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Over 40 prominent scholars, legal experts, religious leaders sign Philadelphia Statement affirming free speech, civil discourse

Alliance Defending Freedom signs open letter drawing support from diverse leaders to denounce cancel culture
Independence Hall in Philadelphia, PA

PHILADELPHIA – More than 40 leaders from across a wide spectrum of beliefs released a public statement Tuesday affirming the necessity of free speech and civil discourse, while denouncing cancel culture, hate-speech labeling, and other forms of ideological blacklisting.

The Philadelphia Statement, named to recognize the pivotal role the city and the principles of free speech played in the founding of the United States, is a call to all Americans to preserve our freedom to disagree openly, while maintaining the possibility of a shared future alongside those with whom we differ. Signers include human rights scholar and advocate Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Princeton professor Robert P. George, New Discourses co-founder James Lindsay, Rabbi Pesach Lerner, The Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler, Jr., and more than two dozen other academics, scholars, and legal experts.

“Free speech marked by truly open discourse and debate is essential to a diverse and thriving society,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel and Senior Vice President of Communications Jeremy Tedesco. “Free speech helps us learn to think critically and defend our own ideas while also cultivating tolerance and respect for those with whom we disagree. But the rise in blacklisting and demonizing of those who hold opposing views is steadily eroding the willingness of Americans to express their sincere beliefs and breeds contempt for those with different views. That’s why a diverse group of leaders have drafted and signed the Philadelphia Statement. We’re committed to a better way forward that respects the timeless principles of freedom enshrined in the Constitution, and we invite our fellow Americans to join the growing movement to protect civil discourse and free speech.”

The statement identifies “cancel culture,” campus speech policing, and corporate “hate speech” policies as symptoms of a crisis in free expression. Quoting abolitionist Frederick Douglass, the statement warns that “Liberty is meaningless where the right to utter one’s thoughts and opinions has ceased to exist.”

As the statement explains, “If we seek to change our country’s trajectory; if we desire unity rather than division; if we want a political life that is productive and inspiring; if we aspire to be a society that is pluralistic and free, one in which we can forge our own paths and live according to our own consciences, then we must renounce ideological blacklisting and recommit ourselves to steadfastly defending freedom of speech and passionately promoting robust civil discourse.”

ADF’s past and present presidents and CEOs join the Philadelphia Statement as original signatories. The signatories invite readers who agree that truly open discourse is essential to the health and flourishing of American society to sign the statement as well.

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.


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