My first response to the issues I’m raising today was a column filled with sarcasm, anger, and some unjustified accusations. I’m still angry, but my hope is that I’ll be able to convince some of you that some of the things going on in this country today are wrong, that they go against the ideals of America, and that they will lead us down a road better left untrod.
The first issue concerns a new movement in higher education that is organizing under the banner of “academic freedom,” while in truth advocating an end to that freedom. In both Florida and Michigan, laws are being considered to allow students to sue or otherwise censure college and university professors who do not teach topics in ways satisfactory to the students. Thus, biology professors who rightly refuse to give non-science nonsense equal weight to established scientific theory could be sued by their own students. This is, of course, the unstated goal of the legislation.
But that’s not all that would happen. Imagine the student who supports communism suing his economics professor for daring to suggest that capitalism is a better system. Or the Holocaust denier bringing charges against the history professor who doesn’t acknowledge his point of view. Perhaps the writers of this legislation would shy away from it if a Muslim student took a course on the Bible and then sued because the professor didn’t spend equal time on the Koran.
More insidious, of course, is the chill that this kind of law would cast over all professors. Who’s going to risk the kind of ridiculous lawsuits that might come out of this legislation? Instead, professors will water down their classes, will refuse to take a stand on any issues. Some believe this is a good thing, but they are wrong. College is about challenging students to open their minds and think critically about topics, to prepare them for life in the real world.
Second issue: a frightening number of states are passing or have already approved legislation that would allow pharmacists and doctors to refuse care to patients whose morals disagree with their own. Thus, a Christian pharmacist could refuse to fill a prescription for birth control; a Christian doctor could refuse care to a gay man. Even worse, some legislation would prohibit the pharmacy or hospital from firing those who refused to give care!
The apologists for this craven, disgusting discrimination say that there are alternatives available, a different hospital or pharmacy. The same argument was used during the dark days of segregation, when black Americans had facilities that were “separate but equal.” It may be distasteful for certain people to fill prescriptions for birth control, or to care for a gay man; these people should not be doctors or pharmacists. The potential for abuse through this legislation are appalling. It is in no way different from refusing care for blacks, Jews, Asians, or other minorities based on “personal belief.”
The final story is more peripherally related, but I believe it stems from the consistent push for discriminatory legislation around the country, the unending hatred and ignorance that are continually broadcast on our airwaves and in our state houses. The Air Force Academy had recently received a spate of complaints about cadets degrading their peers with anti-Semitic slurs. Cadets have been called “filthy Jews” and personally blamed for the death of Christ. The administration of the Academy has pledged to stamp out this trend, but like its response to the previous sexual abuse scandals at the Academy, these efforts seem only half-hearted.
Most disturbing of all was the response of the extreme, fundamentalist group, Focus on the Family. Tom Minnery, of the organization’s PR department, said of the Air Force incident, “If 90% of cadets identify themselves as Christian, it is common sense that Christianity will be in evidence on the campus.” Apparently he thinks anti-Semitism is normal evidence of Christianity. He also ludicrously claims that “. . . a witch hunt is underway to root out Christian beliefs,” at the Academy, essentially blaming the Jews for even being there.
Indeed, how dare any of us stand up against the Christian crusade that is sweeping the country? Its goal: to ensure that any views hostile to a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible are stamped out. Hence the encouragement of campus Thought Police, using tactics not long ago employed by Maoist Revolutionaries in China to crush intellectual freedom. Hence the denying of health care to those who do not conform to an extremist interpretation of Christian standards of behavior. Hence the subtle perversion of our armed forces from defenders of freedom into an instrument of oppression.
We are not yet at the point where gays and lesbians will be arrested for being who they are. The vast majority of Americans do not want that, nor do they realize everything that is being done in their name. I know that it is a vocal, well-organized minority that is responsible for these disgusting subversions of the American spirit. But if the rest of us do not speak out soon, we will find that we have let the moment to do so pass us by. These first steps must be stopped. We will regret it if we do not stand up for freedom and liberty and justice and everything that makes us America.