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Posted by on Oct 13, 2008 in Guest Contributor, Politics | 3 comments

Conservative Group Is Right: Free Speech Is Not a Political Issue (Guest Voice)

Free speech should protect both sides in political debate. In this Guest Voice post, journalism professor and author Walter Brasch looks at a case that hasn’t received much publicity — and has an end result that would probably make the Founding Fathers smile. Brasch is an award-winning syndicated newspaper columnist and radio commentator, and president of the Pennsylvania Press Club. Guest Voice posts reflect differing viewpoints and do not necessarily represent the opinion of TMV or its writers.

Conservative Group Is Right: Free Speech Is Not a Political Issue

by Walter Brasch

The Sunbird Conservatives, a student group, put out some pro-McCain literature at a recruiting table at Fresno Pacific University a week ago.

Seemed innocent enough. The conservatives weren’t harassing anyone, nor were they blocking any sidewalks.

But, administrators at this Christian-based college didn’t like it. A dean told the students to either remove the McCain literature or to agree to what he said was university policy to present both sides. The dean correctly noted that the First Amendment applies only to government intrusion. A private university, unlike a public university, may curtail any free speech it wants.

The students still argued “free speech rights.” Enter the provost, head of all academic affairs at the university. She reaffirmed the dean’s demands. One of the members shouted: “free speech” at her. They challenged her, arguing that for a political organization to present both views would defy common sense. The provost’s response, according to the conservative Leadership Institute, was “Shut-up! I’m the provost. That is disrespectful.”

The students were warned if they didn’t comply with the administrators’ demands, they would be restricted in future activities on campus.

The Founding Fathers wanted all views to be heard. Channeling the revolutionary political philosophy of poet John Milton and judge Lord Blackstone, they believed that mankind is rational, and if all the facts were available, mankind would find the truth. That became the basis of the First Amendment.

Now, the twist is that the Fresno Pacific administrators were wrong. Their own university actually believes that all views should be allowed, as long as there is the opportunity for opposing views. It does not require one organization to put out all views.

But, the Fresno Pacific administrators are also right. A private university can do what it wants to do. It can encourage or restrict free speech. Except in California.

California is the only state that extends the First Amendment to private colleges, which as a matter of educational philosophy should encourage, not restrict, freedom of expression.

This means that the wishes of the Founding Fathers have been extended into California, which many believe is a hellhole of liberalism. Disregard the fact that some rabid conservatives actively try to restrict free speech rights of others. Disregard the reality that conservatives who want to keep government out of our lives used both the constitution and state law to underscore their right to distribute political literature.

It’s time for all states, especially Pennsylvania where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were written, to enact legislation to assure that the principles of the nation, and especially the rights of free expression, are extended to all sectors, both public AND private.

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Copyright 2008 The Moderate Voice
  • StockBoySF

    Yes, if there is a student group (or even one student) who wants to put literature out on McCain in a public place, then that student should be able to do so. If there is a student who wants to put Obama literature out, then that too should be allowed. This should be student-driven.

    Shame on Fresno Pacific University for not allowing the McCain supporters to put out literature.

    By the way…. sort of on the same topic…. If a university is supposed to support education and the free flow of ideas, as well as provide its students with skills for succeeding in the real world, skills such as critical thinking, and persuasive verbal skills (I almost said “argument, but that might be taken the wrong way), then why wouldn’t a college or university welcome any opportunity to enhance its students’ abilities.

    More specific to the topic, isn’t it important to encourage students to be good citizens, let them discuss candidates/issues and vote?

  • StockBoySF

    Oh, and another thing…. Monica Goodling… the woman at the center of the Dept. of Justice firings/hirings….. didn’t she go to Oral Roberts University? It seems to me that people who are taught only one way of viewing life can’t analyze issues and debate them with intellectual vigor. The only way for those people to succeed, since they can’t argue effectively, is for them to surround themselves with like thinkers. That way they can get their ideas through without having anyone question them. We’ve seen where that leads us under the Bush administration….

  • kritt11

    SB- I agree entirely. The most successful presidents surrounded themselves with thinkers from different backgrounds and were flexible enough to go beyond party platforms to seek pragmatic solutions.

    . I think Bush’s first term proved the dangers of clinging to a narrow ideology- especially in foreign policy. He tried to backtrack somewhat in the second, but by then the damage was done. The result was an ineffective mess in some areas, real disaster in others.

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