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January 23, 2020

Note: Justice Talking's grant funding expired in 2008 and the project has been closed. This website is an archive of the entire run of Justice Talking shows through June 30, 2008.
It is no longer being maintained. We apologize for any stale or broken links.
Featured Program

Photo by: Jacob Holdt
Cross Burning
Last Featured: 10/6/2003

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Note: Justice Talking ceased production on June 30 of 2008. Link information on this site is not maintained and is provided for historical interest only. Although correct when posted, The Annenberg Public Policy Center makes no claim as the the accuracy or continued availability of any third party web links found on this site.

In November 2001, the Virginia Supreme Court struck down a 50-year-old law banning cross burnings, overturning the convictions of three men in two separate cross-burning incidents. The defendants argued that the “cross lightings” symbolize the light of Christ dispelling darkness and ignorance. In the decision, the court said that cross burnings are symbolic political and religious speech with First Amendment protection. But many in the civil rights community view these acts as racial intimidation that should be treated as hate crimes. As the U. S. Supreme Court considers this issue, we’ll debate when does symbolic speech cross the line to punishable action?

Robert O'Neil a founding director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, is a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law where he teaches constitutional and copyright law. After three decades of teaching, O=Neil has had a distinguished career in higher education administration, serving as Provost of the University of Cincinnati, Vice President of Indiana University for the Bloomington Campus, President of the University of Wisconsin and most recently as President of the University of Virginia. He is the author of Free Speech: Responsible Communication Under Law, The Rights of Public Employees, Classrooms in the Crossfire, and Free Speech in the College Community.

Ron Daniels is the executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, an organization dedicated to protecting the U.S. Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A veteran political activist, Daniels was an Independent candidate for president of the United States in 1992. He has served as executive director of the National Rainbow Coalition and was deputy campaign manager for Jesse Jackson=s bid for president in 1988. His weekly column, Vantage Point, appears in more than 100 African American newspapers nationwide.

Closing Quote
"Democracy is not an easy form of government because it is never final. It is a living, changing organism with a continuous shifting and adjusting of balance between individual freedom and general order."

— American writer Ilka Chase

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Special Announcements
Justice Talking’s last broadcast & podcast was June 30, 2008.

ATTENTION TEACHERS: Additional materials supporting use of this program in the classroom are available: ClickHere
Anti Defamation League
Freedom Forum Virginia v. Black case Timeline
Analysis from attorney John Phillips
Northwestern University, Medill News Service
Findlaw.com article
American Jewish Committee
People for the American Way
Beyond the Burning Cross : A Landmark Case of Race, Censorship and the First Amendment
by Edward J. Cleary, Robin Desser (Editor)
When the Nazis Came to Skokie: Freedom for Speech We Hate (Landmark Law Cases & American Society)
by Philippa Strum
Words That Wound: Critical Race Theory, Assaultive Speech, and the First Amendment (New Perspectives on Law, Culture, and Society)
Regulation of the Entertainment Industry
The FCC's New Rules for Media Ownership
Pornography and the First Amendment