The people who dominate American public life come from a few elite schools. Yale Law School (YLS) is one of those institutions. Recently three groups (Yale Federalist Society, American Humanist Association, Alliance Defending Freedom), who represent views across the ideological spectrum, tried to hold a meeting to discuss and promote free speech. YLS students shut it down. Two-thirds of the student body sided with those who wanted to silence speech with which they disagreed. There are several news stories on this event. Here is one»
This is a significant event because from the YLS student body comes future congressional aids, congressional representatives, US senators, judges, federal prosecutors, spies, FBI agents, and perhaps even a future president; some of them believe that only one point of view may be articulated in public America. They have rejected a core American value: free speech. One might quibble over whether BigSocMedia’s silencing of dissent is quashing free speech but thuggish students intimidating speakers at an event honoring free speech is nothing but silencing dissent. They may not have been wearing brown shirts but they probably should have done.
Was this just a temper tantrum or is this part of a larger, longer term pattern that we are seeing on elite campuses in the USA? Consider the case of Jerelyn Luther, the notorious “shrieking girl,” who, in 2015, was filmed raging incoherently at Nicholas Christakis, then “master” of Siliman College, Yale. She seems impenitent and has gone on to Columbia Law School and is on track to take a leadership position in American life. Consider the numerous episodes on campuses across the USA over the last decade (most ironically at the University of California, Berkeley, home of the “free speech” movement in the 1960s), where students and others (e.g., Antifa, dressed in black bloc) have violently attacked those with whom they disagree. For more on this see the resources below.
American Christians should pay attention to this trend because we have an interest in free speech. We have a right to expect the magistrate to protect the freedom (the relative absence of restraint) of speech from the exercise of all external compulsion, whether by the state itself or by mobs. We expect such protection on the Christian Sabbath when we gather for public worship and we expect it on Monday evening when we gather with other Americans to discuss our secular lives together. We expect it when we stand on the sidewalk and urge people not to abort their unborn children and we expect it when pastors are doing evangelism on the boardwalk in New Jersey.
The USA is a liberal (i.e., tolerant) democratic Republic. By our Declaration and our Bill of Rights we have agreed to live together despite our differences, even when those differences are deeply held. The YLS mob has a right to their deeply held beliefs but they do not have a right to intimidate, threaten, or otherwise coerce others into silence. Should such behavior be allowed to continue, the Republic cannot continue. That members of the YLS mob might continue, impenitently, into positions of authority in the American government gives us all reason for concern.
©R. Scott Clark. All Rights Reserved.
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- Trueman On A Source Of Political Correctness, Critical Theory, Screaming Yale Undergrads, And The Impulse To Destroy The Past
- Nothing New About “Safe Spaces” At Yale
- Resources On Critical Theory, Political Correctness, And Free Speech