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Comedian invokes First Amendment after vulgar show at Catholic school

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Nick Cannon refuses to apologize to Georgian Court University, a private Roman Catholic university in New Jersey, after using vulgarities at a school event in September. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

When Georgian Court University, a private Roman Catholic school in New Jersey, hired comedian Nick Cannon, they thought they were getting the "NBC or MTV version of Mr. Cannon."

So when Cannon delivered an explicit performance at a reunion weekend event on Sept. 20 attended by students and alumni, university officials were upset and demanded an apology.

It doesn't appear they'll get any apology from Cannon. On Tuesday, he posted a copy of an email sent by GCU president Joseph Marbach to the university community with a caption accusing the school of not believing in freedom of speech.

"I ain't apologizing for S*** LOL... wait, I'm sorry your university doesn't believe in freedom of speech!!!" Cannon tweeted.

Is this about freedom of speech?

Cannon's accusation that GCU was trying to suppress his freedom of speech doesn't seem applicable here, for a few reasons.

First, the email indicates that Cannon had signed a contract agreeing to not present vulgar or offensive material at the show.

Secondly, since GCU is a private institution, not a state-funded school, it has the right to establish policies regarding forms of speech and expression allowed on campus.

Cannon's history

Regardless of the applicability of constitutional law, Cannon surely understood that a religious university would prefer not to have any vulgar material at a school event, but he chose to perform it anyway.

It's not the first time Cannon has claimed his free speech rights were being challenged, nor is it the first time his words have caused him to break a contract.

In February, NBC executives were displeased with jokes Cannon made on a Showtime comedy special about how the network was "making him lose his 'black card.'" NBC reportedly considered, but ultimately decided not to fire Cannon despite him breaching contract terms prohibiting him from disparaging the network.

Still, Cannon issued a long statement announcing he would leave his job as host of "America's Got Talent" over the situation.

"Or is this just another way to silence and control an outspoken voice who often battles the establishment," Cannon wrote. "Recently many of my mentors have cautioned me that soon 'The System' would come down on me because I was speaking too many truths and being too loud about it. I had no idea that it all would hit so close to home. I find myself in a dark place having to make a decision that I wish I didn't have to, but as a man, an artist, and a voice for my community, I will not be silenced, controlled or treated like a piece of property"

 

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