WASHINGTON — College students need to stand up and fight for their free speech rights on campus in order to end the societal trend of illiberal liberalism that is beginning to plague the American culture, a religious freedom lawyer maintained Friday.
As today's political Left has fallen into the habit of trying to stifle debate by labeling social conservative arguments as racist, bigoted and offensive, Casey Mattox, senior counsel for the Christian legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, argued that society's infestation of intolerant liberalism can only be cured if it is first eliminated from the college campuses across the country that helped give birth to it.
At the Faith & Freedom Coalition's 2016 "Road to Majority Conference," Mattox participated in a panel discussion addressing "how to stop the left's all-out assault on religious freedom and freedom of speech."
Like most "bad ideas," Mattox said, the growing trend of intolerance toward conservative and religious views on marriage, abortion and other hot political issues in America traces its roots to many of America's college campuses, sites where many students today are being told that they are not allowed to express their Christian conservative beliefs because it violates campus speech policy.
"If you graduated before 1980, you would be stunned to learn what is going on college campuses today. If you graduated before 2012, you would be really surprised to know what is going on college campuses," Mattox said. "You grew up in a time when things are not nearly as bad as what they are now. We are not talking about liberalism. We are not talking about ideas that are strongly opposed so it is hard to exist in that environment. We are talking a far-more aggressive [agenda against] free speech rights that we are seeing play out at university campuses these days."
Mattox, whose organization was involved in a recent federal court ruling against striking down an overreaching speech policy at North Carolina State University, explained that more and more colleges and universities in America are enacting various policies that egregiously infringe upon the free speech rights of conservatives.
He said that many universities and colleges are enacting "speech codes," which are supposed to serve as campus bans against "offensive" speech but are usually subjectively applied to limit the speech rights of those who believe in traditional marriage and the sanctity of life.
Mattox said that one of the most egregious speech policies that he has heard of is a policy enacted by Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, where a student could be expelled for "absurd behavior."
"You could be kicked out the university for absurd behavior, which in fact violates itself because the policy is absurd," he said. "These kinds of policies you see on university campuses all the time. They allow university administrators to prohibit the speech they want to prohibit while not prohibiting the speech that they don't."
In addition to "speech codes," Mattox explained that schools are also limiting free speech to designated "speech zones."