Genealogy from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon, LDS)

Monday, August 13, 2018

Back to the 60s: Freedom of Speech and Student Organizations

Note: This is my own opinion and I am not acting in the capacity of representing any other individuals or organizations.

Banning student organizations at universities is not a new phenomenon. As a person who was raised in the 1960s, I am well aware of the controversy and even violence that is part of our American history of student organizations. While a member of the ROTC during the Vietnam War demonstrations, I have seen first hand what happens when a university administration gets involved in policing first amendment rights. The issues being expressed in the 60s were fundamental and serious. My own involvement, however, ended abruptly when I left the country for a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Argentina.

Now, more than 50 years later, I am amazed that university administrations are still trying to police first amendment rights and deny access to those with whom they disagree. A recent new article yanked me back into this controversy of my youth. Here is the headline from a recent news article found in the Deseret News for August 10, 2018.
The issues today are not about a war being fought in the Far East, but about a vague issue of "discrimination" which now seems to be more important to school officials than First Amendment rights. The University of Iowa deregistered 40 student groups, including the Latter-day Saint Student Association of which I used to be a member, for failing to comply with campus policy. About a fourth of the organizations were faith-based.

This action was arguably taken as a result of a lawsuit filed earlier this year in which the United State District Court for the Southern District of Iowa ruled against the University of Iowas on exactly the same issue raised by the present action. The case is Business Leaders in Christ, an unincorporated association vs. The University of Iowa, et al. My link is to the entire 31-page court decision. Essentially, back on the 23rd of January, 2018 the Court ruled that this organization could not be banned from the campus for the same reason that all of the 40 student groups were more recently banned. One key issue in the Court's ruling was selective enforcement. So the University of Iowa apparently decided to ban all of the student groups they felt did not follow their policy and try to get around the Court's ruling. This is right back into the 60s.

Here is the University's policy:
[I]n no aspect of the [the University’s] programs shall there be differences in treatment of persons because of race, creed, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, pregnancy, disability, genetic information, status as a U.S. veteran, service in the U.S. military, sexual orientation, gender identity, associational preferences, or any other classification that deprives the person of consideration as an individual, and that equal opportunity and access to facilities shall be available to all. See
The simple question here is upon what criteria can any organization be formed? In other words, no organization could be allowed that had any requirements based on "any other classification" that would exclude anyone. 

Additionally, anyone can apply and be accepted by the University of Iowa for admission despite low academic standing, criminal background, etc? If I take a test in a class while attending the University aren't I entitled to pass? Isn't the professor discriminating against me just because I can't answer his or her test?

What about the First Amendment right to peaceably assemble? Where does that go? Perhaps you have forgotten that we have a First Amendment. Here it is in case you have forgotten:
The First Amendment states that “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.
Here is an article from the Library of Congress entitled "Right to Peaceful Assembly: United States." Are the faculty and staff of universities now agents of the United States of America and empowered to interpret and enforce their own version of the laws of the United States?

This is not an issue that is going to go away. There is a way to actively discourage discrimination without, at the same time, denying people their right of free speech and assembly. Although I think it is sad that organizations such as Iowa State University think that they have to assume governmental powers and selectively enforce their version of constitutional law. 

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