The president of the largest Roman Catholic University in America refused a conservative student group’s request to post pro-life posters because it would constitute “bigotry … under the cover of free speech.”
Despite the fact that “Black Lives Matter” posters hang on the very windows of the administrative offices at Chicago-based DePaul University, President Reverend Dennis H. Holtschneider banned posters reading “Unborn Lives Matter,” a message much more in keeping with Catholic teaching on the sanctity of human life, from conception to natural death.
“By our nature, we are committed to developing arguments and exploring important issues that can be steeped in controversy and, oftentimes, emotion,” wrote Holtschneider in a letter last Friday. Despite this supposed commitment to free speech, “there will be times when some form of speech challenge our grounding in Catholic and Vincentian values. When that happens, you will see us refuse to allow members of our community to be subjected to bigotry that occurs under the cover of free speech.” (emphasis added)
“In fact, you have seen this in past months, as we have declined to host a proposed speaker and asked students to redesign a banner that provokes the Black Lives Matter movement,” the president added.
Holtschneider followed this veiled reference to the proposed “Unborn Lives Matter” poster with an argument against the idea that this “stance unfairly silences speech to appease a crowd.” He claimed “it’s not difficult to agree that there is a difference between a thoughtful discussion about immigration and a profane remark about Mexicans scrawled in the Quad; or between a panel on racial climate and a noose — a powerful symbol of violence and hatred — outside a residence hall.”
Yes, he compared a sign co-opting the “Black Lives Matter” trope for pro-life purposes to a message (“F*** Mexico!”) which he chose to interpret as a slur against Mexicans (who, contrary to liberal opinion, are not a race), and graffiti of a noose. One of these things is not like the others, and a Roman Catholic priest, of all people, should be able to recognize the difference.
Furthermore, in what moral universe is a poster expressing “Unborn Lives Matter” to be considered “bigotry”? According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, a “bigot” is “a person who strongly and unfairly dislikes other people, ideas, etc.,” or “a person who hates or refuses to accept the members of a particular group.”
“Unborn Lives Matter” expresses the Roman Catholic doctrine that the lives of unborn people have value, a value which the practice of abortion violates. It plays off the “Black Lives Matter” idea (not sanctioned by Catholic doctrine) that the lives of black people have value, a value which the allegedly racially motivated attacks of police violate. In other words, this motif works just as well — if not better — for the pro-life movement as for the racial movement.
Holtschneider seems to think that merely coopting the motif of “Black Lives Matter” is itself an attack on the movement, demonstrating the bigotry of unfairly disliking black people. This could not be further from the truth: In fact, the pro-life desire to use a similar slogan merely underscores the cultural power and effect of “Black Lives Matter.”
Not to mention the terrifying fact that 36 percent of abortions victimize black babies, although black women constitute only 13 percent of the female population. This does not necessarily mean advocates for abortion are racist, but it should lead this university president to rethink using the slur “bigot.”
Next Page: This is just one case showing why DePaul University is one of the worst colleges for free speech.
This is far from the first time DePaul University has stood against free speech. In September, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) sent a letter to Holtschneider outlining his university’s long track record of silencing partisan opinions.
University officials washed out pro-Trump chalk messages, ostensibly because the university is not allowed to support political candidates. FIRE’s Senior Program Officer Ari Cohn explained why this is fundamentally misguided — such messages are assumed to be from students, not the university.
Furthermore, when the College Republicans invited Milo Yiannopoulos to speak, the college first cancelled a room reservation for the event, and then instructed the security staff not to intervene when protesters predictably derailed the speech. Later, when the club aimed to invite him back to finish his remarks, the university denied them, point blank. Indeed, they blamed the unrest at the first event on Yiannopoulos, overlooking their own contributions to it.
DePaul also used the same reasoning to prevent another group, Young Americans for Freedom, from hosting conservative journalist Ben Shapiro at an event this month.
“DePaul has capitulated to the same hostile mob that the Supreme Court warned could not be used to justify burdens or bans on speech,” Cohn argued. “In doing so, it has sent a message to its students that all it takes to prevent someone you disagree with from speaking on campus is to cause, or threaten to cause, disruption.” For evident reasons, such capitulation inspires more bullying, not less.
“Those disrupting will escape without penalty, and any controversial speakers—even those who have not yet generated any controversy at DePaul itself—will be swiftly banned at the expense of ideological diversity on campus. For shame,” Cohn wrote.
This time, with the “Unborn Lives Matter” case, the university hasn’t even waited for a “Black Lives Matter” spokesman to express offense — they just curtailed free speech in advance. Not only that, but they curtailed free speech in advocacy of a cause Roman Catholics are supposed to support, in the name of a cause that is not connected to Catholic doctrine. As Cohn wrote, “For shame.”