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Seligman First Amendment Lecture Series

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The Seligman First Amendment Lecture Series fosters dialogue about First Amendment issues and is made possible by a generous gift from the Jane G. and Fred K. Seligman Endowment.

About the Series

Since its inception in 2009, the Seligman First Amendment Lecture Series has fostered dialogue about First Amendment issues by uniting the University and local community in meaningful conversation. We aim not only to promote a robust discussion, but, like the freedoms protected in the United States, we hope this opportunity for free discussion will also promote understanding and friendship among our fellow citizens.

This lecture series is made possible by a generous gift from the Jane G. and Fred K. Seligman Endowment. As a Jewish émigré from Nazi Germany in 1934, Fred Seligman cherished the freedoms protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Having experienced the challenges of a nation at war, Fred Seligman understood the dilemmas that nations like the United States face in protecting these freedoms. While conscious that our liberties are always fragile, Mr. Seligman believed that the continued protection of freedom requires strong institutions of government respected by its citizens. The hope of the Seligman family is that this series will foster a deeper discussion among the community, faculty and students; particularly as the students prepare to lead in a world in which they may have to discern what is right and just.

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The Seligman First Amendment Lecture Series - February 29, 2024

Feb. 29, 2024 | How to Stop the Internet from Killing Free Speech - Alex Berenson

The University of West Florida hosted Alex Berenson as the guest speaker for the 2024 Seligman First Amendment Lecture in concert with the Experience UWF Downtown Lecture on Thursday, February 29, 2024, at the Museum of Commerce, downtown Pensacola.

Alex Berenson was a reporter for the New York Times from 1999 to 2010. Berenson now writes the Unreported Truths Substack and has written 13 novels and three nonfiction books. 

Berenson has emerged as one of the most prominent advocates of First Amendment principles against 21st-century modes of censorship. In his lecture “How to Stop the Internet from Killing Free Speech,” he told the story of his experience in the courts and what has come to light because of his case. 

Berenson rose to prominence during the pandemic as a dissenter who was de-platformed by social media companies. He challenged this censorship in the courts. During discovery, evidence emerged that several federal administrative agencies had been involved in the efforts to remove his voice from the public discourse. His court victories helped pave the way for the more prominent challenge to censorship by government agencies before the Supreme Court this term in Murthy v. Missouri

This event was live-streamed and recorded. The event recording may be viewed below.

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The Seligman First Amendment Lecture Series - Feb. 15, 2023.

Feb. 15, 2023 | “Talking Insurrection” - Dr. Mark Graber

On Feb. 15, 2023, the University of West Florida Reubin O’D. Askew Department of Government presented the Seligman First Amendment Lecture Series at The Voices, downtown Pensacola. 

Dr. Mark Graber is a regents professor of government at the University of Maryland. He is recognized as one of the country's leading scholars on constitutional law and politics. 

Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment declares “No person shall . . . have any office . . . under the United States, or under any State,” who having previously taken an oath . . as an officer of the United States . . . to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies therein. Courts in the contemporary United States have disqualified under Section 3 persons who physically participated in the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection but have so far refrained from disqualifying persons who merely supported or encouraged that insurrection.

This talk explored the scope of Section Three disqualification for insurrectionary speech in light of the predominant understandings of free speech and insurrection at the time Section Three was ratified. Evidence suggests that during the Civil War and Reconstruction, most legal authorities did not think the First Amendment protected speech encouraging or supporting an insurrection and that persons who engaged in such speech were disqualified from present and future office under Section Three. The talk concluded with a discussion of whether and to what extent we ought to be guided by Civil War understandings in a time when constitutional protections for free speech are much broader and the constitutional understanding of participating in an insurrection much narrower.