Archive for January, 2010

The Next Great Pro-Life Advocate – Tim Tebow

January 29, 2010

Reblogged from NRO – Written by David French

Given the decisive move of young people toward life, it is hardly surprising that a pro-life advocate emerges from college. And it should be less surprising that it’s Tim Tebow. After all, if you look up “unashamed of the Gospel” in the dictionary, you’ll find Tim Tebow’s picture. He’s the guy with the scripture verses under his eyes, who’s tireless in his community service, and who reaches out to those in distress. And now he’s spending some of that public goodwill to speak for those who can’t speak at all.

Photo credit: (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

Click to read the rest of the article

The Ridiculous

January 28, 2010

ADF Center for Academic Freedom client Mike Adams posted an article today at Townhall.com that humorously highlights the ludicrous implications of the speech code at the University of Northern Colorado.  The speech code bans “inappropriate jokes,” meaning those motivated by any form of bias.  Of course, this leaves students wondering whether blonde jokes, Aggie jokes, political jokes, or even lawyer jokes are permitted on campus.  But then the speech code goes even further, banning anyone from “intentionally, recklessly, or negligently causing . . . emotional or mental harm to any person.”  Under this standard, does a student violate University policy simply by breaking up with his girlfriend?

But more importantly, Mike’s column highlights some of the fundamental constitutional problems with these speech codes, which are prevalent on campuses across the nation.  For one thing, these policies are so vague and expansive that no one really knows what they can and cannot say.  So they tend to be quiet, particularly on controversial issues.  For another, these policies penalize people if a listener gets (or pretends to be) offended.  Yet the First Amendment exists precisely to protect and foster a robust, unfettered exchange of ideas.  The Constitution does not protect people from being offended.  And it is high time for universities to prepare their students to live in a free society and to compete in the marketplace of ideas, rather than coddling them (and silencing them) with unconstitutional speech codes.

Pro-Life Group Freed from Speech Tax

January 28, 2010

Pro-Life Collegians (PLC)—an active student organization at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU)—planned to bring a travelling, pro-life exhibit to campus this year. What PLC didn’t plan on, though, was having to pay for the right to speak.

While PLC was reserving space for the display, an MTSU official told PLC’s president that, “[g]iven the history with events such as this,” the group could hold the event only if it paid for security during the event. But PLC had previously sponsored similar pro-life displays at MTSU without incident. So this comment raised the very concern expressed by the Supreme Court when it reviewed security fees almost twenty years ago:  Government officials could require—or set the amount of—security fees based on whether or not they like the applicant’s message. So the Court held that government officials cannot require Americans to pay a security fee in order to speak because that would essentially amount to a tax on the content of speech.  And a tax on speech goes against the entire notion of free speech.

Although this is well-settled law at this point, public universities continue to apply such security fees to student organizations across the country. And, as the Supreme Court predicted, university officials apply these restrictions to exclude the speech they like the least—Christian and pro-life speech. To MTSU’s credit, it quickly rescinded the fee requirement after receiving a letter from the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. We hope more universities will follow MTSU’s example.

Crosses Fire Up Ceramics Class

January 27, 2010

Cross banned from Ceramic ClassEastfield College needed the threat of a lawsuit to stop it from throwing religious freedom into the fire, or the kiln as it were. You see, last summer, the community college in Mesquite, Texas offered a non-credit ceramics course to the public. According to Eastfield, the class was designed to encourage original, creative work by students. However, students were forbidden from making work that is sexually or racially offensive, threatening, or harassing. Oh yeah, and as it turns out, crosses were prohibited too.

Joe Mitchell, a 69-year-old retiree, took the class for three years and constructed many ceramic pieces that were not religious in nature. In 2009, he designed and crafted a few crosses but the College refused to fire the works claiming that the crosses “demean[ed]” the goals of the class and were as offensive as a “swastika.” Liberty Legal Institute intervened and informed the College that its action violated Mr. Mitchell’s freedom of religion and that he would sue, if necessary, to protect that freedom. Eastfield responded by issuing a letter stating that it had dropped the ban on crosses.

This is yet another example of academia’s ingrained bias against Christians. Eastfield—like many public colleges and universities—treats Christian expression like pornography and bigoted, offensive, and harassing invective. They ban all types of religious expression and push it into the dark corners of campus until organizations like the Alliance Defense Fund and Liberty Legal Institute expose them with the light of the Constitution. For almost half a century, the Supreme Court has described America’s public universities as the “marketplace of ideas.” It’s time for those universities to own up to their constitutional obligations.

FIRE’s Fourth Annual Report on Campus Speech Codes Reveals a New Trend: Secret Speech Codes

January 26, 2010

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s Spotlight on Speech Codes 2010: The State of Free Speech on Our Nation’s Campuses provides a sobering view of the lack of respect for First Amendment freedoms on our nation’s campuses, particularly public campuses.  The report rates the speech codes of 375 American colleges and universities on a “red light, yellow light, green light” basis.  One recent development in particular deserves attention:

When a university restricts access to its speech-related policies by requiring a login and password, it denies prospective students and their parents the ability to discover and weigh this crucial information. At FIRE, we consider this action by a university to be deceptive and serious enough that it alone warrants a “red-light” rating. We have had to update our rating criteria to reflect this, as FIRE has only begun to see this trend emerge over the past year.

If universities view speech codes as a positive good for the benefit of students and faculty, why would they not publicize the codes, or even boast about them?  The secrecy, assuming it is intentional, reveals a subtle but not unexpected attitude behind the speech codes. 

Universities typically advertise benefits for their prospective students, such as the availability of student organizations, quality campus safety services and low crime rates.  They do not typically flaunt policies designed to protect university interests or punish students, such as dorm rules and alcohol restrictions.  When a school intentionally suppresses its campus speech code, it signals that in the eyes of the university, the code is less about protecting purportedly vulnerable individuals or ensuring a welcoming environment and more about punishing those who deviate from the politically correct standard. 

Is Liberty a ‘Zero-Sum Game’?

January 21, 2010

Reblogged from NRO – Written by David French

“Today a friend sent me an article from CNSNews regarding Chai Feldblum, a Georgetown University law professor and President Obama’s nominee to head the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission. The piece focuses on a journal article Professor Feldblum wrote in 2006, particularly on this argument:”

Click to read the whole article.

Christian “Extremists” and the Legacy of Dr. King

January 19, 2010

You likely have heard by now that the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether the law school at U.C. Hastings is permitted to deny funding to the student Christian Legal Society on the basis that it requires a pledge to Christian beliefs and practices to become a member of the group. However, you may not have heard how U.C. Hastings characterized the issue to the Los Angeles Times:

Ethan P. Schulman, a San Francisco lawyer who represents the law school, said the Christian students are entirely free to meet informally on campus. “The real question is whether a law school is obliged to subsidize a group with student fees that is committed to discriminating against some students. If their position is accepted by the court, it could force universities across the country to subsidize discriminatory organizations, including possibly hate groups or extremist groups.”

A comparison of conservative Christian groups with “hate groups or extremist groups” is nothing new on university campuses. Some forego the “comparison” altogether and simply label Christian groups as outright extremists. And we Americans hate nothing more than extremism. However, in honor of the coming Martin Luther King Day, we might do well to remind our university leaders of the following words of Dr. King:

But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist: “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.” And John Bunyan: “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.” And Abraham Lincoln: “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” And Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . .” So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime–the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

Likewise, campus “Christian extremists” should take heart and not be silenced by the name-calling. If your campus is having any round-table discussions regarding Dr. King’s legacy (as my law school did), I would encourage you to attend and remind all present of the danger of silencing the extremists. Dr. King’s legacy might not exist at all.

FIRE files amicus brief in support of Jonathan Lopez

January 14, 2010

Yesterday, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education filed an amicus brief in support of Jonathan Lopez at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  Last July, a federal district court in Los Angeles granted Mr. Lopez’s request for a preliminary injunction against Los Angeles Community College District’s speech code.  LACCD appealed after it unsuccessfully asked the district court to reconsdier the preliminary injunction.

Question: What do students learn in the classroom?

January 13, 2010

Answer:  How to regurgitate all of your professor’s anti-American opinions. 

Over at Minding the Campus, Candace de Russy has an interesting piece quoting verbatim from a recent test given to students in a sociology class at a public college.  The person who took the test received 100%, though perhaps he or she doesn’t know it, because the test was found on the ground.  It’s worth a click to look at the questions and answers the college is teaching these sociology students.  Here’s one to whet your appetite:

Question: How does the United States “steal” the resources of other (third world) [sic] countries?
Answer: We steal through exploitation. Our multinationals are aware that indigenous people in developing nations have been coaxed off their plots and forced into slums. Because it is lucrative, our multinationals offer them extremely low wage labor (sic) that cannot be turned down.

Now, ADF doesn’t take a position on political issues, but reading through the test, one is left with a better understanding of what students are learning in today’s public universities:  merely how to parrot back to their professors what the professors want to hear.  It’s no wonder the Julea Wards and Jonathan Lopezes of the world encounter hostility, even retaliation for expressing a different, Christian, point of view in class.  They are the unorthodox in a lockstep environment that was once known as the “marketplace of ideas.” 

Where will these students lead America in 20, 30 years?  As Dr. de Russy puts it:

This exam was part of the curriculum in a for-credit class at an accredited degree-granting institution. Introductory sociology courses like this one are frequently required, even for non-majors. A student who matriculates in this field of study will have nothing in the way of useful skills, but will be convinced that his country is rotten to the core, and that whites and males are evil.

China encourages its brightest students to study mathematics and engineering. India has become known as a hotbed of tech-savvy computer programmers. Meanwhile, the U.S. spends billions to teach postmodern, left-wing misinformation as objective “fact.”

It seems rather foolish to remain optimistic about the future of this nation when millions of its most “educated” are systematically being taught to loathe it.

American Philosophical Association and Christ-Centered Colleges

January 13, 2010

The American Philosophical Association describes itself as “the main professional organization for philosophers in the United States.”  Among other things, it produces “Jobs for Philosophers,” an on-line and print publication through which academic institutions seek applicants for open faculty positions.  The APA conditions use of “Jobs for Philosophers” upon compliance with a rule banning discrimination on the basis of religion and “sexual orientation,” among other things.  The rule essentially exempts religious colleges and universities from the ban on religious discrimination.

Early last year, a group of academic philosophers petitioned the APA to enforce its ban on “sexual orientation” discrimination and to inform “Jobs for Philosophers” readers which institutions they believe violate that ban.  The petition asserts that some schools “require faculty, students, and staff to follow certain ‘ethical’ standards which prohibit engaging in homosexual acts.”  Among such schools, according to the petition, are Azusa Pacific University, Belmont University, Bethel University, Biola University, Calvin College, Malone College, Pepperdine University, Westmont College, and Wheaton College.  As of January 12, 2010, 1471 individuals had electronically signed the petition.

This petition prompted a counter-petition signed by a number of notable philosophers, including Alasdair McIntyre, Alvin Plantinga, Germain Grisez, Robert P. George, John M. Finnis, Roger Scruton, and many others.  The counter-petition urges the APA to continue allowing institutions with policies reflecting traditional sexual morality to advertise in “Jobs for Philosophers.”  Among other things, the counter-petition argued that there is a conceptual distinction between “orientation” and “conduct,” and that institutions should be allowed to consider conduct in their personnel policies.  Many who signed the counter-petition also sent a thoughtful letter to the APA Board of Officers.

A November 23, 2009, Insider Higher Ed article reported that the APA had a adopted a new procedure that will “flag” ads from employers that are deemed discriminatory.  The APA also concluded that institutional policies that disapprove of same-sex sexual conduct violate its rule against “sexual orientation” discrimination.

It is unlikely that the APA has violated the legally protected rights of Christ-centered educational institutions with sexual morality policies.  Nonetheless, the original petition and the APA’s recent action reflect the relentless effort to marginalize and stigmatize faith-based institutions that maintain conduct standards rooted in traditional sexual ethics.  That effort has had and inevitably will have adverse manifestations in statutes, rules, and judicial decisions.  The APA’s action also contradicts a key argument that religious institutions can make when charged with “sexual orientation” discrimination:  that their policies are about conduct rather than orientation.  Of course, just because the APA embraced such an interpretation of the word “orientation” does not necessarily mean that legislatures, administrative agencies, and courts will do likewise.