Every day, it seems we learn of one more poke (to put it mildly) at Americans’ right to free speech. In many ways, our institutions of higher learning are leading the way — not so surprising, given their tendency to be liberal bastions.
As we’ve reported previously, the University of California wants students to refrain from “microagressions” like calling America the “land of opportunity,” while the University of Tennessee is urging students to junk references to “he,” “she,” and “them,” in favor of gender-neutral “ze” and “xe” (but has thankfully backpedaled on that one).
The latest instance of higher education stupidity appears to take aim directly at Christians. But some Texans were having none of it — and fought back.
A professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley was forced to remove an injunction against saying “God bless you” from a course syllabus in the face of student outrage.
The syllabus, images of which went viral on social media last week, instructed students to “Please refrain from saying, ‘God bless you’ during the classes and exams,” according to CBS affiliate KGBT.
Students interviewed by KGBT were divided in their opinions, with some calling the rule a violation of religious freedom while others wondered why the issue was generating so much attention.
“I honestly wouldn’t have a problem with it,” said Aaron Bravo, a UTRGV student. “It shouldn’t really be a problem, because it’s the teacher’s classrooms.”
Fellow student Marcos Villarreal disagreed, however, saying “It’s kind of ridiculous, First Amendment, freedom of religion … it’s there. We shouldn’t have to block that out of school.”
The statement was removed from the syllabus after university officials contacted the professor about it, but a statement issued by UTRGV sought to defend the professor’s actions, saying the offending provision was not intended to restrict students’ freedoms, but merely to combat potential classroom distractions.
“The professor’s syllabus sought to identify examples of potentially disruptive behavior the professor believed could hinder the classroom learning environment, including use of cellphones,” the school explained. “The intent was not to limit the religious freedoms of UTRGV students, but to avoid unsolicited comments that might distract others.”
Hmm, is anyone buying the university’s “defense” of the professor? I think we all get how the use of cellphones can be distracting and therefore prohibited in class. As for “unsolicited comments,” isn’t it interesting that “God bless you” was the chosen example? Besides the fact you could very well argue whether such an “unsolicited comment” would be distracting enough to warrant banning, wouldn’t “Gesundheit” have been an appropriate alternative? Why single out a religious expression?
Amidst the darkening clouds of attacks on free expression in the United States, is there a bright spot? Perhaps it is that freedom-loving Americans are reaching their limit — and fighting back against both blatant (e.g., Kim Davis getting thrown into jail or the Oregon bakers being fined) and insidious (universities banning or “discouraging” certain language) attacks on Americans’ liberties.
While some students suggested the situation at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley was a minor issue, it’s such seemingly small and subtle infringements that start to add up over time. If we allow our freedoms to be curtailed, inch by inch, we’ll soon be like the frog in water — suddenly at a boiling point after the water has been turned up ever so gradually without our notice or pushback.
Thanks goodness there are still Americans who have the guts to back against this creeping attack on their right to religious expression, just as Kentucky clerk Kim Davis stood for her own religious rights. True freedom of speech and religion — not the selectively-applied, watered-down flavor we’re increasingly seeing these days — is one of the principles that’s made our nation a “shining city upon a hill, whose beacon of light guides freedom-loving people everywhere.” No way we’re letting that go without a fight.
[Note: This was written by Michelle Jesse, Associate Editor]