I’m a weenie. I don’t like confrontation and that surprises some people. I used to write a monthly column where I took strong stands, but in person, I avoid arguments. These days, I am not alone. More and more of us admit to avoiding people who take different political positions. We don’t want to get into a shouting match. We might have the freedom to speak in this country, but exercising that right mostly takes the form of online bursts of social media rants.

On Tuesday, Sept. 17, our country will celebrate 232 years since the signing of the U.S. Constitution. To celebrate, the Humboldt Center for Constitutional Rights, or HumRights, will host a debate on the idea of free speech and censorship.

It is the second HumRights Bar Debate, an ongoing series of events that takes the debate form out of academia and off the podium and puts it in a place where people naturally argue: A bar.

Humboldt Brews has graciously donated space for the event. Our debaters, Freddy Brewster and Fabian Cuevas, will argue whether there should be unfettered free speech on a college campus or whether the need for a safe space for learning requires forms of censorship. HumRights Executive Director Jeffrey Schwartz will moderate.

We expect a stimulating conversation with audience participation.

What’s our motivation for this project? The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects us from government censorship. It doesn’t protect us from social media trolls or verbal bullies. When bullies dominate conversations, people keep their opinions to themselves and converse only with people with whom they already agree. This puts our democracy at risk.

In the historic presidential election coming up, people must be able to talk to each other, across political divides. At HumRights, we want to demonstrate how you can challenge ideas without silencing them.

The HumRights Bar Debate is the latest project of the Humboldt Center for Constitutional Rights, which is an Arcata-based non-profit educating local citizens about their constitutional rights and encouraging the exercise of those rights. Other HumRights’ projects include an annual Banned Books Read-Out in partnership with the Humboldt State Library and the creation of a student legal resource center at Humboldt State, now in its second operational year.

We hope you join us Sept. 17 at 6 p.m. at HumBrews. Free admission.You can find more information at

Marcy Burstiner, an Arcata resident, is a founding board member and the current Chair of the Humboldt Center for Constitutional Rights.

If you go

What: Humboldt Center for Constitutional Rights Bar Debate: Can a college have both free speech and safe space?

When: Constitution Day, Sept. 17, 6 p.m.

Where: Humbrews, 856 10th St., Arcata

Cost: Free.

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