Liberty University, a Christian college situated near Lynchburg, Virginia and founded in 1971 by Jerry Falwell, has this week decertified its college Democratic Party club over the singular fact that the National Democratic Party is a supporter of abortion. After the debacle of allowing a president that is a supporter of infanticide being invited to speak at the leading Catholic University in the nation, I can only say that Liberty University should be congratulated for standing up for its principles. At least these Baptists actually believe in something unlike the putative Catholics at Notre Dame.
But is this a violation of political free speech in a nation where the Democratic Party is a long-standing, historically important political force that is followed by half the electorate and currently holds a majority of the seats in our national government? Are these students having their speech illicitly quashed by Liberty University?
The simple answer is a resounding "no."
Before I get into my explanation of why I support this decision whole heartedly, though, let's review what happened in Virginia.
On May 21 a story appeared about an email that was sent by Mark Hine, vice president of student affairs of Liberty University, informing the campus Democratic Party club that it could no longer use the university's name in its operations. The email sent on May 15 to club president and Liberty student Brian Diaz.
Hines assured the students that the problem wasn't with them, but was with the Democratic Party itself.
Part of Hine’s e-mail said, “The Democratic Party platform is contrary to the mission of Liberty University and to Christian doctrine (supports abortion, federal funding of abortion, advocates repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, promotes the “LGBT” agenda, hate crimes, which include sexual orientation and gender identity, socialism, etc.)” LGBT refers to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
The decision had been made that from this point on the students could not use campus meeting rooms and could not use the university's name in advertising or functions. Hines also warned the students that violations of these new strictures could lead to reprimands that would ultimately end in expulsion.
Later on May 21, the university backtracked a bit saying that the students could still meet on campus, but all other decisions remained in effect.
Naturally, Democrats throughout Virginia decried the decision saying the school was trying to quash free speech. The rallying cry seems to have become "It IS possible to be a Christian AND a Democrat," a statement that runs counter to the perceived notion that the university is saying that one cannot be a true Christian and support a Democratic Party platform that includes a pro-abortion plank.
And there, to date, the story stands. The university has not rescinded its decision to decertify the Democrat club and I, for one, hope they stay the course. The university is doing right by its principles and should be congratulated for it.
Unlike the purported Catholics at Notre Dame, the folks at Liberty university stand four-square against abortion and are willing to fight for their principles, ideals that are deeply held on both the political and religious fronts. Therefore, since their position is stark, the college has every right not to lend its support to a campus club that is built on a political party that is zealously against the principles that the university holds dear. Revoking the certification of the Democrat club was the only logical and morally consistent thing the college could do.
But it isn't any violation of free speech, it isn't censorship, nor is it an un-American decision.
Unfortunately, too many Americans confuse the concept of "free speech" with that of license. Free speech simply does not mean that you can say just anything. Additionally, people misunderstand what "censorship" is under the American system.
In America people have a right to speak their minds on politics with few restrictions imposed by government. Political free speech is one of the true American rights, an original first principle. The founders wanted to assure that political opposition to whomever or whatever party is in power was not oppressed. They saw the results of such oppression throughout history and wanted to make sure it didn't happen here. And when the Alien and Sedition Act was passed by the Adams administration, there was a great hew and cry raised about it. That act was allowed to die an ignominious death not to be revived and since the early republic the US has had very few eras where political speech has been curtailed.
The simple fact is, though, only government can engage in "censorship." Only government has the power to oppress speech and enforce that oppression. Liberty University can ban the Democratic Party from its campus all day long and not truly affect the free speech of its students. Off campus those students may regurgitate all the Democratic Party talking points that they wish to indulge. Their right to free speech is not harmed. Further there is no pretension by the university of telling students to which party they are "allowed" to be a member. So, the student's right to association is also not harmed.
It should be beyond question that, as a private organization, Liberty University has the right to create its own standards within the law and stand by them. What is a more American ideal than having the right to live by your own principles? The university claims to stand against abortion. The university could not, then, logically allow its name to be linked in any way with advocates of infanticide. The Democratic Party is strongly FOR infanticide. Following logic and principle the decision could not be clearer for the college and decertifying the cub was the only choice.
During his flowery speech at Notre Dame, President Obama, the man carrying the infanticide banner for the Democratic Party, pointedly told Catholics that they needed to abandon their religious rigidity and meet him on the irreligious side of the aisle, there in the supposed middle. Obama clearly told Catholics that he believed the American way was to compromise despite convictions. Catholics, Obama held, needed to throw away their religious beliefs in order to win political favor. Liberty University has rejected Obama's serpent-in-the-garden view of the American way. Liberty University has decided that principles mean something and that compromise for the sake of compromise is not their way.
The truth is, if you are a Christian that thinks abortion is against your most deeply held religious principles, then you can't be both a Christian and a member of the Democratic Party. If you stand against baby killing, how can you belong to a party that supports it?
So, kudos to Liberty University for standing by its principles. Notre Dame should have been as honorable. Let's hope Liberty's strong stance for principle gains adherents across the land. Let us also hope they don't cave to pressure and reverse this decision in the coming days.