French: An Army of Straw Men Keeps Campus Intolerance Alive

If there is one constant in the battles over free speech on campus, it’s this: Apologists for intolerance can rarely justify censorship without making stuff up. Confronted with the difficulty of justifying the actual facts of actual disruptions (and sometimes violence), they resort to defending the academy from enemies it doesn’t have, upholding standards that aren’t under attack, and creating new standards they have no intention of using to benefit anyone but their friends. I witnessed this countless times during my legal work defending the free-association rights of Christian college students. More than 100 universities in the United States have either thrown Christian groups off campus or attempted to toss groups from campus on the grounds that it is impermissible “discrimination” for Christian groups to reserve leadership positions for Christians. But rather than justify the actual facts of the actual case in front of them, campus officials would assert that if they don’t uphold the campus nondiscrimination policy, then the university couldn’t defend its students against . . . the Ku Klux Klan. Indeed, at Vanderbilt University, administrators directly compared Christian students seeking Christian leadership to segregationists from the Jim Crow South. Yes, in the name of protecting students from hordes of sheet-clad night riders, the university was ejecting from campus student groups known mainly for playing lots of guitar, volunteering disproportionately at urban homeless shelters, and avoiding the binge-drinking hookup culture that was and is causing its own set of campus problems. This misdirection was especially pronounced in the aftermath of the Middlebury College affair, in which gangs of students and “outsiders” disrupted Charles Murray’s speech, chased him out to his car, physically attacked him, gave a Middlebury professor a concussion as she tried to defend him, and then tried to block Murray’s car as he left. But to read some commentators, one would think the protesters’ main problem was that they gave “intolerance” a bad name. Writing “in praise of intolerance” at Slate, author and James Madison University professor Alan Levinovitz, argues that “the subsequent violent protests were wrong not because they were intolerant, but because they were an ineffective and immoral form of intolerance, especially in a civic space dedicated to reason and evidence.” And what are the “effective” and “moral” forms of intolerance? Well, here come the straw men. He speaks of creationists and anti-vaxxers — two groups that are most definitely not trying to gain access to campus biology departments — and then moves on to a direct and misguided attack on religious conservatism, condemning (of all people) C. S. Lewis for advocating that “all economists and statesmen should be Christian” and rank-and-file Christians who believe that God wants men to serve as the head of the household. But here’s the problem — Levinovitz doesn’t point to a single example where those kinds of Christian beliefs are at issue in any modern campus controversy. Even Christian professors who believe in “male headship” (a misunderstood belief that has exactly no relevance to campus politics) don’t import that belief into their English or chemistry or mathematics lectures. One gets the feeling that to weed out or block alleged “extremism” that isn’t a problem on campus, defenders of the status quo are happy limiting mainstream conservatives, especially mainstream religious conservatives. Indeed, some writers are so entirely within their own ideological bubbles, it seems that they actually believe that the choice is a binary between the progressive monoculture and an extremist dystopia. Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/446138/campus-free-speech-progressives-intolerant-christians

Exactly!!  Well said, David.  Attorney, and Army Reserve officer (Major), David French is the author of that excellent op/ed.  David was awarded the Bronze Star for his service in Iraq.  To read the rest of his article, click on the text above.

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