Censorship as an Act of Civil Disobedience?
May 27, 2005
by David French
Despite spending much of my professional life defending students who are victims of the totalitarian academic culture, I can still be surprised by the stunning self-righteousness underlying much of the censorship on campus. Campus administrators and many faculty members know that they have all the right answers regarding issues of race, gender, sexuality, poverty, war, peace, etc., and it is their job to ensure that their students don’t just know those answers but believe them to be true. Dissent is a direct threat to their mission, and it must be stamped out—even when administrators know their actions are illegal.
Earlier this spring, I spoke at a conference of campus administrators and directly addressed the disturbing tendency of colleges to exclude from campus theologically conservative religious groups because those groups hold “incorrect” positions on sexual morality. After outlining in great detail the long-established rights of religious organizations to not only express a point of view but also select leaders and members who agree with their point of view, an administrator stood and asked what the “downside” would be to continuing to exclude such groups until a court told them to stop. In other words, she wanted to know if there was any practical consequence to knowingly disobeying established court precedent right up until the moment a lawsuit is filed.
Similarly, one of the most disturbing aspects of Rhode Island College’s continuing campaign against Bill Felkner
is the clear evidence that at least one of his chief tormenters is knowingly
violating the law. In a critical conversation, the professor most responsible for forcing Felkner to lobby for positions he does not support indicates that his word is the “law” until a court tells him to stop. This is censorship as a form of civil disobedience—the intentional deprivation of another person’s fundamental constitutional rights for a “higher purpose.”
Martin Luther King disobeyed the law to liberate individuals. These campus administrators disobey the law not to liberate but to indoctrinate.