Anti-Christian Bias in Higher Education
Updated: Jan 5
The radical left in this country is aggressively pursuing a culture war against Christians and Christianity. One of the key battlegrounds in this culture war is the university campus. This is because the left knows that if it can win on the university campus, it will be easier to win in such other critical areas as the family, Congress, Courts, Presidency, and the public square. The left is intent on erasing everything you and the church have taught your children and replacing it with slavish adherence to their anti-Christian narrative.
Let’s look at what the left is ignoring in its attacks on Christianity: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” I quote the First Amendment as a reminder of the guarantees of freedom of speech and freedom of religion contained in it. Universities should be bastions of free speech, thought, and inquiry, but they have become just the opposite.
These freedoms are being marginalized, suppressed, and even denied with increasing frequency in American universities, institutions that are dominated by left-leaning faculties. Scholarship has been replaced by leftist indoctrination and academic freedom has been replaced by politically-correct groupthink. Students, regardless of their beliefs, are expected to toe the line of liberal orthodoxy or suffer the consequences. The unprecedented abuse of Christians in higher education is nothing short of tyranny.
One of the more liberal justices ever to serve on the United States Supreme Court was William O. Douglas. But Justice Douglas had it right when he said: “Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could easily defeat us.” By suppressing the free thought and free speech of Christians, universities are undermining the very purpose of higher education, not to mention its value.
SUPPRESSING THE CHRISTIAN WORLDVIEW
In an op-ed piece for The Washington Times, Jason Mattera told the story of Ryan Dozier, a student at Yuba College in California who was disciplined for handing out Christian pamphlets. The college’s president gave Dozier a choice: stop handing out Christian literature or face disciplinary measures. Like many institutions of higher education, Yuba College attempts to corral free speech by forcing it into designated free speech zones and requiring permits of those who wish to exercise their First Amendment rights in these zones. At Yuba College, religious or ideological speech is restricted to free speech zones for just one hour on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This is not freedom of speech but a tyrannical attempt to suppress it.
I understand the desire of educational institutions to prevent the disruption of teaching, learning, and campus life. Since the 1960s, university campuses have been favored sites for those who wish to protest any and all issues as well as for advocates of every new issue of the moment. Here is an example of what I mean. I spoke at a meeting at Harvard University back in the late 1970s. Arriving early, I decided to walk around the campus to pass the time. When I walked into Harvard yard, I was greeted by a sight that was almost beyond description. The entire quadrangle was encircled by booths set up by various groups protesting everything from the Vietnam War—which was long since over—to grading practices, the cost of tuition, and supposed American imperialism.
At one table, pampered students who had never engaged in any conflict more serious than a pillow fight were dressed like Che Guevara and calling for global revolution. Not one of them knew their history well enough to realize that Che was a murdering thug and pervert who got a thrill out of killing children. At another table, students from some of the most affluent families in America were dressed in the attire of Chinese peasants and handing out copies of Mao’s Little Red Book. In a wonderful case of ironic juxtaposition, the booth next to Mao’s supporters was manned by two Gideons handing out Bibles.
Every group on Harvard Yard that day—except the Gideons—was loud, disruptive, and obnoxious. I felt like I had walked into the Wookie Bar in a Star Wars movie. Regardless of the issue, protestors and advocates have two things in common: they can be loud, and they can be disruptive. I understand this. In fact, I had to deal with disruptive protests numerous times during my career in higher education. However, there is another side to this story. Although the exercise of free speech can be loud, disruptive, and even obnoxious, accommodating it is what we call democracy. Taking steps to protect teaching, learning, and campus life from disruption is an appropriate undertaking for a university administrator. However, suppressing free speech for political reasons is not. So-called free-speech zones are an affront to liberty and academic freedom. After all, the entire university campus should be a free-speech zone.
ANTI-CHRISTIAN ABUSES IN HIGHER EDUCATION
To gain a perspective on how far universities have strayed from their Christian roots, one need only consider the types of anti-Christian abuses that are now common in higher education. The Young American’s Foundation compiles a list of the most egregious abuses in higher education every year. Here are some examples of anti-Christian abuses from their lists:
No Praying Allowed at the College of Alameda, California. When Kandy Kyriacou, a student at the College of Alameda, visited her professor to deliver a Christmas gift, she found the professor ill. Concerned, Kyriacou offered to pray for her and the professor agreed. However, when another professor walked in to find the student praying, the fireworks began. The offended professor complained and Kyriacou soon received an “intent-to-suspend” letter for engaging in “disruptive or insulting behavior.” This is how Christianity is now viewed in many American colleges and universities: as “disruptive and insulting behavior.”
Christmas Decorations Not Allowed at Florida Gulf Coast University. Claiming he did not know how to celebrate Christmas in ways that honor and respect all traditions, the president of Florida Gulf Coast University eliminated all traditional Christmas decorations including holiday décor and greeting cards. Traditional Christmas celebrations were replaced with an ugly sweater contest. Fortunately, when his cowardly decision and lame justifications were made public, the university’s president bowed to public pressure.
Pro-Life Speaker Not Welcome at a Catholic University. The official position of the Pope is decidedly pro-life, yet pro-life speakers are not welcome on the campus of the University of St. Thomas, a Catholic institution. The university had already hosted talks by such icons of the left as Al Franken and Debra Davis, a transgendered activist who claims that God is a black lesbian. But when it came to inviting a pro-life speaker, Star Parker, the university balked, ignoring the concepts of “diversity” and “pursuit of truth” contained in its own mission statement. When the issue threatened to become a public-relations nightmare, university administrators eventually reversed themselves and issued the invitation, but not before making it clear where they stood on the issue of abortion.
LEFTIST FACULTIES ARE OUT OF TOUCH WITH AMERICAN SOCIETY
One of the reasons faculty members in universities think they can get away with suppressing free thought, speech, and inquiry is that they are out of touch with American society. Too many universities have become self-validating islands of liberalism cut off from the real world and the people whose taxes support them. Because of their Alice-in-Wonderland mentality, leftist faculty members apparently believe they can persecute Christians with no fear of repercussions.
They do not seem to understand that tyranny eventually leads to an enough-is-enough response from its victims. Liberal faculties in American universities remind me of the crew of the Titanic, sailing confidently into dangerous waters certain their ship is unsinkable. In a society that is still approximately 70 percent Christian, universities cannot expect to condone anti-Christian abuses without eventually generating pushback, and this is precisely what is beginning to happen. Liberals in higher education are going to have to come to grips with what George Orwell said: “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they don’t want to hear.” This right is not limited to liberals.
HOW LIBERAL FACULTIES SUPPRESS CHRISTIAN THOUGHT, SPEECH, AND INQUIRY
In his excellent book, Slaughter of the Dissidents, Jerry Bergman, presents eight tactics liberal faculties use to suppress Christian thought, speech, and inquiry. Here is a summary of their tactics according to Bergman:
Derogatory and belittling comments. Derogatory and belittling comments made by professors, especially those made during class and in the presence of other students, can have a powerful effect on the Christian students who are targeted. Labeling a Christian student’s views “ridiculous,” “stupid,” “bigoted,” or “narrow-minded” hardly encourages free thought and free speech. Yet inappropriate comments such as these have become commonplace in university classrooms. Christian students in America’s flagship universities soon learn that stating their beliefs is a risky proposition.
Denial of admission to graduate school. Court cases filed suggest that Christians, especially those who have been vocal in their rejection of Darwinian evolution or even moderately supportive of intelligent design, are being denied admission to graduate school. The denials are issued in spite of the fact that the Christian students in question have high scores on the Graduate Record Exam. This is an especially effective tactic for liberals because it has the effect of limiting future applicants for professorships to Darwinists. No graduate degrees awarded to Christians means no Christian professors.
Refusal to award degrees. This is a corollary to the previous tactic that is used just in case a Christian student somehow slips through the admission process. The goal is the same: keep the “club” liberal by denying access to those who are not liberal. Christian students who have met all academic requirements are being denied degrees on the basis of their worldviews.
Denial of promotions. There is redemption. Consequently, professors who were once opponents of Christianity do sometimes see the light and become Christians. Consequently, liberals must have another tactic for limiting the impact of professors whose leanings are not sufficiently leftist. One such tactic is to deny them promotions. When liberal professors control university faculties—which is now the norm—they can also control who is promoted and who is not irrespective of scholarly merit.
Denial of tenure and terminations. For a professor, denial of tenure is the academic equivalent of the death sentence. The number of professors who are denied tenure as a result of advocating a Christian worldview is growing. Key decision-makers in the award or denial of tenure are the departmental colleagues of the professor in question. If left-leaning professors control the department, they are able to blackball professors who have a Christian worldview in spite of merit and performance. Once tenure has been denied, the next step is termination.
Demotions. One of the problems faced by left-leaning faculties in universities is what to do about their Christian colleagues who are already tenured. Once tenured, it is difficult to terminate professors, regardless of their religious views. However, if liberal professors control the department in question, they still have an effective tactic available to them: demotion. Tenured professors in universities continually compete to teach the more prestigious graduate courses in their fields. Teaching freshman and sophomore courses are typically relegated to graduate teaching assistants. However, when a left-leaning department wants to punish faculty members for refusing to toe the line of liberal orthodoxy, demoting them to teaching introductory-level courses is an effective and increasingly prevalent tactic.
Threats and intimidation. The feuds within departments of major universities can get ugly. Christian students, professors, and guest lecturers report receiving threats and being the victims of all kinds of intimidation ranging from petty provocations to serious abuse. For example, it is not uncommon for conservative speakers on university campuses to be shouted down and even pelted with garbage and bottles or worse.
Clearly there is a battle raging on university campuses and the left is determined to it. Based on the record, liberal faculties don’t care what they have to do win this ideological battle, even if it means undermining the very foundation, purpose, credibility, and value of higher education in America.
WHAT SHOULD CHRISTIANS BE ABLE TO EXPECT FROM A UNIVERSITY?
Should Christians have to sell their souls to earn a college degree? Should they have to check their values at the door of a university campus? I am asked these kinds of questions all the time, and my answer is always the same: a resounding NO. The freedoms granted to all Americans in the Constitution, including freedom of speech and freedom of religion, are on the side of Christians; even on university campuses. However, I am always quick to add that Christians who wish to exercise these freedoms in today’s anti-Christian university environment should be prepared to fight for their rights.
University campuses represent one of the key battlegrounds in a larger struggle meant to eliminate Christianity from all aspects of American life. An America that once again recognizes the sovereignty of God is a vision to look forward to and pray for, but it is also one that could take a long time to realize. While work is underway to achieve this vision, there are thousands of Christian students who, in the interim, must decide what to do about college. This being the case, Christian students and their parents can be forgiven for asking: “What about right now? What do we have a right to expect from universities right now?” I always answer this question with one word: PLENTY.
Christian students should be able to attend any institution of higher education in America with full assurance that their values and rights will be respected. More specifically, they should be able to expect universities to live up to their self-proclaimed values including the pursuit of truth, free inquiry, free speech, free thought, respect for diversity (including religious, political, and intellectual diversity), openness, and fairness.
Institutions of higher education that fail in this regard are not worthy of the public support they receive in the form of tax dollars and grants. Fortunately, there are still some institutions of higher education where you can get an education instead of four years of hyper-expensive indoctrination. Before pursuing admission to any university, ask the hard questions and make sure you will actually get what you pay for. Then, once admitted engage legally and politically to ensure that your rights of free speech, thought, and inquiry are respected and protected.
Dr. Goetsch is the author of Christian Women on the Job: Excelling at Work without Compromising Your Faith, Fidelis Books, an imprint of Post Hill Press and Christians on the Job: Winning at Work Without Compromising Your Faith, Salem Books, an imprint of Regnery Publishing, 2019: www.david-goetsch.com