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Professor Threatened With Criminal Charges For “Firefly” Poster

Over the course of two weeks, a theater professor at the University of Wisconsin-Stout (UWS) was censored twice, reported to the “threat assessment team”, and threatened with criminal charges for two different posters he put on his office door.

On September 12, Professor James Miller posted a picture of Capt. Malcolm Reynolds from the TV show “Firefly” with a quote from the character, “You don’t know me, son, so let me explain this to you once: If I ever kill you, you’ll be awake. You’ll be facing me. And you’ll be armed.”

In context of the series, the quote is meant to show the attitude of the character when it comes to killing an enemy in a cowardly fashion, such as killing them in their sleep.  Four days later, UWS Chief of Police Lisa A. Walter sent an email to Miller instructing him to remove the poster, saying,

“…it is unacceptable to have postings such as this that refer to killing.”

Miller immediately replied to the email,

“Respect liberty and respect my first amendment rights.”

Chief Walter did not back down and not only explained her reasoning, but also threatened Miller with criminal charges,

“The poster can be interpreted as a threat by others and/or could cause those that view it to believe that you are willing/able to carry out actions similar to what is listed.”

“If you choose to repost the article or something similar to it, it will be removed and you could face charges of disorderly conduct.”

Later that day, Miller replaced the poster with this one.

Four more days later, Miller received another email from Chief Walter saying her office had taken it upon themselves to remove the new posters because it depicted violence and mentioned death.  Walter also mentioned that the Threat Assessment Team had been notified as such a poster might constitute a threat.

Miller has now sought the help of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).  On Miller’s behalf, FIRE contacted UWS Chancellor Charles W. Sorensen to explain that neither poster was a threat, and no reasonable, intelligent person would perceive such posters as a threat.  FIRE is requesting that Soresen immediately end the censorship on Miller, publicly apologize for threatening Miller with criminal charges, and rescind their request for a meeting about the threat assessment team’s concerns.  At the time of publishing the original article, Sorensen’s office had not replied to the request.  In reply to this situation, FIRE VP of Programs Adam Kissel said,

“It is both shameful and absurd for UWS to suggest that campus community members are so impressionable and unreasonable that merely seeing a reference to violence on a poster will lead them to commit either actual violence or a substantial disruption of the campus.”

via The Fire

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