College campuses, once beacons of free speech and debate, have devolved in recent years. A 2017 poll by the Brookings Institution shed some light on just how bad things have gotten.
The poll found that over 40 percent of students believe the First Amendment doesn’t protect hate speech. Additionally, 50 percent said that the proper way to deal with upsetting speech is to shout over the speaker. And 19 percent said physical violence is an acceptable way of shutting down speech!
But the students are only a part of the problem. Far-left administrators and faculty will often go to extreme lengths to silence viewpoints that they disagree with.
There is some good that seems to have come out of this mess, though. The attacks on free speech seem to have become so egregious that Christian and conservative students have had enough. They’re fighting back. And they’re not alone.
The Alliance Defending Freedom Center for Academic Freedom (CAF) has achieved nearly 400 victories for free expression on college campuses nationwide. That’s millions of students whose lives have been touched through these efforts to protect freedom of speech on campus.
But amassing these victories requires a lot of moving parts. Here are just four of the things it often takes to successfully defend student rights. And why your help is needed now to continue the fight as millions of students head back to campus.
1. Students and faculty who know their rights and are willing to take a stand
Christian and conservative students are getting bolder—and they have to in order to keep up with the increased threats that they are facing.
Nathan Apodaca is one such student.
Nathan is the president of Students for Life at California State University-San Marcos. When his funding request to host a pro-life speaker on campus was denied by the school, Nathan knew that the university was treating his group unfairly—in more ways than one.
While Students for Life cannot receive more than $500 in funding per semester and cannot use that funding for speakers, Nathan knew that other student groups such as the Gender Equity Center and the LGBTQA Pride Center receive more than $296,000 in student activity funding combined! These groups regularly use those funds to bring in outside speakers and host events such as “Kink 101”—a workshop and discussion of bondage, dominance, sadism, and masochism.
With the help of that pro-life speaker, who happened to be Dr. Mike Adams, a former ADF client, Nathan called ADF for help.
Last year, the Center for Academic Freedom filed a lawsuit on behalf of Nathan and Students for Life over the university’s blatant viewpoint discrimination.
2. Quick action
On some occasions, without quick action, students risk missing out on life-changing opportunities all because administrators are wrongly censoring their free speech.
For example, Karissa Erickson was thrilled when she was asked to be one of two graduation speakers at her nursing program’s pinning ceremony at Colorado Mesa University. But when she submitted her planned speech for review, officials told her she couldn’t reference her faith or include a Bible verse in her speech.
Sure, Karissa could’ve removed the offending Bible verse and given her speech, but the moment would have always been tainted. So Karissa called ADF for help.
It turns out the school wrongly believed that they had to censor all religious speech in order to avoid offending someone. ADF informed school officials that wasn’t the case—in fact, it was their censoring of Karissa’s speech that was unconstitutional.
Because of Karissa’s quick action and ADF’s ability to respond accordingly, the school changed its policies in time for Karissa to give her graduation speech uncensored.
In every university case, the attorneys we face are armed with essentially unlimited resources from major government institutions. In other words, the taxpayers are paying for the legal defense of repression and censorship on college campuses. And because of this, some schools just won’t quit. They dig in their heels, holding on to their unconstitutional speech policies for as long as possible, hoping to exhaust their opponents.
Michelle Gregoire experienced this firsthand. She and some fellow supporters of Young Americans for Liberty were arrested on a public walkway at Kellogg Community College. Their crime? Handing out copies of the Constitution and asking passersby if they “like freedom and liberty.”
The school claimed that because the young people didn’t have prior permission from the school to exercise their First Amendment freedoms, they were trespassing. While ADF was able to intervene and get the charges against Michelle and her friends dropped, the school still refused to change its speech policies. It wasn’t until almost a year after the arrests—and eight months after the student group filed suit with ADF’s help—that the school began to change its course.
No student should have to fear being arrested on campus for exercising their rights, worry about whether they will have the same educational opportunities as everyone else, or yield their First Amendment freedoms to the will of administrators just because someone disagrees with their political or religious views. But that’s the sad reality facing our children and grandchildren on campus today.
Thankfully, your prayers and financial support of ADF make it possible for these young men and women to take a stand when their rights are threatened on campus. You’re helping them fight back by helping us fight on their behalf. And because we fight, we are winning case after case. ADF attorneys have achieved an almost 90 percent success rate in challenging violations of students' First Amendment rights on college campuses nationwide!
But without people like you praying for and faithfully supporting our students, they won’t have the help they need.
You can make a difference for these young people today by giving a gift to defend free speech on campus. Together, we can help ensure that the next generation knows that freedom is always worth fighting for.
Your gift will be doubled by a $900,000 matching grant!