Free speech supporters are targeting a Montana Christian college that is reportedly not allowing its students free expression–including not letting them put up crosses.
Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Montana has a policy against “divisive” displays. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) sent a letter to the school, calling out the colleges hypocrisy in saying they allow free expression, yet still ban certain displays centered on “controversial” topics. The college claims its students have a right to “choose” whether or not to “engage” with these supposedly controversial subjects.
For a number of years, conservative youth group Young Americans for Freedom erected multiple 9/11 memorials around the school involving small American flags. These displays were approved, but when the group requested permission for another display, this time with with crosses to remember victims of abortion, they were denied. Dean of Students Brad Nason told student group’s treasurer Emily Kokot that such a display would be too “divisive.”
So Much for Free Speech
“I’m sorry Emily but that is not a program that would be allowed at RMC,” Nason wrote in a letter, according to FIRE. “The College has no objection to discourse and dialog about/around the pro-life movement, but we draw the line at public displays of divisive topics. A physical ‘memorial for abortion victims’ falls into that category.”
“For the record, the President’s Cabinet recently rejected a similar request for an on-campus marketing campaign, that would have included what most would interpret as liberal messaging, around the topics of immigrant rights, climate change, science, and racism,” Nason continued. “We considered that program unnecessarily and inappropriately confrontational.”
Rocky Mountain College claims to be a “community of scholars in which the ideals of freedom of inquiry, freedom of thought, freedom of expression, and freedom of the individual are sustained.”
Join FIRE in asking RMC to live up to that commitment:https://t.co/pC3yoIUpid
— FIRE (@TheFIREorg) November 7, 2019
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Kokot pushed Nason on this front, saying that the university was not holding true to its stated commitment to free speech. Nason said the public displays the group wanted eliminated “every student’s ability to choose to engage or not to engage with that issue.”
FIRE quickly noted, “If students are encouraged to ‘choose’ to engage in the topic, but cannot raise the topic in a posting to announce their choice, then precisely how, where, and when do the ‘open and thoughtful discussions’ take place?”
This is Wrong. Period
“The pro-life/pro-choice debate is incredibly divisive and in the College [sic] view, a public display is confrontational. We believe the College community has a right to choose to either engage in a program or not…” Nason wrote, according to FIRE. He also noted to Kokot of the school’s “responsibility to create a safe, comfortable and respectful environment where students live and learn.”
While some might find persuasive arguments on either side of this debate, at the end of the day a Christian school is not allowing students to display the symbol most associated with their faith.
This is embarrassing. It’s a disservice to the students, the principle of free speech and arguably even Christianity.
What a disgrace.