Last week, FIRE issued a press release announcing its opposition to ideological “litmus tests” in schools of social work. At issue were guidelines from the Council on Social Work Education that — among other things — require accredited schools to “integrate social and economic justice content grounded in an understanding of distributive justice, human and civil rights, and the global interconnections of oppression.” While that of course reads like a bunch of pomo academic nonsense, such requirements do have real-world consequences.
Take for example the case of Emily Brooker at Missouri State University. Emily is an intelligent and compassionate student who is committed to serving our nation’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens. She is also a Christian. One of Emily’s professors gave the class an assignment to draft and sign a letter to the Missouri state legislature advocating homosexual foster parenting and adoption. No public official — not even the President of the United States — can require an American to publicly advocate for policies they find objectionable. The right not to speak is one of our most basic and morally vital civil rights. Fortunately, Emily knew enough about her rights to object, and the professor relented.
But not for long. She soon found herself subject to a “Level 3” (the highest level) grievance proceeding — accused of violating three “Standards of Essential Functioning:” Diversity, Interpersonal Skills, and Professional Behavior. During a two-and-a-half hour interrogation by hostile faculty members (who denied her any representation and refused to record the meeting), she faced multiple, intrusive questions about her faith, including professors asking: “Do you think gays and lesbians are sinners?” and “Do you think I’m a sinner?” She was punished by the faculty and required to submit to close monitoring as a condition of graduation.
The Alliance Defense Fund has filed suit against Missouri State, seeking to remove the taint from her record and to compensate her for the violation of her fundamental rights. As I think of Emily and the Star Chamber in Southwest Missouri, I just have to laugh at the oped Mark linked below. Is it really the case that universities are “places where individuals with diverse viewpoints come together to learn and to produce new knowledge for addressing social concerns, free of ideological interference?” Or is it the case that the only real freedom that universities seek is the freedom to indoctrinate their students — even at the expense of our right of conscience?