Christians and those opposed to gay marriage are outraged that a supporter of traditional marriage at the University of Kansas was put on leave for a tweet opposing the town's new domestic partner anti discrimination law. One aspect of the law is that it does not allow people such as bakers, photographers ,etc that have reservations about homosexual unions to be exempt from having to service gay marriage ceremonies. The City council voted this law in last week .
In response a University of Kansas Professor tweeted :
That verse of course reads as follows "If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their blood guiltiness is upon them."
Outragede LGBT folks and their supporters demanded the university take action partly because not only they saw the tweet as offensive but it implied that violence should be visited upon those that are gay.
The university responded the professor had free speech rights , but in their words " we expect all members of the university community to engage in civil discourse and not make inflammatory and offensive comments " Thus he was put on leave.
NOW THE ABOVE DID NOT HAPPEN.
However I think many of us realize that :
(1) We could see that scenario very well happening
( 2) It is a violation various First Amendment values including religious liberty
( 3) Such action would hopefully be illegal
Which brings me to what really happened at the University of Kansas and why everyone should take note.
My default position is pretty much that under our law when the Government tries to restrict gun rights they better have a pretty darn compelling reason !.
Still though I am supporter of the Second Amendment I don't think that means we trash the First Amendment in the process. It should be recalled that the EMOTION OUTRAGE of the moment and not reasoning is the cause of some very bad gun control laws. Second Amendment supporters therefore that have to endure this on a regular basis should be sensitive when this happens elsewhere .
Which brings us to a certain Professor from the University of Kansas.
I get why gun owners and supporters of the NRA are outraged. It is very tempting to get our " pound of flesh " here. It feels good that he got put on leave !. However if we treat the Bill of Rights in a consistent manner we should be wary.
Over at the Pope Hat they say in part :
.... Timothy C. Caboni, vice chancellor for public affairs: “The contents of Professor Guth’s tweet were repugnant and in no way represent the views or opinions of the University of Kansas. Like all Americans, he has the right under the First Amendment to express his personal views and is protected in that regard. But it is truly disgraceful that these views were expressed in such a callous and uncaring way. We expect all members of the university community to engage in civil discourse and not make inflammatory and offensive comments.”
This one is fine until the last sentence. Public entities should feel free to announce that they despise and do not support the speech of their employees. But "we expect all members of the university community to engage in civil discourse and not make inflammatory and offensive comments" is vague, unprincipled, and dangerous.
A university might conceivably strike a balance that prevents Professor Guth from shouting in the face of a colleague "I HOPE YOUR KIDS DIE BECAUSE YOU SUPPORT THE SECOND AMENDMENT," which for all I know he is planning to do next week. But they are trying to discipline him for a general statement about a political issue on social media. Universities are places for discussion of the most controversial and upsetting ideas facing us.
Demanding "civil discourse" and forbidding "inflammatory and offensive comments" are policies that tend to mean whatever a university says they mean, and represent the government chilling debate over important issues. Organizations like the FIRE demonstrate how civility codes impede academic freedom
. It's easy to see how public universities could abuse "civility" policies to discipline speech based on disagreement with its politics if "civility" is taken uncritically as satisfying the need for discipline and harmony. In this instance "civility" is being used as justification to punish what might be described as a "liberal" view, but given the landscape of American academia, it is very unlikely that's how it will most often be used. So: KU's suspension of Guth and "review" should be brief; they are subjecting themselves to civil liability each day they suspend him. Let him encounter the judgment of the marketplace of ideas.1
Edited to add: A commenter points out that the school says he is on administrative leave, and I describe him as being suspended. He may be getting paid, but he's being prevented from teaching.
I agree . Read it all