But what happens to a city that wants to be all about “diversity” but has a mayor who insists that speakers in “his” meeting venues promote only “unity”. World-wide mockery of Auckland’s pretensions to sophistication may be on the way.

The Free Speech Coalition’s challenge to the Diversity Mayor who hates diversity of opinion has caught the attention of Nadine Strossen. She has just published with Oxford University Press a definitive book on so called “Hate Speech”.?HATE: Why We Should Resist it With Free Speech, Not Censorship.?Her Wikipedia entry says she “has been called one of the most influential business leaders, women, or lawyers in National Law Journal and Vanity Fair.”

The ACLU she led is at the heart of the US liberal establishment. Wikipedia says its annual budget is over US$100m. Prof Strossen’s support may direct international derision to the Councillors who have been too scared to stand up for the fundamental right of Aucklanders to attend meetings where people might say things that offend Councillors.

Current positions of the ACLU include: opposing the death penalty; supporting same-sex marriage and the right of LGBT people to adopt; supporting birth control and abortion rights; eliminating discrimination against women, minorities, and LGBT people; supporting the rights of prisoners and opposing torture; and opposing government preference for religion over non-religion, or for particular faiths over others

Here is the email I received two days ago:

Dear Free Speech Coalition New Zealand,

I am sending this to the Members who signed the July 17 letter to Auckland Mayor Phil Goff, and also to the three attorneys whose names were on the July 18 Statement of Claim, which I read yesterday with concern about the government’s censorship, but enthusiasm about your resistance.

I am so grateful for your staunch support of neutral principles of freedom of speech and due process, which I am convinced are essential not only for individual liberty and democracy, but also for meaningful equality and dignity, as well as societal harmony. I have staunchly defended these principles for many years, and am more convinced than ever that censorship of hated and even hateful ideas, no matter how well intended, will do more harm than good for all of these vital goals.

I say ‘more convinced than ever’ in light of the research and analysis I have done recently, including about the experiences in many countries, which are reflected in my new book that Oxford University Press published in the US in May and in the UK last month: “HATE: Why We Should Resist It with Free Speech, Not Censorship.” Although it describes US law on point, it makes the anti-censorship case based on universal principles as well as strategic/practical/policy concerns; it also quotes many human rights advocates and other experts from around the world who also support the non-censorial approach to “the idea that we hate”. In a future edition, I will be delighted to add quotes from your impressive group!

All best wishes in your important efforts.

Yours truly, Nadine

Nadine Strossen

John Marshall Harlan II Professor of Law, New York Law School

Immediate Past President, American Civil Liberties Union (1991-2008)

Author of HATE: Why We Should Resist it With Free Speech, Not Censorship (Oxford University Press, May 2018);

“Hope is more the consequence of action than its cause.You have two choices in this life: you can be a fatalistic spectator, or you can engage and produce hope.” David Cole, ACLU Legal Director (paraphrasing Harvard Professors Roberto Unger and Cornel West)



  • Max Shierlaw
  • July 23rd, 2018
  • 11:16 am

Stephen, do you expect to get a decision on July 30th? I’ve decided I’m going to attend their event. Thanks.


The decision might be reserved, hopefully only to the next day if success is to be of practical benefit.

  • TrevorH
  • July 23rd, 2018
  • 3:05 pm

Goff is going to cause Auckland a great deal of embarrassment as well as expense. Great to see these leading advocates of civil liberties are following the case.

  • Max Shierlaw
  • July 23rd, 2018
  • 8:17 pm

Is it true that the Auckland Council’s evidence has been supressed by the Courts?

  • anon-a-moose
  • July 27th, 2018
  • 1:27 pm

Thank you for your efforts on this. Frightening that the left appear so comfortable sliding back along the path to darkness and oppression.

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