The Competetive Enterprise Institute's blog has a piece about a government official chilling free speech—one which I regard as much more worrisome than anything John Ashcroft said.
There are no forbidden words that the government can ban regardless of the circumstances in which they are used. For example, in Hardy v. Jefferson Community College (2001), the federal appeals court in Cincinnati held that an instructor could not be terminated just for discussing the “N” word and how it was historically used to promote racism.
The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission would like to change that, though. It would like to ban racially derogatory terms, even when they are used by minorities themselves. The EEOC’s Chairwoman [Naomi C. Earp, Send her mail]wrote a letter to the editor in the January 4 issue of Time Magazine, denouncing a column by black writer John Ridley about uses of the “N” word. “We will continue our efforts to eradicate the harmful slur from the workplace — forever,” she wrote.OpenMarket » Forbidden Words
The CEI blog points out that this raises First Amendment issues, and I'd like to know if Ms. Earp thinks that driving this word out of the the workplace means that the Press is no longer allowed to use it. After all, the printers might take offence at having to print it, and editors might take offence at having to edit it, and the magazine distributors, all down the line, with the result that any word, or any idea, which is considered hostile may be banned, to keep the employer safe from an EEOC consent decree. See Eugene Volokh's What Speech Does "Hostile Work Environment" Harassment Law Restrict?, 85 Geo. L.J. 627 (1997) for details.