Two Jewish advocacy groups have called on the IRS to investigate whether CUNY Law School violated its tax-exempt status after a graduate delivered a widely condemned “hate speech” during the commencement ceremony. The National Jewish Advocacy Center and International Legal Forum wrote a letter to IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel on June 2, urging the agency to review whether the school is engaging in political or lobbying activities that would violate its non-profit status.
The controversy arose after Fatima Mousa Mohammed, a 2023 law graduate, accused Israel of indiscriminately murdering Palestinians and criticized the NYPD as “fascist” during her speech on May 12. The speech has been denounced by numerous elected and civic leaders for its extremist rhetoric and explicit display of anti-Semitism. The advocacy groups claim that CUNY Law School’s faculty’s endorsement of the “discriminatory” boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, which was passed in May 2022, also violates the school’s non-profit status.
In their letter to the IRS, the advocacy groups highlighted CUNY’s pattern of hosting speakers who express anti-Israel sentiments and criticized Israeli policies, suggesting a systematic effort to influence public opinion and shape political discourse. While the CUNY Board of Trustees and Chancellor Felix Matos Rodriguez denounced the commencement address as “hate speech” and deemed it unacceptable, the advocacy groups found their response to be late and grossly inadequate, accusing the school of a history of anti-Semitism.
Some CUNY Law professors have defended Mohammed’s speech, asserting that it is protected under the First Amendment. They have demanded that the school’s administration retract the labeling of the remarks as “hate speech.” According to them, characterizing the speech in this way is an affront to the student speaker and the entire community. In response to the controversy, Republican state lawmakers have urged Governor Kathy Hochul to withhold taxpayer funds from any CUNY campus that allows incendiary rhetoric at school-sponsored events.
The request for an IRS investigation by the advocacy groups and the political pressure from lawmakers reflect the ongoing debate surrounding free speech, academic freedom, and the boundaries of acceptable discourse within educational institutions. While the fallout from Mohammed’s speech continues, she declined to comment further when reached by The Post, stating her desire not to be contacted again.
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