In the following scenario, two student groups face a philosophical dilemma at a major state university. The Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) has invited Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to campus to lecture on the advantages of adopting socialism as America’s central financial policy. However, for the following week, Young America’s Foundation (YAF) has invited Donald Trump, Jr. to discuss how capitalism has made America a great nation. YDSA and YAF vigorously oppose the views that will be presented by the other organization’s speaker. YDSA believes that capitalism leads to gross income inequality and consolidation of power in the top 1%,2 whereas YAF contends that socialism constitutes a usurpation of governmental authority that would destroy the wealth-producing engine that has driven America’s exceptional prosperity.3 In short, both organizations see the other speaker as a threat to the American experiment. How then should the groups’ members respond when the speakers arrive on campus?
Traditionally, one would answer that the speakers should be allowed to present their messages, while those who disagree should be free to challenge those views in rational debate. This proposal presumes that truth is best discovered when exposed to reason and examination and that it is the very purpose of the First Amendment and the university to facilitate this process of inquiry. But a new generation of students has concluded that the proper response is to shout down the opposing speaker, or even use violence when necessary, to ensure that the message is never even heard, much less received. To many, this may appear to be a shocking and unreasonable conclusion. But consider this: students at America’s universities have been taught for over a century that they are merely products of an unintelligent, random, and material universe in which neither truth nor ethics actually exist. Under this naturalistic paradigm, is rational discourse truly the preferable option? This Article will compare two opposing philosophical worldviews, naturalism and classical Christianity, and will ask which one better justifies rational debate, and thus—by extension—the First Amendment itself.
Section I will describe the new form of censorship that is eroding the First Amendment on campus. Section II will discuss how naturalism contributes to this erosion by failing to provide a coherent justification for the necessary presuppositions of free speech: truth, reason, and ethics. Section III proposes that academia should shift to the classical Christian worldview upon which the Constitution was founded because it upholds the First Amendment by justifying these same presuppositions.
Martins, Joseph J., "Losing Liberty: A Biblical Defense for the Freedom of Speech on Campus" (2020). Faculty Publications and Presentations. 77.