An unnamed student caused a free speech kerfuffle at the University of Louisville in Kentucky earlier this month when he attempted to hand out a Christian pamphlet titled “God and Sexuality” in a class on LGBT studies. The university received complaints about the student’s actions but initially supported him on free speech grounds.
Two weeks later, the school reversed itself and issued an order barring the student from any further contact with the class or its professor.
Why the sudden change?
No official reason was given for the university’s 180-degree turn, but it’s not hard to figure out. The Family Foundation of Kentucky, a Focus-affiliated group, is quoted in Inside Higher Ed’s story on this incident as criticizing the university for “buckling to the pressure of a particular privileged ideological group on campus.”
According to the professor involved, the student’s “targeting” of her class, his “lurking” outside the class, and his expressed desire to return was threatening, even going so far as to allude to the “hundreds” of school shootings across the country.
What nonsense. Again, the Family Foundation of Kentucky called the university to task in the same news report, saying “A person showing up to a class with a differing opinion does not constitute a safety risk.”
As Christians, we understand the need for follow-up with those we have shared the gospel message with. This student’s desire to return to the class fits squarely within that understanding. To those afraid of the gospel message, any tactics seem fair in the effort to stifle the message of love and healing that God brings to all, including LGBT folks. Declaring the student evangelist’s efforts to be “threatening” and alluding to school shootings is all part of a victimhood message intended for nothing else than to shut down free speech.
Kentucky is among a handful of states that have enacted laws specifically to protect free speech on public college campuses. These laws are necessary to remind college administrators upon pain of responding to lawsuits and paying attorneys’ fees, that yielding to a “heckler’s veto” on campus is the opposite of what the First Amendment stands for. Aren’t colleges and universities supposed to be bastions of free speech? Isn’t one of their purposes to allow the marketplace of ideas to flourish?
No official word yet on the student evangelist’s plans to challenge the “no contact” order. We’ll follow this story and let you know of any future developments.
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