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.

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?