University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill caused a furor when he likened some Sept. 11, 2001, victims to Nazis. Here, he is interviewed in his home near Boulder, Colo.

Lawmaker wants
speaker blocked

UH President McClain upholds
the visitor’s freedom to express
an unpopular opinion

A Republican state senator wants to block a speech at the University of Hawaii at Manoa by an Colorado professor who compared some Sept. 11, 2001, victims to a Nazi war criminal.

UH and community groups invited University of Colorado ethnic studies professor Ward Churchill to speak Tuesday night on academic freedom at the Art Auditorium on the UH-Manoa campus.

In a 2001 essay and book on U.S. military interventions, Churchill compared some of the World Trade Center victims to "little Eichmanns," a reference to SS Lt. Col. Adolf Eichmann, who organized the killing of Jews during World War II.

Sen. Fred Hemmings (R, Lanikai-Waimanalo) asked UH President David McClain yesterday to deny permission for the speech. He said McClain has "the freedom and responsibility to deny Mr. Churchill access to the University of Hawaii as a forum for his evil. Failure to do so will dishonor your institution and maybe even jeopardize funding from the private sector."

McClain issued a statement earlier in the day condemn- ing Churchill's remarks as "personally offensive, wildly inaccurate and remarkably hurtful to those who lost loved ones there on that day."

But McClain also defended Churchill's right to speak at UH.

"Freedom of inquiry and of expression are what universities are all about, and freedom of speech is a cornerstone of our democracy," McClain wrote.

David Stannard, a member of the American-studies faculty at UH-Manoa, said the professors and groups that invited Churchill to speak believe in his right to express his opinions, no matter how unpopular.

"If you don't like what he says, fine, then argue with him," Stannard said. "There's a reason why the First Amendment is called the First Amendment -- because it is the most important one."

Stannard said Churchill, who specializes in American Indian issues, spoke in Hawaii before, at a native Hawaiian forum.

Last month, Hamilton College in upstate New York canceled his lecture after the campus newspaper printed a story about his remarks, an event that sparked a national controversy over Churchill. Other colleges and universities have also canceled his appearances.

Colorado's governor has called for Churchill to be fired. The professor's comments also led to an investigation by the Colorado Board of Regents and his resignation as chairman of the ethnic studies department at the University of Colorado, where he remains a tenured professor.

Churchill has not apologized for the remarks, and said he was trying to make a point. He has said the comparison to Eichmann was not directed at all 9/11 victims, but only at the "technocrats of empire," whom he viewed as working to support oppressive and unlawful U.S. policies.

"If U.S. foreign policy results in massive death and destruction abroad, we cannot feign innocence when some of that destruction is returned," he wrote in a statement after the controversy broke.

The sponsors of the UH event include UH-Manoa's American Studies, English, Hawaiian Studies, History, Political Science, Sociology and Women's Studies departments; the Center for Pacific Island Studies; the College of Social Sciences Public Policy Center; the Diversity and Equity Initiative; the International Cultural Studies Certificate Program; the Matsunaga Institute for Peace; and Student Equity Excellence and Diversity. Community co-sponsors include Friends of Sabeel, Not in Our Name Hawaii, Refuse & Resist, Revolution Books and the Hawaii Peoples Fund.

University of Hawaii at Manoa
University of Colorado - Dept. of Ethnic Studies

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