by David French, ADF Senior Counsel
As the Alliance Defense Fund "point man" for cases defending religious liberty on public university campuses, attorney David French has seen firsthand for years the kind of legal, emotional, and sometimes physical persecution many Christian students are facing in today’s often hostile educational environment. Sadly, he doesn’t always find the courage of many believers proportionate to those challenges.
When I speak on campus, one of the most frustrating experiences is hearing conservatives – and many faithful Christians – describe themselves as "silenced" or "afraid" to speak when there is no formal, legal barrier to their speech. I hear it all:
"I’m afraid to speak up or I get attacked in class."
"Professors ridicule me."
"I don’t really like the conservative group that is on campus, so I don’t know where to go."
"I’m concerned about my grades or recommendations. What do I do?
I hear these complaints, and don’t doubt their sincerity, but here is what these folks are really saying: "There are many things that I value far more than my conservative (or, sadly, Christian) principles, including the regard of all my peers, the ease of my academic career, and feeling welcome and accepted during the Thursday-Sunday party circuit. Please change the university so that I can speak my mind without any cost or consequence."
"If you don’t think people will like you, grow a thicker skin and see what happens."
I have two words for these people: Cowboy up.
If you are not actively being censored, speak up! If you don’t like the current stable of conservative groups, create a new one or speak on your own.
If you are afraid professors won’t grade you fairly, put them to the test and respond appropriately if their bias manifests itself. (You’ll be surprised how well you might do.)
If you don’t think people will like you, grow a thicker skin and see what happens. I still have dear lefty friends from my law school days, and I never pulled any punches in my conversations with them (and still don’t).
But, above all: Stop whining. Please.
As for the Christians who live in silent fear of peer pressure or the scorn of professors, there is a scripture that applies quite clearly. Luke 9:26 says: "For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels."
The situation changes when there is actual censorship (i.e., a coercive effort to silence speech), but until then . . . fear not. And remember, these rights did not just spring spontaneously into being. Good men died (and are dying still) to create and preserve those rights. Don’t dishonor their memory or scorn their sacrifice by valuing your peers’ opinions over your own ability to speak the Truth.
"And remember, these rights did not just spring spontaneously into being."