Byline: Valerie Richardson, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
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. …