A Conversation on the Future of the First Amendment

March 10, 2024

Nothing is more confounding these days than the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech. More so than any other democracy, America is highly permissive on free speech, and has no ban on hate speech – the burning of the American flag, the burning of crosses, and the marching of neo-Nazis are constitutionally protected speech. And yet, social media, college campuses, and the cultural phenomenon of cancel culture are often intolerant of viewpoints that don’t abide by the priorities of the times, resulting in moral banishment and self-censorship.

Is speech still free, or does it now come with considerable costs?

On March 10, 2024, FOLCS hosted a lively and informative Conversation about these questions and more, with four free speech experts: First Amendment icon Floyd Abrams; former President of the ACLU, Nadine Strossen; Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, Bret Stephens; and law professor and FOLCS Creative Director, Thane Rosenbaum.

This program was co-produced with the 92nd Street Y.

Nadine Strossen
Professor Emerita, Legal Scholar

Nadine Strossen, a chaired Professor Emerita at New York Law School and past national President of the American Civil Liberties Union (1991-2008), is a Senior Fellow with FIRE (the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression) and a leading expert and frequent speaker/media commentator on constitutional law and civil liberties, who has testified before Congress on multiple occasions. She serves on the advisory boards of the ACLU, Academic Freedom Alliance, Heterodox Academy, and National Coalition Against Censorship. The National Law Journal has named Strossen one of America’s “100 Most Influential Lawyers,” and several other national publications have named her one of the country’s most influential women. In 2023, the National Coalition Against Censorship (an alliance of more than 50 national non profit organizations) selected Strossen for its Lifetime Achievement Award for Free Speech.

She is the author of HATE: Why We Should Resist It with Free Speech, Not Censorship (2018) and Free Speech: What Everyone Needs to Know (forthcoming October 2023). She is also the Host and Project Consultant for Free To Speak, a 3-hour documentary film series on free speech scheduled for release on public television in October 2023. Her book Defending Pornography: Free Speech, Sex, and the Fight for Women’s Rights was named a New York Times “notable book” of 1995 and will be republished in 2024 as part of the New York University Press “Classic” series. Her book HATE was selected as the “Common Read” by Washington University and Washburn University.

Floyd Abrams
First Amendment Attorney

A renowned First Amendment attorney, Floyd Abrams is Senior Counsel at Cahill Gordon & Reindel. A sought-after attorney and public speaker, he has been a leading thinker on First Amendment issues for decades.

Bret Stephens
Columnist, New York Times

Bret Stephens is an Opinion columnist for The New York Times and editor-in-chief of Sapir (sapirjournal.org), a new quarterly dedicated to exploring issues of Jewish concern. He has previously worked as foreign-affairs columnist for The Wall Street Journal and as editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post. He is the author of “America in Retreat: The New Isolationism and the Coming Global Disorder” (2014). Among his many prizes and distinctions are the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for distinguished commentary, the 2019 Ellis Island Medal of Honor, and three honorary doctorates. In 2022 he was banned for life by the government of Russia from visiting that country. He was raised in Mexico City and educated at the University of Chicago and the London School of Economics. He lives with his wife Corinna, a music critic and entrepreneur, outside of New York City. They have three children.