Conservative Christian groups fight free speech rules

A national conservative Christian group is calling on several Texas colleges and universities to drop or change their free speech and expression rules because they fear they would punish students who voice conservative political or religious views.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports:

The Alliance Defense Fund Center for Academic Freedom, based in Scottsdale, Ariz., has given what it calls “red lights” to 14 Texas schools….

Red lights indicate that the organization considers a school’s free speech codes unconstitutional and unfriendly to free speech, said Greg Scott, the group’s national media relations director. The group is focusing most of its efforts on public institutions, such as Texas Woman’s, TCC, UT-Arlington and UNT, because they are more obliged than private schools to adhere to the First Amendment’s guarantees of freedom of expression, Scott said.

The Defense Fund’s major tenets are religious freedom, protecting life from conception to natural death and defending the family, which includes defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

At times, students with those and other conservative Christian viewpoints may want to publicly express their beliefs. But some school policies are so open to interpretation that students could face punishment if they do, said David French, senior counsel for the Defense Fund.

Gene Trainor of the Star-Telegram found conservative Christian students at targeted schools who were aware of the policies but who did not necessarily feel that their freedom to speak was impinged.

Self-described conservative Christians Jillian Daniels, a junior at UNT in Denton, and David Weick, a junior at UT-Arlington, said they feel that they can express their opinions at school without facing sanctions. But Daniels said she knows and accepts that her opinion will sometimes be unpopular.

“Being on such a liberal campus, whenever you do express any sort of conservative or Christian belief in class, you’re obviously going to be in the minority,” Daniels said.

Weick said many UT-Arlington students are generally apathetic politically but have no objections to talking about issues.

“Personally, I’ve never felt discouraged from expressing my viewpoint,” he said. “Professors encourage you to have your own viewpoints on issues.”

The Alliance has targeted standards like the “civility code” at Texas Womens University which includes:

“The pursuit of community respect requires tolerance of intellectual positions and the expression of ideas that are different from, and contrary to, one’s own beliefs and values. The TWU community expects that the expression of these ideas will be exercised in ways that are consistent with norms of civility toward all people and that demonstrate respect for the cultural traditions of the diverse racial, religious, ethnic and national groups that comprise the University community.”

Read the rest here.

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