Freedom of Conscience

What We Defend

Freedom of conscience means the right to arrive at one’s private beliefs without being coerced into an artificial unity by those who wield power over us. After all, the freedom to speak is a dead letter if one lacks the freedom to think, to believe, or to disbelieve. At the heart of American liberty lies a recognition of individual rights, individual responsibility, and individual dignity. Over one’s inner mind, conscience, and self, no one should have coercive power.

woman reading a book in the old library
John Stuart Mill Trident
If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.

John Stuart Mill Slays Censorship

John Stuart Mill wrote that in any argument there are only three possibilities: being wrong, being partially wrong, or being wholly correct. And every possibility is improved or strengthened by freedom of speech and inquiry.

John Stuart Mills Trident Slays Censorship Arguments

Guide to First-Year Orientation and Thought Reform on Campus

FIRE’s Guide to First-Year Orientation and Thought Reform on Campus contrasts the legitimate purposes and intentions of campus orientation sessions with current practices and effects, revealing how these sessions have evolved in frightening fashion in the hands of college administrators. This text is only available digitally.

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student at a library
diversity equity and inclusion under a magnifying glass

FIRE Statement on the Use of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Criteria in Faculty Hiring and Evaluation


Vague or ideologically motivated DEI statement policies can too easily function as litmus tests for adherence to prevailing ideological views on DEI, penalize faculty for holding dissenting opinions on matters of public concern, and “cast a pall of orthodoxy” over the campus. Universities have a variety of ways to advance their visions of DEI without infringing their constituents’ individual rights.

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Defending Your Rights

FIRE defends the rights of students and faculty through several core services.