Opinion

A Shining Light in Campus Free Speech Suppression

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Posted: Aug 17, 2019 12:00 AM
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not represent the views of Townhall.com.
A Shining Light in Campus Free Speech Suppression

Source: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

As Americans, we speak our minds. It’s the quintessential American quality.

Freedom of expression is so foundational to our liberty that it is enshrined in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. We must never take our freedom of speech for granted. 

Today, 243 years after our nation’s founding, educational institutions, originally created to foster and promote freedom of thought and freedom of conscience, are now actively suppressing first freedoms in the name of political correctness.  

In a sudden Orwellian twist, students across the country are now discovering that it’s not only acceptable, but morally praiseworthy to use intimidation, scare tactics, and, in some cases, violence against unwelcome thoughts or ideas on campus. This portends dangerously for America preparing the next generation to defend fundamental freedoms. 

There are, however, exemplary institutions that have become viable alternatives for competing ideas and moral sobriety amidst the circus of campus insanity and the downgrade of the academic tradition. Pepperdine, King’s College, Hillsdale, and Liberty University have all done their part to demonstrate what a well-rounded education can look like.  

To the enormous benefit of its students, Liberty models these freedoms by inviting and welcoming speakers who challenge the status quo with ideas from across the political and cultural spectrum.

Liberty’s tradition of ecumenism extends from its early history, when founder Jerry Falwell, Sr., famously invited the liberal “Lion of the Senate,” Ted Kennedy, to deliver a speech titled, “Faith, Freedom, and Tolerance in America.” Liberty has faithfully preserved and continued that tradition to this day.  

In May 2018, one year after President Trump delivered Liberty’s commencement address, the University welcomed former President Jimmy Carter to the same stage. 

In 2015, Liberty welcomed Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed “democratic socialist,” to campus, and current University President Jerry Falwell, Jr. has extended the same invitation to U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to speak to the campus-wide convocation.

Harvard Professor Emeritus Alan Dershowitz, who proudly describes himself as a liberal, spoke movingly about both the warm hospitality he received at Liberty University last Spring. He noted with regret that speakers representing the University’s philosophy on social, political, and religious issues would not be as welcome today at other universities.  

Despite Liberty University’s exemplary record of maintaining an open exchange of ideas on campus, Jerry Falwell, Jr. has been viciously targeted for his political views ever since endorsing Donald Trump for President in 2016. Oversight of the university’s student newspaper has been questioned and it has also been suggested that university faculty and staff are censured from public expressions of their personal political views.

In contrast to many public and state colleges, Liberty University is a private institution with a distinctly historic mission and educational philosophy. Liberty is proudly obliged to uphold its original mission.

Liberty University unapologetically affirms the Bible as the authoritative Word of God, the exclusivity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the Christian mission. It is fully committed to maintaining the highest standards of excellence while championing entrepreneurship and the free-enterprise system. Liberty believes in the preservation of these standards and commitments as its highest priority.

More importantly, as a private and mission-oriented school, Liberty expects the words and actions of its faculty, staff, and students to be consistent with its mission. It is perfectly reasonable that a University with such a distinguished reputation and unique purpose should place these priorities ahead of the personal priorities of any faculty or staff member.    

Liberty University and Jerry Falwell, Jr., are quite clear about their advocacy and expectations. There is nothing to hide in their support of faith and freedom — and they honor that commitment, as well as, our nation’s founding principles, by providing an exceptional model for others to follow.

As we approach the 2020 presidential election, which may be among the most hotly contested in American history, our First Amendment freedoms are among the most vital element of our democratic process. 

While some might abuse power in our public discourse by suppressing ideas or thoughts they disapprove, Liberty University is living up to its name, in word and action. It is time for other schools to end the insanity and follow Liberty’s example; as Americans, it is time to speak our minds.