Priests of Our Democracy: The Supreme Court, Academic Freedom, and the Anti-Communist Purge

Marjorie Heins, Author
Marjorie Heins. New York Univ., $35 (384p) ISBN 978-0-8147-9051-9
Reviewed on: 01/07/2013
Release date: 02/01/2013
Paperback - 373 pages - 978-1-4798-6060-9
Ebook - 374 pages - 978-0-8147-4464-2
Book - 978-0-8147-7026-9
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Heins, a civil liberties lawyer and founder of the Free Expression Policy Project, tracks the collision of politics, academic freedom, free speech, and the Constitution in this dense, well-researched study. She opens with a formative University of Wisconsin Board of Regents statement issued in 1894 that “sang the praises of academic freedom as a necessary component” of the university and advocated for the “fearless” pursuit of truth in academia, but she quickly focuses in on the “American Red Scare” that began in the 1920s and extended on into the ’50s. In the course of her discussion, she examines governmental efforts to suppress the perceived threat of communism, the individuals who spearheaded those efforts, and the consequences of the destructive purges. Alongside her detailed and well-documented descriptions of the consequences of the chilling crackdowns on the academic world, Heins (Not In Front of the Children) demonstrates her legal acumen in insightful elucidations of the constitutional underpinnings and Supreme Court decisions that have come to define the rights of educators. She also addresses how these standards have fared after 9/11 and under the current Chief Justice, John Roberts—not well, she contends. This compelling study demonstrates that precedent does not guarantee indefinite protection, and every generation must fight for its freedoms. Photos. (Feb.)
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