- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 2, 2005

DENVER — Colorado Gov. Bill Owens yesterday urged the University of Colorado Board of Regents to fire professor Ward Churchill at a meeting today if he refuses to resign for his remarks comparing the September 11 victims to Nazis.

The elected board is slated to discuss Mr. Churchill’s status at a special meeting today with university President Betsy Hoffman. Earlier this week, Mr. Churchill resigned as chairman of the Ethnic Studies Department, but Mr. Owens and other lawmakers have since called on him to resign from the faculty entirely.

“I told President Hoffman that my office will work closely with her and the Board of Regents to terminate Mr. Churchill if he refuses to resign voluntarily,” said Mr. Owens at a press conference here yesterday.

Mr. Churchill has “the same First Amendment rights as any American,” said Mr. Owens, but he “has no place on the faculty of the University of Colorado … . [H]e absolutely should not be supported with taxpayers’ dollars.”

But Denver lawyer David Lane, who said he has agreed to represent Mr. Churchill in the event of his dismissal, predicted that the threat of certain legal action would prevent the board from demanding the professor’s resignation.

“There will be much tongue-clucking and hand-wringing by the board over Ward Churchill and that’s about it, because they know if they harm one hair on his professorial head, they will find themselves in federal district court so fast that they won’t have time to write the check,” said Mr. Lane.

He argued that the University of Colorado, as a publicly funded university, cannot dismiss employees who engage in inflammatory speech because it would constitute state action to squelch free speech.

“That First Amendment prevents the state government from punishing an employee from engaging in free speech. It would be a slam-dunk — a first-year law student could win this one,” said Mr. Lane.

John Andrews, former Colorado Senate president, said Mr. Churchill’s free-speech rights as a professor have their limits.

“Academic freedom is not a license to lie,” he said. “The First Amendment doesn’t mean you can throw around inflammatory statements without consequences.”

Mr. Churchill’s critics argued that the professor has a history of encouraging violence against the government and supporting terrorism in his papers and remarks. At his press conference, Mr. Owens said he had listened to a recording of a Churchill lecture that he described as “outrageous.”

“He endorses armed attack on the United States. He endorses violence. He is callous toward the innocent dead,” said Mr. Owens.

Mr. Churchill’s long list of books, essays and lectures includes calls for activists and so-called “oppressed peoples” to take up arms against their oppressors, usually the U.S. government, say critics.

The national outcry over Mr. Churchill’s remarks comes over his essay, “Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens,” which described the September 11 victims as “little Eichmanns,” a reference to Adolf Eichmann, who ran Nazi Germany’s concentration camps.

“As for those in the World Trade Center, … well, really, let’s get a grip here, shall we? True enough, they were civilians of a sort. But innocent, gimme a break,” said Mr. Churchill in his September 2001 essay.

The Colorado House of Representatives unanimously denounced Mr. Churchill yesterday in a resolution supporting the September 11 victims, describing his remarks as “evil and inflammatory.”

In an editorial yesterday, the Rocky Mountain News called on the regents to dismiss Mr. Churchill if he refuses to resign, asking why “the state’s premier institution of higher learning should continue to serve as a bully pulpit for Churchill’s cult of violence.”

“[W]hat the Regents should know is that, however odious Churchill’s remarks about 9/11, they are perfectly in keeping with his long and sordid history of advocating violence against America and Americans,” said the editorial.

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