A new spirit of intolerance has arisen on the Johns Hopkins University campus, and conservative Christians are the targets. The JHU student government’s vote this week to ban any hypothetical future Chick-fil-A outlet from campus because of the company owner’s support for traditional marriage, coming on the heels of the JHU Spring Fair’s censorship of a pro-life fetal-model display as “disturbing” and “triggering,” sends a clear message that students who disagree with liberal orthodoxy are not welcome on the Hopkins campus.
The student government’s vote went beyond merely expressing support for same-sex marriage. The Chick-fil-A ban seeks to introduce unprecedented discrimination against companies owned by religious conservatives into the university’s contracting policies, even though only a few years ago, prominent liberals like Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama had held the same views on marriage. In banning Chick-fil-A from campus for “homophobia,” the JHU student government is only a short step from similarly giving the boot to socially conservative Christian, Catholic, Muslim, Orthodox, and Jewish student groups from campus, as we have seen happen at Vanderbilt University, the 23 campuses of California State University, and others throughout the country.
Whatever your opinion on same-sex marriage, the JHU student government’s idea that the mere presence of Chick-fil-A on campus would promote “homophobia” and amount to discrimination against the LGBT community is absurd. This view is premised, first of all, on the assumption that advocates of traditional marriage are devoid of rational argument and inspired only by hatred, and second, on the notion that allowing a company owned by someone who supports traditional marriage to operate on campus is equivalent to endorsing that support.
Such a narrow-minded view is possible only because JHU, like so many other colleges, has become dominated by an intolerant strain of liberalism that is intent on silencing dissent. One need only think back to JHU medical students’ successful 2013 campaign to remove the neurosurgeon Ben Carson, a member of the JHU faculty, as their commencement speaker for his comments against same-sex marriage, or the student government’s fierce though unsuccessful crusade to keep a pro-life student group from forming on campus.
In a free-market economy, the company that makes the best food at the lowest price usually wins more business. At a university, the robust free market of thought similarly should allow the best ideas to win out in an unfettered debate. The Chick-fil-A ban hurts both types of free market on campus. If the argument for redefining marriage into a genderless contract for any two consenting adults is so strong, then advocates for it should not need the student government’s version of the thought police to silence dissenting voices.JHU’s ban on Chick-fil-A, like its censorship of pro-life fetal models on campus, amounts to a moralistic paternalism that has no place on a tolerant and pluralistic university of intelligent students and our nation’s future leaders. Furthermore, it is difficult to imagine JHU ever accommodating conservative students who are offended daily by advocates of abortion and same-sex marriage, or “triggered” by their peers’ hateful bigotry toward their beliefs.
The entire notion of keeping the University a “safe space,” free from scary or offensive viewpoints, especially on hot-button issues like same-sex marriage and abortion, is absolutely antithetical to Johns Hopkins’ stated commitment to the free and robust exchange of ideas. The JHU Task Force on Academic Freedom had barely released its recommendations this month before the university twice violated its own commitments to intellectual tolerance and diversity:
Speech on academic, political or cultural matters . . . even when deemed offensive to some, is not alone grounds for sanctions. . . . The more appropriate response to such statements . . . is objection, persuasion and debate.
If the Hopkins student government wants to begin a witch hunt against social and religious conservatives on campus, or at the very least bully them into silence, then Johns Hopkins University is fulfilling its own version of the aphorism apocryphally attributed to George Orwell: In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth — or, in this case, eating a chicken sandwich — becomes a revolutionary act.
— Andrew Guernsey is the president of the pro-life student group Johns Hopkins University Voice for Life and is a junior majoring in political science and classics.