Sessions: DOJ concerned about suppression of free speech on college campuses

Sessions: DOJ concerned about suppression of free speech on college campuses
© Greg Nash

Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine — Trump, Congress prepare for new border wall fight The Memo: Trump and McCabe go to war McCabe book: Sessions once said FBI was better off when it 'only hired Irishmen' MORE this week stressed the Trump administration's support for the First Amendment while vowing to oppose universities that stifle free speech on campus.

"Make no mistake, this Department of Justice is concerned about the suppression of speech that is now occurring," Sessions said during a forum on free speech in higher education hosted by the Justice Department.

"Defending the Constitution, defending civil rights, doing justice, compels this Department of Justice to defend the right to speech, expression, religion, press, petition and assembly. And defend these rights we will."

Sessions noted that the Justice Department (DOJ) has filed so-called statements of interest in several campus free speech cases in California, Georgia and Michigan.

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The attorney general warned about a threat to free speech on college campuses from speech codes and rules. He pointed to an instance in which a student in Los Angeles was barred from handing out Spanish-language copies of the U.S. Constitution outside a 616-square-foot "free speech zone." The DOJ filed a brief in the student's lawsuit against the school last year.

"This has gone too far. It must end. This country protects noisome assembly, immoderate speech and provocative speech. Whether left or right. Suppression of competing voices is not the American way," Sessions said Monday.

Sessions has expressed his commitment to protecting free speech on college campuses before.

His comments Monday also echoed those made by Education Secretary Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosStudents call on DeVos to offer free tampons, pads in schools to address 'period poverty' DeVos recovering from broken pelvis, hip socket after bicycle accident Student veterans deserve better than the DeVos agenda MORE at a separate event that day.

"[Universities] too often attempt to shield students from ideas they subjectively decide are hateful or offensive or injurious or ones they just don't like," she said.