How Should Conservatives Respond to the Disturbing Trend of Campus Censorship?

We experienced an aggressive protest at UC Davis, but this is part of a disturbing, growing trend of censorship of conservative speech on college campuses.

This is an extended version of an article from our last printed newsletter. Warning: This blog post includes strong language when directly quoting leftist protesters.

On February 29th through March 1st at UC Davis, we faced our most aggressive, persistent, and unreasonable protest yet.

As many of you know, our preferred way of doing outreach is to set up a simple poll table that asks questions like, “Should Abortion Remain Legal?” and provide options for people to sign Yes, No, or It Depends. While we do keep track of the results of these polls to pay attention to trends, they aren’t scientific and we don’t ask the question in order to track people’s answers. We just want to dialogue with people and give our volunteers an opportunity to use what they learned at our training seminar.

We don’t put up signs with abortion images. If you want to learn about how we use abortion images, go to EqualRightsInstitute.com/Images. In short, we think the images are valuable and sometimes persuasive, so we have them in our brochure and we train our volunteers to use them in their conversations. Our rule is that we don’t show people abortion images without their consent, which is purely for pragmatic reasons. We don’t think it’s evil to put abortion images on signs, but we have found it to be counter-productive if our goal is to have persuasive dialogues with people.

The pro-choice club found out that we were coming to do an event of some kind on Monday and Tuesday and they assumed we were going to do a graphic image outreach. They came prepared to protest us with umbrellas and signs that said “graphic images ahead” and “let us be your umbrella escort.” They were literally offering to escort people past the most unintimidating pro-life display they’d ever seen. To the casual observer, we could have been a pro-choice table, or a table run by people that were undecided but interested in people’s opinions.

The protesters eventually realized that we were having friendly and productive dialogues, so they got tired of protesting us by standing 75-feet away and holding their signs. In the afternoon, they figured out an effective way to actually interfere with our event: they formed a protest line in front of our table. This turned our table from a comfortable, inviting place for conversation into a place where people expected to be yelled at, and it effectively shut down our table. We asked the university administration to respect our free speech event and tell the protesters to give us some space. They refused to do anything.

Pro-choice protesters at UC Davis in a line in front of our poll table.

Pro-choice protesters at UC Davis in a line in front of our poll table.

Bodily Rights Arguments Necessitate Extremism

Bodily rights arguments for abortion are always extremist arguments, at least in the way people present them. No bodily rights argument that I have ever seen (or even heard of any pro-choice advocate making) leaves room for abortion exceptions.

Not all pro-choice people are extremists.

A 2013 Gallup poll found that 80% of Americans believe abortion should be illegal in the third trimester. A 2012 Lozier Institute poll found that 77% of their respondents believed sex-selective abortions should be against the law. Most people, even pro-choice people, believe there are circumstances when abortion should not be legal.

But almost all pro-choice people use extremist arguments.

What is an extremist argument?

By “extremist arguments,” I don’t mean “arguments that extremists often use;” I mean arguments that necessarily lead to an extremist position. I am not saying that having an extremist position means you must take extremist or violent action. I am just saying if you make an argument that logically requires an extremist position and you don’t take that extremist position, you’re being inconsistent.

For instance, suppose someone said, “Having dark skin makes you a non-person, but I really like lots of people with dark skin and I think people ought to be nice to them.” They’re advocating for being nice, but “having dark skin makes you a non-person” is an extremist argument. The logical conclusion of that argument is that anyone who has dark skin should not be legally protected, that it is morally justified to enslave or kill such people. It doesn’t matter how kind, compassionate, or well-meaning the person is who says it; the argument is extremist.

People are welcome to try to justify abortion with extremist arguments, but they should expect to be gently challenged to hold a consistent view. If you’re making an extremist argument, you should be consistent and hold the extremist view that comes with it.

Planned Parenthood’s Absurd Position on HIV Disclosure

This morning I saw an article on DailyWire and I couldn’t decide if I was surprised or not. Kimberly Ellis points out that in Matt Lauer’s recent interview with Charlie Sheen, they were operating under a clear assumption that it is morally obligatory to disclose your HIV status to a sexual partner. Then Ellis points out that Planned Parenthood disagrees with Lauer and Sheen in their booklet for teens with HIV, Healthy, Happy and Hot.

Should I be surprised? On one hand, finding out that Planned Parenthood thinks HIV people have a moral right to not tell their sexual partners of their condition ought to be shocking. It’s a horrible, evil, destructive view. But on the other hand it shouldn’t be surprising because it coheres with what I already know about Planned Parenthood: they think the rights of some people to live (like the unborn) are less important than the rights of other people to have sex.

Two months ago I wrote an article about my conversation at the University of Michigan with a student I called Brent. Brent was honest enough to admit that he was pro-choice because he believed that the right to have sex was absolute, and without the right to kill unborn children, women wouldn’t be able to exercise that right.

Brent and Planned Parenthood (and many other pro-choice people) are making the same mistake: believing that the right to have sex is absolute. They are wrong. Your right to have sex is less important than another person’s right to live. Your right to live is more important than another person’s right to have sex.*

Six Ways I’ve Seen Pro-Choice People Try to Censor Pro-Lifers

Abortion is not merely immoral, it is obviously immoral.

This is why I’m so dedicated to helping pro-life people learn to dialogue well. I want all pro-life people to use the most persuasive arguments and learn to communicate graciously, relationally, and clearly. Those components in combination are an incredible recipe for the kind of environment where pro-choice people change their minds about abortion.

That abortion is obviously immoral is also why I’m open-minded. Some people think that being open-minded means being wishy-washy, and that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Being pro-life and open-minded means being pro-life because it’s rational, not because it’s comfortable. I’m pro-life because rationally it’s what I have to be, not because it’s what I want to be. If somehow my arguments against abortion were defeated and a stronger argument for abortion was presented to me, then I would change my mind.

Any open-minded person should be disgusted whenever people try to silence their political opposition.[Tweet that] I’m almost never disgusted with pro-choice people. I honestly think most of them mean well, but suffer from a combination of self-deception, flawed reasoning, and difficult emotional experiences. But I become truly angry when anyone attempts to shield himself and others from hearing arguments against his view by preventing his opposition from speaking.

I want to defeat pro-choice arguments by presenting better arguments, but I want the opposing arguments to be made. Sometimes I even help pro-choice people make their arguments stronger before I present my own. I believe the more light that is cast on both views, the more clearly the pro-life side comes out the victor.

Censorship attempts to prevent one of the sides from being visible. Censorship doesn’t want people to choose the more compelling view, it wants to force people into only having one view to choose from. Censorship is an incredibly powerful weapon for anyone cowardly enough to use it.[Tweet that]

Honest dialogue is aimed at truth, which makes it the greatest friend of the truth-seeker. It is created by two people being willing to acknowledge that they have been wrong before and that they want to believe true things, no matter how uncomfortable. Censorship, on the other hand, is the greatest enemy of the truth-seeker.

Censorship is at its strongest when it is hidden in the shadows, so out of a desire to make it as weak as possible and make it easier to recognize in the future, I am going to briefly share six experiences (or types of experiences) where I have seen attempts to censor pro-life people.

Unfortunately the attempts at censorship are getting more and more common. I’m not afraid of pro-choice arguments, but I am afraid of a political climate that trains people to refuse to even listen to pro-life arguments. If enough people are brainwashed to only listen to people that agree with them, we will not be able to stop abortion.

All six of these experiences are of pro-choice people doing the censoring. I’m not saying that censorship doesn’t exist on the other side, but I do think it is significantly less common. I formally renounce all attempts pro-life people have ever made to censor pro-choice people. Let them speak. If the truth is on our side, what have we to fear?

Why Pro-Life Advocates Are Not Responsible for the Planned Parenthood Shooting

Many pro-choice people have responded to the recent shooting by blaming pro-life advocates. In this article I show why such claims are completely unjustified by analyzing culpability and what it means to incite violence.

Photo credit: Colorado Springs Police Department

Photo credit: Colorado Springs Police Department

Last Friday a 57-year old armed man named Robert Lewis Dear walked into a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs and opened fire. He barricaded himself inside for hours, and before surrendering himself to police he killed three people and wounded nine more.

Ben Domenech at The Federalist summarized many of the weird things that have already come out about Dear:

As is so often the case in these circumstances, Dear is described by neighbors as an odd loner, who avoided eye contact and spoke unintelligibly. In South Carolina, his previous residence, he had been arrested after hiding in the bushes and peeping into his neighbor’s house. He shot a neighbor’s dog with a pellet gun and threatened him with bodily harm. In Colorado, he lived off the grid in a trailer, on a five-acre plot of land he apparently purchased for $6,000 in 2014. This followed a series of cabins and trailers — without electricity or running water — that he stayed in after his divorce in 2000.

Dear has no history of affiliation with the Republican Party or pro-life groups or politicians.

While we don’t yet know very many details about his initial questioning by police, it was leaked that he said something about “no more baby parts” at some point. This is a clear reference to the Center for Medical Progress’ (CMP) undercover videos that have provided evidence that Planned Parenthood illegally sells body parts from the babies they kill in abortion. Planned Parenthood and others are claiming or implying that pro-life advocates are partially to blame for the shooting because we have been saying that Planned Parenthood sells baby parts.

Are pro-life advocates culpable for the shooting? By culpable I don’t mean “the only person to blame,” or even “the primary person to blame.” I also don’t mean “ought to be legally prosecuted.” By culpable I mean “morally blameworthy for their actions.” Whether pro-life advocates are culpable for the recent shooting depends entirely on what it means to incite violence. While I will not answer every possible question about what circumstances could make one culpable, I will argue that there are two extreme ways of thinking about culpability that we should avoid. I will also argue that the right way to determine if a statement incites violence is to examine the statement, not merely whether or not it was credited for violence.

Let’s start by examining four fictional cases.