The Tolerance and Academic Freedom Charade

There was a near perfect illustration of the need for a professor to watch her back at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. There, Professor Janis Price, an education instructor for fifteen years, committed the grievous sin of subjecting her students to a "hostile environment." What did that hostile environment consist of? She placed issues of Dr. James Dobson's magazine Teachers in Focus on a table in the back of her classroom. She advised students that the publication contained articles written from a Christian viewpoint, which they could peruse if they chose to, but they would not be required to, nor would any assignments be made concerning them.

An article in one of the magazines addressing how teachers should approach the issue of homosexuality in public schools offended a student, who complained to the administration. Vice president of Academic Affairs Neal Abraham sent Professor Price a letter of reprimand, accusing her of providing students with "intolerant" material, which "served to create a hostile environment" in violation of school policy. Abraham went so far as to characterize Price's actions as "reprehensible." He then backed up his words with action, cutting her salary by twenty-five percent and suspending her from teaching responsibilities. Abraham's explanation? The university "cannot tolerate the intolerable."

One of Price's friends and fellow professors, Dr. Mary English, summed up the university's tyrannical conduct when she said that tolerance there is not a two-way street. "We have to be tolerant and politically correct in all other areas except Christianity. So it's okay to be intolerant of Christians as long as Christians are tolerant of everybody else." What's more, said English, is that DePauw is a Methodist school. That should surprise no one. Political correctness has invaded America's religious institutions as surely as it has all others.

Secular universities are similarly notorious for displaying tolerance to all ideas except those based in Christianity or Western civilization, as shown by the experience of Professor Dilawar Edwards at the California University of Pennsylvania. For his class "Introduction to Educational Media," Edwards chose instructional materials that at least one student found offensive. Among the objectionable items were books arguing that America's education establishment subjects conservatives and Christians to censorship and intimidation. Included among the books were Cal Thomas's Book Burning, John W. Whitehead's The Freedom of Religious Expression in Public Universities and High Schools, articles from the Houston Chronicle and the Wall Street Journal, and various articles by Phyllis Schlafly.

As if to prove the very thesis of these materials, the administration forced the professor to discontinue using these books and other publications. In his objection to the materials, the disgruntled student charged that Edwards was using his course to advance religious ideas. Note the sophistry here: The books and materials did not seek to advance Christian ideas, or those of any other religion, but rather the principles of academic and intellectual freedom. The theme was freedom from censorship, not proselytizing the Gospel, as anyone with a high school education-or, one would think, in an administrative position on campus-could have seen.

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