On Campuses, the Continuing Struggle Against Ignorance – and Arrogance
- By Alan Sears
- Posted May 22, 2014
- No Comments »
Sometimes, the bravest thing parents can do in America today is send their children off to school. Kindergarten, elementary school, high school, college – the realms of education are more and more hostile to families who honor faith, cherish freedom … or even just value common sense.
Making the school environment more legally hospitable for your family is a major priority of Alliance Defending Freedom – and in this, as in so many legal arenas, our attorneys are in no danger of running out of work.
In Louisville, Kentucky, for instance, our lawyers have written a letter to officials of Jefferson County Public Schools (which recently adopted a policy prohibiting discrimination against “transgendered” students) urging them to countermand the cockeyed decision of a local principal to allow boys and girls to use each others’ bathrooms. The principal is apparently convinced that he’s legally required to allow this mutual access, or face charges of sexual discrimination.
In fact – as our letter explains – the district is in greater danger of violating students’ privacy rights and placing young people in potentially unsafe conditions. ADF has outlined a policy that ensures both privacy and safety, and has offered to defend the school district free of charge against any lawsuits challenging that policy, should the district adopt it.
“Every student has a right to privacy and safety,” says ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “The only sensible, objective, and enforceable policy is one that ensures single-sex access to areas where children undress or engage in other activities that require privacy.”
In Morris, Minnesota, it’s students’ freedom that’s endangered, after the University of Minnesota-Morris has declined to take action against a professor who encouraged his students to destroy an independent student publication whose conservative views he disagrees with. Not only did someone apparently take the professor up on his offer – the next day, all the papers disappeared from their bins – but in the weeks since a significant number of papers from a later edition were defaced. University administrators haven’t condemned that action, either.
ADF attorneys have sent a letter to the university, asking officials to investigate, publicly condemn the thefts, and move to protect the paper from further violations of its First Amendment freedoms. (This case calls to mind a crucial win we were blessed with last fall in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which affirmed a lower court ruling that Oregon State University officials could not legally confiscate or dispose of independent student newspapers.)
“While professors and other members of the UMM community are entitled to their personal opinions, they are not entitled to incite theft or deface property,” says ADF Senior Legal Counsel David Hacker. “Universities should encourage the free exchange of ideas. They should not stand idly by while some people in the campus community engage in unconstitutional censorship.”
But if university officials in Morris are silent on the First Amendment, some administrators at Cameron University in Oklahoma are openly contemptuous of it. A Cameron student was ordered to stop handing out religious flyers on campus, when another student complained that he was “offended” by the material. A school official told the young man who had handed out the flyers that constitutional amendments are simply “foundations” that “you can’t live on” and that university policy supersedes his First Amendment freedoms.
When officials went on to find the student guilty of violating the university’s Expressive Activity Policy and Equal Opportunity Policy, which prohibit students from engaging in “offensive” and “discriminatory” speech and inhibit them from freely exercising their rights as protected by the First Amendment, our attorneys filed a federal lawsuit on the student’s behalf.
“Public university officials don’t get to pick and choose which theological viewpoints can be expressed on campus,” says ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot. “We hope Cameron University will revise its policy so that all students can exercise their constitutionally protected freedoms.”
On campuses coast to coast, the legal challenges keep coming – from teachers, professors, and administrators who in some cases simply don’t understand the law … and in other cases, openly oppose it. In all of these cases, please be in prayer for our attorneys as they work faithfully to defend your family’s religious freedom and rights of free speech. And pray for the courage of those students trying gracefully to share their faith in the face of such unreasoning opposition.
Author: Alan Sears