On Attempts To Ban Controversial Scholars From Entering The US

From the ACLU’s blog of rights:

In a victory for free speech and academic discourse, last week the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower-court decision upholding the government’s exclusion of Swiss scholar Tariq Ramadan from the United States. Professor Ramadan, a leading scholar of the Muslim world, was offered a tenured professorship at the University of Notre Dame in 2004, but could not take up the post because the government revoked his U.S. visa. The government initially justified its decision by claiming that Professor Ramadan had “endorsed our espoused” terrorism. After the ACLU filed suit, the government abandoned this claim but continued to defend his exclusion on the grounds that he had made small donations to a Swiss charity that the government alleged had given money to Hamas.

But as the court correctly pointed out in the decision issued last Friday, the charity in question wasn’t designated as a terrorist group until years after Professor Ramadan made the donations.

The appeals court also made clear that barring invited scholars from the United States deprives U.S. citizens of their First Amendment rights to hear ideas and engage in face-to-face debate with foreign scholars. The exclusion of scholars on ideological grounds stymies the global exchange of ideas.

The government should not use its power to police the border as a tool of censorship. The United States has a sad — and long discredited — history of engaging in ideological exclusion. Through the years, many renowned writers and thinkers — including Nobel Prize winners Doris Lessing, Pablo Neruda, and Gabriel García Márquez — have been denied entry to the United States because of their “dangerous” political views. This practice was revived by the Bush administration after 9/11.

The ACLU has an online petition calling on Attorney General Holder and Secretaries Clinton and Napolitano to stop censoring ideas at America’s borders. Click here to send your message!

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.