What Biden’s Presidency May Mean For First Amendment Freedoms On Campus

Counter-protesters hold up signs while waiting for conservative commentator Milo Yiannopoulos to arrive at the University of California, Berkeley campus on September 24, 2017.
JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images

The dangers for American college students and professors posed by Joe Biden’s presidency are not necessarily tied to a specific piece of legislation that he supports. Rather, the dangers arise from the ideologies of identity politics and cancel culture that are endemic throughout his platform.

Choosing to focus primarily on other issues, President Biden avoided saying much about free speech and academic freedom, leaving it to be addressed by his political allies and in the media. Virtually to a one, those associates pressed loudly for cancel culture, identity politics, and the triumph of the far-left agenda over any form of free speech or religious liberty.

The results of this far-left activism have been hostility and crackdowns on First Amendment freedoms on many college and university campuses across the country.

Three quick examples from Alliance Defending Freedom’s own clients suggests just how poisoned the atmosphere has become for free speech and religious liberty at our four-year institutions:

Jack Denton, president of the student senate at Florida State University, was removed from office simply for sharing his personal, Catholic religious beliefs in private text conversations with other Catholic students.

Dr. Allan Josephson led the division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychology at the University of Louisville for nearly 15 years. He was fired because, during a panel discussion on gender dysphoria, he affirmed widespread scientific studies suggesting that medical professionals should seek to understand and treat the psychological issues that often cause gender confusion, rather than rushing children into more radical, aggressive treatments like puberty-blocking drugs and cross-sex hormones.

Officials at Ohio’s Shawnee State University punished Dr. Nicholas Meriwether for declining to address a male student as a woman, as the student demanded. Dr. Meriwether offered to use any specific name the student requested but explained that using feminine terms would violate his Christian and philosophical convictions. The university rejected the proffered compromise and instead punished Dr. Meriwether.

None of these students or faculty were being unreasonable. In fact, all of them were engaged in behaviors that even a very few years ago would have been seen as routine and innocuous. But times have changed—and, sadly, progressives among the new president’s supporters have made it abundantly clear that they not only fully endorse but are aggressively pushing for those changes.

Anyone who has watched the events of the last six months, or listened to the speeches of those on the far left, or watched the televised debates during the primaries or general election, would be hard pressed to find evidence that Biden would be willing to support any one of ADF’s clients or anyone in situations like theirs. One can always hope, but Biden hasn’t done this so far. If he ever does, he will have a friend at the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. But if he opposes us on free speech, he will have no greater foe in America’s courts.

Biden may not have actively endorsed the erosion of the First Amendment on America’s college campuses, but don’t let that put you at ease. Campus anti-free-speech activists who believe they now have a like-minded executive branch in Washington may sense a window of opportunity.

But this would be a serious mistake on their part, because the courts have not looked kindly upon ignoring the First Amendment’s guarantees. This is amply demonstrated by the 435 victories that we on the ADF Center for Academic Freedom team have chalked up on college campuses across the country over the past 14 years. Those who love freedom understand the challenges ahead. But we will continue to stand for the freedom of everyone—not just a chosen few—to speak and live peacefully in accordance with their beliefs.

Tyson Langhofer is senior counsel and director of the Center for Academic Freedom at Alliance Defending Freedom (@AllianceDefends).

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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