Anti-Semitism discussion takes on first amendment


Liza Zulick | Staff Writer

In an effort to spark dialogue on hate speech in the community, senior political science major David DeFelice organized the Symposium on Anti-Semitism and the First Amendment, scheduled for March 18. During the debate, panelists from the Pittsburgh area who specialize in these studies will weigh in on the discussion.

Hosted by Duquesne University and the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, a panel discussion with Josh Sayles, Director of the Community Relations Council for the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh; Bruce Ledewitz, Professor of Law at Duquesne University; Alana Bandos, Regional Education Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and Stephanie Reiss, Attorney and ACLU representative, will speak on the topic of the intersection of hate speech and the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause.

“I hope attendees walk away with more questions than answers. This event should serve as the impetus for engaged citizens to question the current law surrounding hate speech and the Free Speech Clause in the U.S. as well as deepen the audience’s understanding of what anti-Semitism is and how it has morphed in recent times. Something all too personal for the City of Pittsburgh,” DeFelice said.

The panelists are going to speak on a range of topics that include what anti-Semitism is and the new forms it takes. They will also speak on whether anti-Israel rhetoric should be included under the umbrella of anti-Semitic speech or not, and if legislation aimed at protecting Jews against prejudice is constitutional or if it infringes on freedom of speech.

Panelists will also discuss the court precedent surrounding hate speech statutes and regulations and debate why hate speech is considered to be constitutionally protected.

“I find the topic of hate speech in the United States to be one of the less discussed areas of law, or at least less sensationalized,” DeFelice said. “Anti-Semitism has often been looked at as a prejudice of the past, but it has in fact just morphed and taken on new faces in the 21st century … Following the October terror attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue — I find it essential that we engage the community about anti-Semitism within a legal context.”

Hoping to create an awareness and better understanding of the concept of hate speech in the Pittsburgh community, the floor will then be opened for questions from the audience after the panelist discussion.

To explain and discuss how the First Amendment allows hate speech, Ledewitz, who teaches constitutional law at Duquesne, will speak on the panel about legal remedies.

Ledewitz explains that it’s the “decision as to if constitutional values are worth it. Every generation has to decide if the costs and values are worth it.”

This event will take place at 6:30 p.m. in the Duquesne University Ballroom and is open to the public to attend.