With freedom of speech
comes responsibility

Editor's note: On Friday, Feb. 18, Sen. Fred Hemmings asked University of Hawaii President David McClain to cancel a talk by University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill that was scheduled for the following Tuesday. Hemmings cited Churchill's "offensive, wildly inaccurate and remarkably hurtful" comments comparing 9/11 victims to Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann as the reason for his request. Hemmings' request was denied and Churchill's appearance at UH went ahead as scheduled.

Now that Ward Churchill has come and gone, what have we learned? At the very least, we must consider the need to hold our institutions of public education to a higher standard of excellence as it relates to free speech.

I agree with University of Hawaii professor David Stannard's opinion that the university needs to send an important message about democracy and political courage, but that's where we part company. The First Amendment is something we all hold dear, but the right of free speech does not include the right to use the auspices of the state University of Hawaii to engage in deception.

University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill took questions last Monday at the University of Hawaii.

Churchill can come here and have the right of free speech to spread lies and deceit on his own. The sad part is that Churchill isn't about free speech or even about economics, global or otherwise. Evidence was his speech Tuesday night, which amounted to little more than a diatribe about his problems with critics. Ironically, the UH advocates of free speech denied me the opportunity to speak in rebuttal to Churchill's outlandish claims.

Churchill is about himself, having gained notoriety through vitriolic and venomous speech against those who have helped make our nation great. The thought that he was brought here and was subsidized directly or indirectly by the taxpayers of Hawaii is abhorrent.

The fact is that the American Indian Movement Grand Governing Council has unequivocally repudiated Churchill for fraudulently representing himself as an Indian and a member of the American Indian Movement. On its Web site, the AIMGC says Churchill's honorary membership card was "issued to anyone" by the Keetoowah Tribe of Oklahoma, and that former President Bill Clinton and many others received these cards, which do not qualify the holder to be a member of any tribe.

The AIMGC, which represents the national and international leadership of the American Indian Movement, also says on its Web site that Churchill "has deceitfully and treacherously fooled innocent and naive Indian community members in Denver, Colorado, as well as many other people worldwide." In fact, it goes on to say, "His statement that 9/11 victims deserved what happened to them and calling them little Eichmanns, comparing them to Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, who implemented Adolf Hitler's plan to exterminate European Jews and others, should be condemned by all." Churchill does not represent nor does he speak on behalf of the American Indian Movement, which, in its words, "vehemently and emphatically repudiates and condemns the outrageous statements made by Churchill."

It is irrelevant that at last Tuesday night's event Churchill admitted he is not one-quarter Indian. To be a full-fledged member of the Keetoowah, a person has to prove he or she is at least one-fourth Cherokee. What is relevant is that despite this requirement he has lied about being a Native American for decades even though the Keetoowah has never recognized him as a full-fledged member.

He used his supposed Indian heritage to gain a professorship at the University of Colorado. He achieved this feat even though he never earned a doctorate, which is normally considered the minimum requirement for a tenure-track job at the university. His addition was considered a contribution to the ethnic diversity of the school's tenure-track faculty.

If his cultural fraud isn't enough to discredit him as a worthy beneficiary of the auspices of the University of Hawaii, his literary fraud must give pause for thought.

An article published Feb. 8 in the Rocky Mountain News says that a professor accused Churchill of fabricating a story about the U.S. Army intentionally creating a smallpox epidemic among the Mandan tribe in 1837. Churchill allegedly made up almost all of the key facts and attributed them to sources that didn't hold up. Thomas Brown, the sociology professor at Lamar University who leveled the charge, said, "The lack of rationality on Churchill's part is mind-boggling."

The article says similar charges were leveled against Churchill by John Lavelle, a Native American scholar at the University of New Mexico. He documented equally fraudulent claims on Churchill's part regarding the General Allotment Act, which is one of the most important federal laws dealing with Indian lands. Lavelle also accuses Churchill of plagiarism in this matter.

Nothing could be more blatant than to exploit a people's plight by laying claim to being an American Indian. It is cultural fraud, plain and simple. Churchill has been renounced by the tribe of which he claims to be a member -- the Keetoowah. And Vernon Bellecourt, AIMGC executive committee member, told me, "This man should not have been invited to speak at the University of Hawaii because he is fraudulently representing himself as a Native American, which he's not."

Unfortunately, we have here in our state a crop of radical, liberal extremists in the University of Hawaii's political and ethnic studies programs who don't seem to care. Should they try to pull this off again we must be prepared to take a stand against them. Of course academic freedom should be respected, but not deceit or misrepresentation. These should not be tolerated.

The real hypocrisy is that these Caucasians, including Stannard, exploited the plight of Native Americans and Hawaiians for their own personal gain. They are incredible hypocrites for continuing to bad-mouth America and free enterprise while feeding at the trough of freedoms in America and the economic prosperity of free enterprise.

The so-called defense of free speech advocated by Stannard and UH President David McClain suggests no limit. This risks subjecting bona fide students to academic fraud, as what just happened with Churchill. In doing so, it rewards fraudulent behavior and suggests it is irrelevant, which is reprehensible. This is irresponsible, and the state should not and cannot condone it. I say there comes a point at which time one must exercise common sense.

Again, while the right of free speech is something we all hold dear, it does not include the right to use the auspices of the University of Hawaii to engage in deception, lies and deceit. To do so obliges us to give forum to every other liar and hatemonger who shows up at our doorstep. Let the likes of Churchill step on a soapbox and yell to their heart's content to anyone who would listen. But not on our dime.

Senate Minority Leader Fred Hemmings represents the 25th District (Hawaii Kai, Waimanalo, Kailua).

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