The controversy over Jon B. Gould’s attack on FIRE is still raging at the Chronicle for Higher Education. This time John K. Wilson (author of the Myth of Political Correctness) weighs in and criticizes FIRE for not targeting what he calls the “worst campus speech codes in America” — the policies at private, religious universities. FIRE doesn’t target these religious colleges for two very good reasons: First, religious colleges have a clear First Amendment right to define their own mission and message. Second, the vast majority of religious colleges are quite clear and honest about their purpose and policies. When religious colleges send mixed messages, FIRE weighs in (as it did at Catholic University).
Is it John’s position that FIRE should defend constitutional rights except the constitutional rights of religious colleges? That would be puzzling — and anti-religious. FIRE’s position is quite consistent: Any private college has the right to define its mission and message, including a secular college. At present, religious colleges tend to be the most open and honest when they depart from the “marketplace of ideas” model, but other private universities can easily follow the religious model (they typically don’t because it narrows the applicant pool dramatically). It would betray FIRE’s principles to advocate against the clear and honest exercise of fundamental constitutional liberties.
One of FIRE’s most enduring virtues is its bedrock consistency. No college administrator should be confused about FIRE or its ideals. It would be strange indeed for FIRE to abandon that consistency by defending free speech and free association everywhere in higher education — except in religious schools.
O’Reilly Update: Because Bill was ill yesterday, the segment about UCLA student Lila Rose has been tentatively rescheduled for tomorrow.