www.mozilla.com Weather Central
Voices
Headlines

Abuse of power -8/20/2014, 8:22 AM

Ferguson police arrest reporters for reporting -8/20/2014, 8:21 AM

Don't 'got milk' -8/20/2014, 8:21 AM

Another road map to success? -8/19/2014, 10:05 AM

It's the abuse of power, stupid -8/19/2014, 10:04 AM

Riots in Ferguson, and what they mean -8/18/2014, 9:57 AM

One of billions -8/18/2014, 9:57 AM

The GOP presents: Barack-nado -8/17/2014, 2:08 PM

Media and Missouri: What's going on? -8/17/2014, 2:08 PM

Answer the bell -8/15/2014, 8:58 AM

Get ready for denials -8/15/2014, 8:49 AM

Mental illness -8/15/2014, 8:49 AM

Mindless drones -8/14/2014, 9:27 AM

Can-do attitude -8/14/2014, 9:27 AM

'Poor door' -- a symbol of a truth we all know -8/13/2014, 9:19 AM

Eyeing the Ogallala Aquifer -8/13/2014, 9:19 AM

The slacker congress -8/12/2014, 9:02 AM

CIA vs. Senate -8/12/2014, 9:02 AM

The cannabis conundrum -- we against us -8/11/2014, 8:55 AM

The debate is over -8/11/2014, 8:54 AM

The 'Almost' Revolution -8/10/2014, 3:28 PM

Is cross a history lesson or state religion? -8/10/2014, 3:28 PM

Another downgrade -8/10/2014, 3:28 PM

State economy plays critical role in the future of FHSU -8/10/2014, 2:09 PM

Building on past successes for a stronger future -8/10/2014, 2:09 PM

Will Palin's channel rival Comedy Central? -8/8/2014, 9:25 AM

Western anti-Semitism -8/8/2014, 9:25 AM

Patrolmen without borders -8/7/2014, 10:13 AM

Not a choice -8/7/2014, 10:12 AM

Ebola politics -8/7/2014, 10:12 AM

Too few voters -8/6/2014, 10:03 AM

A special breed -8/6/2014, 10:03 AM

A license to vote -8/6/2014, 10:03 AM

Selfies in Auschwitz -- and why it's wrong -8/6/2014, 10:03 AM

Election turnout -8/5/2014, 9:19 AM

Dairy's closing -8/5/2014, 9:19 AM

Concealing the Statehouse debate -8/5/2014, 9:18 AM

Beauty all around us -8/5/2014, 9:18 AM

Needing another senator -8/4/2014, 9:57 AM

Doing what he said -8/4/2014, 9:57 AM

Needing a new understanding of energy -8/4/2014, 9:57 AM

Do-nothing Congress -8/3/2014, 12:02 PM

Seeking the ultimate 'redress of grievances' -8/3/2014, 11:43 AM

Kansas values -8/3/2014, 11:43 AM

A candidate with morals, integrity -8/3/2014, 11:43 AM

Huelskamp deserves vote -8/3/2014, 11:42 AM

One third of 1 percent makes difference -8/3/2014, 11:42 AM

Vote for our future -8/3/2014, 11:42 AM

Reaching a limit -8/3/2014, 11:42 AM

Please stop helping us -8/1/2014, 10:57 AM

Deadly double standards -8/1/2014, 10:57 AM

Huelskamp's attention to detail -8/1/2014, 10:57 AM

Surprise, surprise, surprise -7/31/2014, 10:12 AM

Medicaid expansion a win-win for Kansas -7/31/2014, 10:12 AM

Term limits are first step -7/31/2014, 10:12 AM

Vote for what's right -7/31/2014, 10:12 AM

The next governor -7/31/2014, 10:12 AM

Shultz is the pick -7/31/2014, 10:11 AM

Eyeing the children -7/30/2014, 9:01 AM

Speak from the heart -7/30/2014, 9:01 AM

Changing attitudes -7/30/2014, 9:01 AM

Time to replace Huelskamp -7/30/2014, 9:00 AM

Water vision -7/29/2014, 9:48 AM

No longer a supporter -7/29/2014, 9:47 AM

The power of punctuation -7/29/2014, 9:47 AM

Running for the wrong bus -7/28/2014, 9:04 AM

Old Old Mexico -- Culture and content -7/28/2014, 9:03 AM

The defining issue of economic recovery -7/27/2014, 4:53 PM

In a world of sectarian violence, what can be done? -7/27/2014, 4:53 PM

Funding DHDC -7/27/2014, 1:18 PM

Endorsement for Shultz -7/25/2014, 3:28 PM

Against the wind -7/25/2014, 4:23 PM

Do blacks need favors? -7/25/2014, 4:23 PM

Vote Huelskamp out -7/25/2014, 4:23 PM

Open meetings -7/24/2014, 8:07 AM

Leadership change needed -7/24/2014, 8:07 AM

Vote for Huelskamp -7/24/2014, 8:06 AM

Protecting unborn children -7/24/2014, 8:06 AM

Learning experience valuable -7/24/2014, 8:06 AM

False equivalence -7/23/2014, 8:07 AM

Measles' scary comeback -7/23/2014, 1:27 PM

The 'big data' deal -7/23/2014, 10:07 AM

GOP can't get out of its own way -7/23/2014, 10:07 AM

War only will add to Middle East problems -7/22/2014, 8:10 AM

Avoiding taxes -7/22/2014, 8:10 AM

Take the win in Iran -7/21/2014, 8:57 AM

The high court's high-handedness -7/21/2014, 8:57 AM

Up in arms in the Capitol -7/20/2014, 4:52 PM

Firefighters weigh in on pay raise -7/20/2014, 4:52 PM

Backpacks for Kids -7/20/2014, 4:52 PM

Our unwillingness to defend ourselves -7/18/2014, 10:51 AM

Remembering a man who championed freedom -7/18/2014, 10:51 AM

GOP split -7/17/2014, 8:38 AM

New Kansas senator -7/17/2014, 8:37 AM

Who'll build the roads? -7/17/2014, 8:37 AM

Time to retire -7/16/2014, 2:20 PM

Reagan: In or out? -7/16/2014, 2:45 PM

'Unbroken' WWII vet more than a hero -7/16/2014, 2:44 PM

Savor the fruits of your labor -7/16/2014, 2:44 PM

Erasing candidate's standards -7/15/2014, 11:36 AM

myTown Calendar

SPOTLIGHT
[var top_story_head]

Education lacks free speech tolerance

Published on -6/1/2014, 1:16 PM

Printer-friendly version
E-Mail This Story

Daniel Harper, a student at Cameron University in Oklahoma, is the latest victim of the censorship pandemic currently infecting America's colleges and universities.

Earlier this semester, Harper handed out flyers expressing his religious objections to the World Mission Society, a religious group active on Cameron's campus. Harper, an evangelical Christian, believes the group is a dangerous cult.

After receiving a complaint, administrators prohibited Harper from distributing any more flyers citing the university's Expressive Activity Policy and Equal Opportunity Policy, which bar students from engaging in "offensive" and "discriminatory" speech, requires students to join a student organization and then get prior permission to distribute flyers.

Harper is fighting back with help from the Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal group. On May 15, he sued university officials for violating his constitutionally protected right to free speech and religious liberty.

If the allegations prove true, Cameron officials have displayed a stunning disregard for the First Amendment -- which, as administrators of a public university, they are required to uphold.

"I like the amendments to the Constitution," the equal opportunity officer told Harper, according to the ADF complaint. "They are foundations to democracy. But that's all they are, foundations. You can't live on them. You'll freeze to death in winter and burn up in summer."

The administrator went on to explain that the university's policies are above those "amendments to the Constitution" and that Harper needed to follow university policy regardless of his First Amendment rights.

Even stranger (and more chilling), university administrators charged Harper with religious discrimination for disseminating views critical of a religious group. On the Cameron campus, apparently, "religious freedom" means freedom from being offended.

Under the First Amendment, however, religious freedom means the right to be free from government control or repression, not freedom from criticism in the marketplace of ideas.

As constitutional scholar Eugene Volokh points out in his commentary on this case, "freedom of religion and of speech itself protects the right to denounce religions. Religious beliefs and religious groups, no less than political beliefs and groups other beliefs and groups, are eminently proper subjects of criticism. A public university is forbidden by the First Amendment from trying to squelch such criticism, whether it's of conservative Christianity, Islam, Catholicism, Mormonism, Judaism or the World Mission Society."

Sadly, Daniel Harper's case is not an isolated incident. Censorship of constitutionally protected speech is commonplace today on college and university campuses across the nation. Of the 427 colleges and universities analyzed by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education in a 2014 report, almost 59 percent maintain policies that "seriously and substantially restrict" protected speech and another 36 percent overregulate speech on campus. (www.thefire.org)

In an apparent zeal to ensure no one ever is offended for any reason, many universities create "free speech" zones to isolate student speech, ban "unwanted" jokes, off-hand comments and teasing, and, in myriad other ways, attempt to silence protected speech.

Students at Cameron University and many other campuses must jump through hoops and get an official stamp of approval before being allowed to distribute materials in public spaces. At two universities in the past year, administrators even barred students from distributing the U.S. Constitution because they didn't get the proper authorization and stick to the designated distribution area.

The good news is that Daniel Harper likely will win his case. But when students like Daniel must go to court to secure their right to free speech, it's bad news for the future of the First Amendment.

Colleges and universities, after all, are supposed to be testing grounds for exercising First Amendment rights -- places of open inquiry about the full range of religious and political convictions, including those that spark robust debate or offend prevailing sensibilities.

Shutting down the free exchange of views on campus is the beginning of the end for a vibrant marketplace of ideas in America's public square.

Maybe we can't "live on" the First Amendment, as the Cameron administrator put it. But he needs to remember -- as do we all -- that we can't live free without it.

Charles C. Haynes is director of the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute, 555 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20001. religiousfreedomcenter.org chaynes@newseum.org

digg delicious facebook stumbleupon google Newsvine
More News and Photos

Associated Press Videos