High Court Declines to Consider Turkish Lobby-Sponsored Bid to Force Genocide Denial into Public Schools
WASHINGTON–A longstanding legal campaign, spearheaded by pro-Turkey lobbies, to force the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to include historically inaccurate Armenian Genocide denial materials in their education curriculum was killed Wednesday by a U.S. Supreme Court decision declining to hear an appeal to a lower court ruling dismissing the case, reported the Armenian National Committee (ANCA).
“We welcome the Supreme Court’s decision to decline to hear this deeply flawed and dangerous case, and thus uphold the U.S. Court of Appeals First Circuit landmark decision rejecting efforts by genocide deniers to abuse the American legal system to bring their hateful agenda to our nation’s public schools,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “This victory, while certainly a serious setback to Turkey’s campaign of denial, will, just as surely, not mark the end of the concerted and well-funded efforts by allies of Ankara to use our nation’s great freedoms to enforce their own version of Article 301, silencing discussion of the Armenian Genocide in America’s classrooms.”
This legal battle started in 2005, when, according to media accounts, the Assembly of Turkish American Associations solicited the assistance of two local teachers, a student, and his parents to file the Griswold vs. Driscoll case against the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, in an effort to force the state to include Genocide denial materials in its online education curriculum guide. In June of 2009, U.S. District Court Judge Mark Wolf dismissed the case stating that the plaintiffs are “are not entitled to relief in federal court.” The ATAA and fellow plaintiffs appealed the decision, sending the matter for review by the First Circuit Court of Appeals. In August, 2010, the First Circuit Court affirmed Judge Wolf’s dismissal of the case, with the majority opinion prepared by retired Supreme Court Justice David Souter.
The First Circuit Court decision can be read here.
Throughout the legal process, the ANCA partnered with the Armenian Bar Association and groups including the Irish Immigration Society, Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action, NAACP, Genocide Education Project and the Zoryan Institute in preparing amicus briefs in support of the Massachusetts Commonwealth’s calls to dismiss the case. Attorneys from Wilmer, Cutler, Hale and Dorr LLP, filed the briefs and championed the case pro-bono. Other groups that submitted their own amicus briefs included the International Association of Genocide Scholars and the Armenian Assembly.
This case is seen as part of a larger strategy by Turkish American groups to use the legal system to harass human rights advocates on issues relating to the Armenian Genocide. The most recent instance is the lawsuit filed by representatives of the Turkish Coalition of America against the University of Minnesota for cautioning visitors to their Holocaust Studies website about online resources which deny the Armenian Genocide.
The Middle East Studies Association, this week, sent an open letter to the Turkish Coalition urging them to drop the lawsuit, the full text of which can be viewed here.