Why We’re Losing Our Right to Speak Out

Posted: May 01, 2008 12:01 AM
Why We’re Losing Our Right to Speak Out

David Woodward is a political science professor at Clemson University—one who has first-hand experience on how dangerous it can be to speak out in favor of traditional values: He almost lost his job over it.

In 1993, Woodward was asked to testify about the political power of homosexual groups in American life. He agreed to serve as an expert witness for the state of Colorado, which was fighting to defend the recently passed Amendment Two, which made it illegal to give protected status based on sexual orientation.

In his new book, Why We Whisper: Restoring Our Right to Say It’s Wrong, co-authored by my friend, the able South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, Woodward writes, “In that one decision, I unexpectedly jeopardized my academic career and entered . . . into the fiercest battle of the emergent culture wars.”

To publicly oppose the campaign for same-sex “marriage” and gay rights was, he writes, “the equivalent to being sent to the university Gulag.” He was denied an administrative position on the grounds that he was “ideologically incompatible” with the values of the university. He often found the word homophobe scribbled on his office door. The press viciously attacked him for his views.

But in private, Woodward was hearing a different message. People would call to whisper encouragement. So did parents and university staffers. Some students came into his office, carefully closed the door, and whispered their support. “The one thing they all had in common is that they were all scared, and they all spoke in whispers,” Woodward writes.

Homosexuality is not the only issue Americans can no longer speak freely about: Speaking up in support of any traditional belief will earn you attacks from secular elites. “Whether individual, parent, church, or business, Americans holding traditional values are trapped in a ‘whisper zone’,” Woodward and DeMint write, “surrounded by invisible electric fences that threaten to ‘shock’ them if they cross unmarked legal lines.”

This can come sometimes in the form of ridicule and intimidation—sometimes with lawsuits, as we at Prison Fellowship know so painfully well after three years of fighting Americans United over our successful prison program in Iowa. All too often, secularist judges and legislators have thrown the power of the law behind their views—making it ever harder to speak out for traditional positions.  

But as Woodward and DeMint point out, “historically, freedom of speech is crucial in any democracy.” They note that our founders understood that the ability to express our differences publicly was democracy’s substitute for violence.

Democracy is—by definition—a conversation about what is good and what is right and wrong; what is fair to all. “The demise of good government comes when this conversation is abbreviated, as we believe it has been,” Woodward and DeMint write. The result: We are now suffering from, as John Stuart Mill put it, the “tyranny of prevailing opinion.”

“The continued decline of America’s moral life,” Woodward and DeMint say, “will prove fatal to our society.”

I agree, and that is why you need to become informed about biblical worldview and about the so-called culture wars. And a good place to start is with DeMint and Woodward’s book, Why We Whisper. Learn more about how and why we are losing our right to speak freely. And then—speak up! Loud and clear.

This is part one of a two-part series.