“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
You may have heard this rhyme as a child. Perhaps your parents or a teacher calmly reminded you that even though another child on the playground called you a name or said something you didn’t like, you didn’t have to let it make you feel bad.
But today’s version probably goes a little more like this: Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will always hurt me especially if I don’t like what you have to say.
Case in point: back in February, California State University-Los Angeles (CSULA) tried to shut down a free speech event on its campus featuring conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, who was slated to give a presentation on “When Diversity Becomes a Problem.” (It doesn’t get more ironic than that, does it?) First, the school charged the student group who invited Shapiro, Young America’s Foundation (YAF), outrageous security fees because they said Shapiro was “controversial”—a completely subjective term. Then CSULA President William Covino tried to cancel the event outright saying it had to be combined with a “more inclusive event” featuring additional speakers.
Covino’s intervention was ultimately unsuccessful, but campus protestors, including students and faculty, were determined to block access to Shapiro’s speech. As a result, only half of the attendees made it inside the event.
Basically, the university administration and the protesters didn’t like what Shapiro had said in the past—they didn’t like his views—and decided that he must be silenced before his words hurt someone’s feelings. At a free speech event. Where he’s supposed to talk about diversity. Does anyone else see the problem here?
As a result of this unconstitutional discrimination, Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit, Young America’s Foundation v. William Covino, on behalf of YAF and Shapiro.
Unfortunately, this case is just one example of how university campuses are struggling to live up to their role as the marketplace of ideas instead of becoming safe havens for people who demand protection from opposing viewpoints.
That’s why pro-life students on campus regularly face shut-downs and unfair hurdles when they try to share their point of view on the sanctity of human life. That’s why students are relegated to tiny areas, known as speech zones, on campus if they want to talk to people and pass out copies of the Constitution. That’s why professors who share opinions that fail to please the progressive mob are bullied and accused of racism.
But that’s just the start.
Over at the National Review, David French recently explained how this speech code and safe zone mentality is leaching into other parts of public life—including sports.
‘I don’t mind if individual players or owners express themselves, so long as it is clearly understood that all viewpoints are welcome,” writes French. “I mind, however, when the sporting elite decides to turn professional and college athletics into a sweatier version of a progressive college campus, speech codes and all.”
French compares 49ers benchwarmer Colin Kaepernick and his highly questionable protest methods to Curt Schilling, the retired championship baseball player who was fired from his commentator job on ESPN over a social media post explaining his views on men in women’s restrooms. (Hint: he’s against it.)
In a statement announcing Schilling’s termination, ESPN called themselves “an inclusive company.” But it’s hard to be inclusive when you determine that certain viewpoints are not allowed. From a purely free speech perspective, the 49ers and the NFL were right not to punish Kaepernick for his viewpoint, disrespectful as it may be. That’s what free speech is all about.
But even the NBA, the NCAA, and the ACC have jumped on the viewpoint discrimination bandwagon. The leagues have moved the all-star (NBA) and championship events (NCAA and ACC) to other states, that were originally scheduled to be played in North Carolina. The leagues simply cannot come to terms with the fact that the state protects the privacy of its citizens by requiring that citizens use public restrooms, locker rooms, and other private facilities in accordance with their biological sex. The leagues claim these policies are not “inclusive” and has responded by excluding North Carolina as a result. Hypocritical much?
Now, one website has taken it a step further, demanding that the NCAA ban schools that that have similar policies or ones promoting traditional marriage and family values.
“If the NCAA is serious, it is only a matter of time before BYU gets kicked out of the association. And every other school with an anti-LGBT policy will be removed as well,” the author writes.
It doesn’t seem possible that things have gotten this bad. I mean—we live in America. Free speech is one of the cornerstones of our Constitution. But slowly and ever so surely, the tendency to silence people’s words, or viewpoints that may be different from one’s own, is becoming the norm.
If we continue down this road, our great nation will no longer stand for freedom and will dishonor those who have given their lives to protect the God-given liberties that we are increasingly taking for granted. And that’s more offensive than any Colin Kaepernick protest could ever be.