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Law Profs Dissent on Tutu Speech

A decision by the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., to bar Archbishop Desmond Tutu from speaking on campus has drawn criticism from many corners of the globe -- including the university's own law school. As reported at Minnesota Lawyer Blog, 18 members of the law school's faculty, led by professor Thomas C. Berg, co-director of the Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law and Public Policy, sent a letter to university President Fr. Dennis Dease asking him to reconsider his decision. Reportedly, Dease believed that an on-campus appearance by the noted South African cleric and human rights activist would be hurtful to some Jewish students and faculty members because of controversy over remarks Tutu is alleged to have made about Israel in a 2002 speech (remarks that, according to this piece, he never said). Berg's letter says:

"To reject a distinguished speaker based on worries that his words may cause hurt or offense to some is entirely at odds with the search for truth that should characterize a Catholic university. Speech taking positions on controversial subjects will often be offensive or hurtful to some people. Nevertheless, a Catholic university should be willing to open itself to such speech -- and criticisms of that speech -- in order to learn the truth."

The law school is seeking permission to host Tutu on its own if the university does not change its mind, the blog reports. Meanwhile, in another post at the same blog, Mark Cohen, the editor of Minnesota Lawyer newspaper, calls on the university to reconsider its decision. While the decision may have been driven by good intentions, he says, the university is "doing the wrong thing for all the right reasons." A commentary in the Star-Tribune offers a similar critique, acknowledging that Dease's decision was "motivated by a genuine desire to avoid hurting Minnesota's Jewish community," but calling it wrong and unethical nonetheless.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on October 10, 2007 at 03:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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