Genocide Deniers’ Case Should Be Dismissed, Says Mass. Attorney General’s Office

BOSTON–During oral argumen’s in US District Court in Boston on September 18, Assistant Attorney General William Porter forcefully argued that the genocide curriculum lawsuit against the Commonwealth of Massachusetts filed by the Assembly of Turkish American Associations should be dismissed. The Armenian National Committee joined the Armenian Bar Association, the NAACP, and others in supporting the Commonwealth’s position that the lawsuit had no merit because it showed no evidence that free speech had been impaired in any way. The ATAA lawsuit calls for the inclusion of their website in a list of educational sources for teachers, as part of a teacher’s guide on genocide education provided by the Commonwealth. The lawsuit also calls for the addition of other websites, including that of the Embassy of the Republic of Turkey, which the ATAA had lobbied to include in the guide, but were disqualified because they denied the Armenian Genocide, in direct contravention of the Massachusetts statute requiring the teaching of the Armenian Genocide. US District Chief Judge Mark Wolf began the hearing by extensively questioning the attorneys for the ATAA as to why he should not dismiss the case due to the plaintiffs’ failure to file within the statue of limitations. Besides the ATAA, the plaintiffs include two teachers and three current or former students at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School. Asst. Attorney General Porter argued that the case should also be dismissed due to the plaintiffs’ lack of standing, that is to say the teachers do not allege that their teaching was affected and therefore, the students cannot allege they were deprived of anything. "This is very far afield from what we think of as a First Amendment case" stated Porter, who also pointed out that the ATAA had successfully lobbied to have two sections of the curriculum guide that described the Armenian Genocide removed during the same process that added and then removed the offending websites. Attorney Gabrielle Wohlohojian of Wilmer Hale argued the "friend of the court" (amicus curiae) brief that had been filed on behalf of the Armenian Bar Association together with the Armenian National Committee of America, the Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the Irish Immigration Center. Wohlohojian argued that the government of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts had made the determination to educate its schoolchildren on historical cases of genocide and civil rights violations and had the right to include or not include material as it wished. There was no First Amendment basis to challenge this right. She also noted that any student "can walk into the Lincoln-Sudbury high school library and access these websites" that the plaintiffs complain have been excluded from the curriculum guide. Attorney Arnie Rosenfeld of Kirkpatrick & Lockhart presented the argumen’s in support of an amicus brief filed on behalf of the Armenian Assembly of America. Attorney Harvey Silverglate, representing the plaintiffs, concluded his argumen’s by stressing that both teachers who are parties to the lawsuit are civil rights advocates and not denialists. Silverglate did not mention that their co-plaintiff, the ATAA, is the leading genocide denialist organization in the US and has often made racist, anti-Armenian pronouncemen’s. Earlier, Silverglate implied that religious prejudice may have played a role in the removal of the websites because it involved a "Muslim nation accused of genocide against a Christian nation."

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