Free Expression Principles


The Foundation believes that public discussion reflecting a multiplicity of voices and viewpoints is essential to informed decision-making in a democratic society. The Foundation further believes that public discussions are best when based upon careful use of evidence and critical analysis and carried out in a civil manner.

Among many other aims, through its grantmaking, MacArthur seeks to support viewpoints that otherwise might be under-represented in public debate. The Foundation understands that because a number of its grantees work in fields where there may be controversy, their expression may from time to time make people uncomfortable or provoke heated responses.

The MacArthur Foundation's due diligence process is intended to ensure that its grantees not only are able to fulfill the terms of the grant but also share the Foundation's commitment to civil and informed public discussion of issues.

Once a grant has been made the Foundation does not exercise control over or take responsibility for the actions or expressions of its grantees. Therefore, the Foundation will not ordinarily respond to grantee expressions based upon ideology, opinion or perspective.

The Foundation does not, however, condone expressions advocating violence or hate against an individual or group. In such situations, or in rare and extraordinary situations where a grantee's expression may harm the Foundation's ability to carry out its work, the Foundation may respond to the grantee expression. In deciding whether to respond and the nature of such response, if any, the Foundation will consider all circumstances, including the following:

  • The context of the expression;
  • The content and nature of the expression;
  • The frequency of the expression;
  • The role of the speaker in the organization;
  • The relationship of the expression to the work funded by the Foundation;
  • The nature of any harm to individuals or to the public interest; and
  • The effect that any potential Foundation action might have on chilling free expression by grantees.
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