In January 2018, Auburn University earned the highest rating for free speech from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, becoming the first university in Alabama — and one of only 38 universities nationwide — with written policies affirming the rights of students and faculty under the First Amendment.
The First Amendment was specifically written to protect political speech, without which a self-governing people cannot make well-informed judgments.
Auburn’s “green light” rating indicates that our policies protect student and faculty speech. Auburn has been justly celebrated as a safe campus for free speech.
Given Auburn’s explicit protection of free speech, I was surprised when Plainsman Editor Eduardo Medina appeared at my office without an appointment, asking me to answer accusations of “homophobia” and “hate speech” based on my political posts on Facebook and in the Opelika-Auburn News, and not in my teaching or interaction with students at Auburn University.
My posts on Facebook are addressed to a private community of like-minded conservatives concerned about the right to life and marriage. I view the family as the basic building block of society. Children are only conceived in the mating union of a man and woman.
Unlike other species, humans are born helpless; they require decades to learn the complex skills and attitudes needed to thrive in the complex human economy. A mating couple’s pledge of lifelong sexual fidelity is essential for the family stability needed to sustain children’s long-term care and education.
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Until recently, these views were not even controversial. As recently as 2008, Barack Obama said, “I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. I am not in favor of gay marriage.”
Public opinion shifted dramatically with the 5-4 Obergefell decision of the Supreme Court.
However, our design as human persons, conceived in the mating union of one man and one woman, has not changed.
Given my advocacy of a political point of view, I recognize an obligation to practice tolerance toward those who disagree with me.
I would never dream of organizing reprisals against those who hold contrary views, and I expect the tolerance I practice to be reciprocated.
Our best hope of advancing public knowledge in a university depends on dispassionate advocacy supported by evidence, which allows investigation and dialogue.
On the more basic issue, my political arguments external to the University are outside of the purview of The Plainsman.
The work of The Plainsman depends on the same First Amendment guarantees that protect my political free speech.
Students, faculty and journalists all have good reason to be proud of AU’s “green light” protecting the rights of those with divergent views to express their views publicly without fear of reprisal.
Bruce Murray is an Associate Professor of Reading Education at Auburn University.
The Auburn Plainsman welcomes letters from students, as well as faculty, administrators, alumni and those not affiliated with the University.
The opinions expressed in columns and letters represent the views and opinions of their individual authors.
These opinions do not necessarily reflect the Auburn University student body, faculty, administration or Board of Trustees.
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