President John F. Kennedy once said, “The rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.” This week, threats against the rights of two academics have come into the limelight. In Maryland, Gallaudet University, the nation's leading school for the deaf, put its chief diversity officer, Dr. Angela McCaskill, on leave for signing a petition to place a referendum on the November ballot. Why did Gallaudet take this action? Well, the referendum was not just about taxes or redistricting, it asks whether Maryland citizens want to redefine marriage to allow for same-sex "marriage." McCaskill did not express her support or oppositions to that position, she simply agreed that the people of Maryland should have the final say on that question. Alliance Defending Freedom sent a letter to Gallaudet, decrying the university's actions and detailing the laws it may have broken.
In Iowa, a jury trial began in a lawsuit filed by a prospective professor at the University of Iowa College of Law. Teresa Wagner applied for a full-time legal writing position at the law school, but alleges the school eventually hired less qualified instructors over her because of her conservative political views. Wagner previously worked for the National Right to Life Committee and the Family Research Council and claims that 90% of the law school's faculty are registered Democrats.
These situations are but two more examples of the bias on universities campuses and the danger we all face if we trample the rights of others. Too often, views outside the liberal mainstream on campus are not considered and debated, but excluded from the conversation altogether. Alliance Defending Freedom is working to protect the academic freedom of faculty like Dr. McCaskill and Ms. Wagner. And we have prevailed in lawsuits from coast to coast. If you encounter a similar problem on your campus, please let us know.
Schools may no longer be in session, but courts still are. And this summer, that’s where several educators will find themselves.
The message from the 6th Circuit: You must respect the First Amendment rights of all professors, and that means you cannot force them to say things they do not believe.