May 2012 Archives

Sunday, May 20
Beth-El Synagogue
5224 West 26th Street
St. Louis Park
Services begin at 9:00 a.m.
Breakfast and Presentation
"Honoring the Image of God: Reviewing Torture Jewishly"

Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster, Director of Rabbis for Human Rights North America will anchor a panel addressing the spiritual concerns with regard to torture. Barbara Frey, Director of the Human Rights Program in the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota and Dr. Steven Miles, Professor and Maas Family Endowed Chair in Bioethics, University of Minnesota Medical School will join her on the panel.

The discussion is part of Beth-El's annual Arthur and Irene Stillman Torah Scholar in Residence Weekend, Friday, May 18-20.

For more information please contact Beth-El Synagogue at 952-920-3512.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled in favor of the University today in a closely watched case involving First Amendment and academic freedom claims. A Plaintiff in the case, Turkish Coalition of America, claimed that statements on a University department website that suggested that the Turkish Coalition's information about the Armenian genocide was "unreliable" violated its free speech rights and were defamatory. A University student also allegedly feared he would be subjected to academic reprisals if he used information from the organization's website in his own work.

The federal district court had previously granted the University's motion to dismiss the claims, based principally upon its finding that the University's website contained statements of faculty scholarly opinion and critique that were protected by the doctrine of academic freedom.

The Court of Appeals today affirmed the District Court's dismissal of the plaintiff's claims. It found the Turkish Coalition free speech claim failed because it could not show it had suffered any restrictions on its speech activities. The Court of Appeals also found that the Turkish Coalition's defamation claims failed because the University faculty's statements were either true or were statements of opinion, which cannot support a defamation claim. The Court of Appeals also found the student had no standing to bring any claims because he could not show he suffered any injury.

The case has been watched closely by scholars around the United States and the world because of its implications for principles of academic freedom. GC Mark Rotenberg stated, "Today's federal court decision confirms the right of universities and their faculty to offer scholarly criticism and critique on websites without fear of legal exposure. This protection is especially important when the scholarly opinions expressed by the faculty are controversial. We are very pleased to have successfully defended this important academic interest."

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