Event tempts some to contradict university's mission
The staging of an event at Louisiana State University Baton Rouge’s Pete Maravich Assembly Center has raised the question about whether events at state facilities ought to be censored over free speech concerns of its sponsors, and is worth some exploration.
A prayer rally termed “The Response” is scheduled there Jan. 24 of next year and has caused controversy because the main sponsor behind it is the American Family Association. The organization has gained recognition for organizing boycotts of and registering legal complaints against television programs and movies that show higher amounts of graphic sex, violence, or language, and generally supports traditional morality in public policy. As a result, it strongly has condemned the practice of homosexuality and laws that legitimize it in the public sphere, such as same-sex marriage.
In turn, supporters of the concept that policy should protect expressions of homosexual behavior bitterly oppose the group. The absurdly-named Southern Poverty Law Center – being as its assets are over a quarter billion dollars – quaintly calls the AFA a “hate group,” which is the standard appellation it levies on groups who promote an agenda to which it disagrees, rendering it the genuine hate group of them all. Elements that apparently agree with that assessment seek to protest the event and to change policy concerning facility rental. To make matters more interesting, the event’s guest of honor appears to be Gov. Bobby Jindal.
And to make things sillier still, the LSU Faculty Senate wishes to consider a resolution that “would require that facilities host events that advance the mission of the university. It is a public facility, but it is also on the grounds of a higher education institution,” explains its president, which only goes to put on display the attitudes behind the continuing transformation of the academy from a place that assists individuals in learning to think critically using a wide variety of information and disciplines into a Leviathan that seeks to inculcate the party line that must censor any information that questions its lockstep mentality.
For first and foremost the mission of a university is to serve as an arena of robust free speech and debate, where a battle of ideas occurs in search of the truths inherent to the human condition. To even discuss a university policy that would inhibit speech based upon the political prejudices of campus minders and busybodies not only represents the height of arrogance and anti-intellectualism run amok, but also violates the very concept of the university,
And, quite probably, the First Amendment as well. Can you imagine a state agency empowered to discriminate in decisions made concerning use of its public facilities for hire on the basis of its masters’ political prejudices about the political views of the group? Does National Socialist Party v. Skokie ring a bell? If a group follows procedures for a legitimate contract and makes payment, if LSU holds out the PMAC for public rental it cannot discriminate on whether expression of religious views occur.
Fortunately, LSU seems aware of this and does not plan to violate the Constitution in this instance. By doing so and continuing to do so in the future, in fact it will serve its educational mission, by instructing those among the faculty and students so eager to put on their jackboots and get to marching about the value of free speech and tolerance in a representative democracy.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 09:30