The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression is a nonprofit organization located in Charlottesville, Virginia, that is devoted to defending the principles of free expression. Founded in 1990, the center regularly files amicus briefs in First Amendment cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and sometimes lower federal courts. Such cases to date have included Virginia v. Black (2003), City of Erie v. Pap’s A.M. (2000), United States. v. Playboy Entertainment Group (2000), National Endowment for the Arts v. Finley (1998), and Board of County Commissioners v. Umbehr (1996).
Center ‘awards’ leading censors of the year
Founding director Robert M. O’Neil, a former president of the University of Virginia, and associate director, Joshua J. Wheeler, lead the center in its educational and advocacy efforts. Every April since 1992, the center has unveiled its popular Jefferson Muzzle Awards, which are bestowed upon those whom the center believes to be the leading censors of the past calendar year. The Muzzles are announced around the time of the anniversary of Thomas Jefferson’s birthday on April 13, and past recipients have included Presidents George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, former U.S. attorney general Janet Reno, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Library of Congress.
The center recently sponsored the creation of a monument devoted to free speech in Charlottesville called the “Community Chalkboard and Podium: A Monument to the First Amendment.”