District: Teacher’s Nazi Comments free Speech

Marion Herbert's picture
Tuesday, July 31, 2012

At a Hollidaysburg rally earlier this month, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tom Smith said Spring Cove government teacher Philip Waite spoke "eloquently." A day later, he called Waite's words "divisive and beyond the bounds of acceptable discourse."

Waite's 45-minute speech on executive power, given at a July 1 Blair County Tea Party rally, led to criticism from state Democrats, attention from a national news website and a handful of "hate emails."

But despite allegations that Waite compared President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler, Spring Cove School District officials have said it's not a classroom concern.

"People do have freedom of speech in the public arena," Superintendent Robert Vadella said. "That's what we teach the kids."

Waite said his speech at the Blair County FreedomFest, held three days before Independence Day at Hollidaysburg's American Legion Memorial Park, touched on a range of topics: energy, illegal immigration and even a call to pray for Obama.

But the most talked-about portion, describing the rise and fall of Nazi Germany, stood out to some observers.

"You know what happened then," Waite had said of Hitler's consolidation of power. "All other parties were outlawed, all free elections were outlawed and 45 million dead people later, we ended that regime. Why? Because you had a slick, quick talker and someone who said, 'You don't need to worry about responsibility, we'll take good care of you. Just walk the party line and smile.' And we know how that ended up."

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