VIEWS

The First Amendment
is Under Siege

Who would have thought that freedom of speech would ever lose standing as one of our most cherished freedoms?  In late 2020, a survey of the students at UW Madison showcased the deep trouble we’re in.  It found surprising numbers of students believe:

  • the government should restrict the speech of climate change deniers and racially insensitive people.

  • the government should punish hate speech.

  • public institutions should be allowed to revoke invitations to speakers who might offend someone.

  • businesses should be required to provide goods and services that violate their religious beliefs.

 

How did these students manage to arrive at young adulthood without an appreciation for the value of free speech and religious liberty?  This failure should be alarming to every one of us.

 

One of the suggestions to get back on track was to require all students to take a course on the First Amendment.  I had to laugh as I wondered who would teach it.  The professors are leading the assault. Here’s what I experienced recently as a senior guest auditor at UW Madison.  In a class on women in religion, the professor opened by inviting the students to let her know if they had a preferred gender pronoun.  During the course of the semester she managed to let us know that when her lesbian daughter asked her what she could ever do to incur her wrath she answered, “vote for a conservative.”  In another course, advertised as history from the civil war to the present, the professor spent the vast majority of time on her agenda of injustices visited on women and minorities over the years.  Students complained about the liberal politics of this professor in online surveys, but the power of the grade kept them in check in the classroom. 

 

Universities are supposed to be protected places where independent thought is encouraged.  To the contrary, the pressure to conform is everywhere.  We need to push back hard on this in our homes and in every facet of our lives.  If we fail to respond to this threat, we will lose the freedoms that make us who we are.

 

If you’d like to read the study, go to

https://thompsoncenter.wisc.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/509/2021/01/Thompson-Center-First-Amendment-Survey.pdf