Wednesday, November 30, 2011

“Hate Speech” Regulations vs. Free Speech

Before, restrictions on free speech involved only speech that would put others in direct harm – libel or speech inciting violence. Such speech could meaningfully be called “hate speech.” Now many universities – 97% of them – have adopted policies that define “hate speech” as speech that might possibly offend others relative to race, gender, religion, disability, national origin or “sexual orientation.”

However, it’s not merely “offensive” speech about “orientation” that has become punishable but also speech that questions the morality of certain sexual behavior. Specifically, questioning the virtue of homosexual behavior has been proscribed. Ironically, the university is supposed to be about responsible inquiry! However, questioning the correctness of homosexuality has become off-limits! Students can still discuss the morality and viability of polygamy, rape, bestiality, pedophilia, open marriages, and even masturbation without risking censure.

Censuring responsible inquiry and speech undermines the very credibility and rationale of the university. Can we take seriously then any studies that come out of the university on the subject of homosexuality? Why should we if any experiment or findings that might reflect negatively on this lifestyle will be prejudicially attacked or suppressed, while the positive “findings” will be trumpeted in support of university policy. Lies have become unnecessary when one is free to report in an unbalanced manner!

Fortunately, for the most part, the courts have ruled against this restriction on free speech. Wayne Grudem cites several instances of universities that have been ruled against in this regard:

• Georgia Tech University…engaged in viewpoint discrimination by defunding religious student groups, and fostered a state-approved religious view of homosexual behavior by informing students to shun religious groups that do not affirm homosexual behavior. (Politics According to the Bible, 492)

Oddly, Georgia Tech didn’t see their own speech to be in violation of their own regulations against religious discrimination. Grudem cites several other examples:

• Savannah State University in Georgia quickly settled with a student group that had been dismissed from campus for engaging in “harassment,” because they shared their faith with other students. (493)

• SFCC [Spokane Falls Community College] officials threatened Beth Sheeran and members of a Christian student group with disciplinary measures, including expulsion, if they chose to hold a pro-life event on campus to share information with other students, because the message was “discriminatory” and did not include a pro-abortion viewpoint. The school eventually settled. (493)

Ironically, university non-discrimination policies are often used to discriminate:

• Rutgers University used a “nondiscrimination” statement to require an InterVarsity Christian Fellowship to accept leaders who reject the Group’s Christian beliefs.

How hypocritical. Would this university have required a Breast-Cancer-Survival group to accept males as leaders? RU isn’t alone in this hypocrisy. Arizona State and the University of North Carolina have brought similar charges.

Most famously, the Hastings College of Law in San Francisco required their student Christian Legal Society (CLS) to open up membership and leadership to non-Christians. Unfortunately, the US Supreme Court ruled against the CLS student group by a 5-4 decision. Many similar cases are still pending.

Charges of “hate speech” have silenced many Christians. Gruden explains:

• Almost uniformly, such “hate speech” codes constitute wrongful restriction of freedom of speech. For the twenty years or so that such speech codes were allowed to operate freely on American campuses, they no doubt contributed to a remarkable muzzling of conservative moral and religious ideas (and probably conservative political ideas as well). Therefore, they effectively indoctrinated students in more liberal moral, political, and religious values. (495)

It is so ironic that what is now considered “hate speech” had once been considered essential speech by the Founding Fathers of this nation, many of whom weren’t Christians. Nevertheless, they all believed that the Christian faith and Biblical teaching were essential to the flowering of their new nation. In his 1796 Farewell Address, the beloved George Washington reiterated these broadly accepted sentiments:

• Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars…The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and cherish them…reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

The very thing that Washington had called “indispensable,” is now called “hate speech.” John Adams, who became a Unitarian, expressed a similar sentiment in a letter to his cousin Samuel:

• , founded in the supposition or expectation of extraordinary degrees of virtue [apart from Christianity], are evidently chimerical.

According to the Fathers, whether Christian or not, the Christian foundation of this nation was a necessity to “All projects of government.” The Frenchman, deist and lapsed Catholic, Alexis de Tocqueville, extensively traveled the States, starting in 1831, endeavoring to investigate the stability and monumental success of this new republic. In Democracy in America, he wrote,

• The religious atmosphere was the first thing that struck me on arrival in the United States.

Historian Thomas Kidd writes further about Tocqueville’s observations:

• The partnership of religion and liberty lay at the heart of America’s political success. To Tocqueville, the American’s Christian ethos kept democracy’s worst features in check…Freedom by itself would inexorably degenerate into rabid selfishness, but religion nurtured the purposefulness of freedom. In the American model, according to Tocqueville, ‘freedom sees religion as the companion of its struggles and triumphs, the cradle of its infancy, and the divine source of its rights.’” (God of Liberty, 245)

• Tocqueville manifested a view of religion not unlike that of several prominent founding fathers, including Jefferson…maintaining that it was essential for the masses to keep believing in Christianity—or at least in good and evil—and in the eternal rewards in the afterlife.

Sadly, we have become so entrenched in our cultural biases that we are unable to see that what we call “hate speech” is actually “essential” speech.

In 1863 the US Senate requested President Abraham Lincoln – and Lincoln gladly acquiesced -- to “designate and set apart a day for national prayer” (Grudem 500):

• [S]incerely believing that no people, however great in numbers and resources or however strong in the justice of their cause, can prosper without His favor; and at the same time deploring the national offenses which have provoked His righteous judgment, yet encouraged in this day of trouble by the assurances of His word to seek Him for succor according to His appointed way through Jesus Christ, the Senate of the United States do hereby request the President of the United States…to designate and set apart a day for national prayer and humiliation. (Journal of the Senate of the United States of America)

If only we would have the understanding and character to ask if we have committed “offenses which have provoked His righteous judgment!”

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