Tennessee Bar Association Announces Statewide Civility Initiative

Friday, August 31, 2012

Can civility co-exist with free speech in today's world? That's just one topic that will be explored in a series of public conversations presented across the state this fall by the Tennessee Bar Association. This initiative is designed to encourage a public conversation about the tensions between civility and free speech, the state of the public square and the challenges of maintaining civil discourse in a democracy.

"We cannot preserve our democracy without finding the right balance between free speech and civility," TBA President Jacqueline B. Dixon said in announcing the initiative. "The TBA is pleased to be a part of such an important project."

The TBA's "Balancing Civility and Free Expression Initiative" will involve three public forums -- one in Memphis, one in Nashville and one in Knoxville. Each forum will focus on a particular topic, feature a panel of experts who will present real-life scenarios that raise civility and free speech issues, and conclude with a question and answer session with the audience. The forums are free and open to the public.

The series will kick off in Memphis on Sept. 18 from 7-8:30 p.m. at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law. This program, sponsored by the TBA and the law school, will focus on civility in the public square, where policy debates -- especially those with cross-cultural implications -- can quickly become contentious. It will use the current effort to consolidate city and county schools in Memphis as a case study in how to bring civility into a divisive debate. Three members of the Transition Planning Commission - the body responsible for overseeing the consolidation -- will serve as the program panelists. Get details about the Memphis program here.

The second forum, set for Nashville on Oct. 16, will focus on civility in interacting with the courts, as well as in discussing issues affecting the access to and delivery of justice. It is being sponsored by the TBA, the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University and Lipscomb University. The event will be held at Lipscomb's Ezell Center.

The final forum, scheduled in Knoxville on Feb. 21, 2013, will focus on civility and effective governance, using the model emulated by former U.S. Senator and Ambassador to Japan Howard H. Baker Jr. The event is being sponsored by the TBA and the University of Tennessee. It will be held at the university's Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy.

Learn more about these events and the overall initiative here.


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