By Edward Fitzpatrick
First Amendment advocates will be glad to know that Roger Williams University this week launched a First Amendment blog, providing a timely new venue for debating, discussing and defending the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment. The New England First Amendment Coalition will also be publishing many of the posts.
The blog draws its inspiration from Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island, who advocated for separation of church and state — a concept that’s now a cornerstone of American democracy. The blog will draw on the expertise of the faculty, staff and students at RWU, which contains the state’s only law school, a journalism program and experts on a range of First Amendment issues. It will address topics that are as old as the nation and events as current as today’s headlines, such as U.S. Supreme Court rulings on flag burning.
In the first round of blog posts, I discuss the history of threats to a free press, stating that First Amendment guarantees are paper thin if not defended and championed by each generation. Former Roger Williams University School of Law dean David A. Logan writes about the threats posed by fake news and false statements by candidates. And RWU journalism Professor Paola Prado writes about how a RWU journalism student provided a media law lesson for President-elect Donald J. Trump after he tweeted about flag burning.
“It is particularly appropriate that Roger Williams University would have a blog relating to the First Amendment, given the stance taken by our namesake on the need to separate civil governance from the practice of religion,” RWU President Donald J. Farish said. “Roger Williams’ ‘lively experiment’ in the 17th century was, of course, the basis of the provision in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States that protects religious freedom. But the First Amendment is so much more. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to assemble peaceably and freedom to petition the government for redress — all are important. And all require on-going vigilance to ensure they are preserved and protected for generations yet to come.”
Edward Fitzpatrick is the director of media and public relations at Roger Williams University and a member of the New England First Amendment Coalition’s Board of Directors.
NEFAC was formed in 2006 to advance and protect the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment, including the principle of the public’s right to know. We’re a broad-based organization of people who believe in the power of an informed democratic society. Our members include lawyers, journalists, historians, academics and private citizens.
Our coalition is funded through contributions made by those who value the First Amendment and who strive to keep government accountable. Donations can be made here. Major Supporters of NEFAC for this year include The Providence Journal Charitable Legacy Fund, The Robertson Foundation, The Boston Globe and Boston University.