NOTE: The article excerpted on this page is from an outside publication and is posted on FIRE's website because it references FIRE's work. The viewpoints expressed in this article do not necessarily represent FIRE's positions.
In a world where professors are free to preach communism, atheism, and rampant liberalism, passing out a copy of the United States Constitution can be a revolutionary act. At least that’s what it appeared to be at Modesto Community College when one student attempted to hand out copies of the document on Constitution Day.
MODESTO, CA (Catholic Online) – September 17 was Constitution Day, a little-observed holiday which is dedicated to the document upon which our government and our laws are founded. What better way to celebrate the holiday then, than by sharing the Constitution with fellow students, or so thought Robert Van Tuinen.
Van Tuinen thought nothing of passing out pamphlets about the Constitution at Modesto Junior College just outside the campus student center. According to his report, police approached him within 10 minutes and instructed him that he could not pass out the pamphlets.
Van Tuinen was told that he was required to file for a permit from the school and would then only be allowed to distribute the Constitution to students from a tiny “free speech zone” designated on campus.
Dutifully, Van Tuinen reported to the Student Development office where he is told he can pass out the Constitution on the 20th, the 27th, “or you can go into October.” When he objected to the red-tape bureaucracy, she simply said, “you really don’t need to keep going on.”
Ultimately, Van Tuinen was told that because two other people were already on campus distributing material of various sorts, he could not engage in similar activity until later.
Colleges and universities are supposed to be places of freedom where controversial ideas can be shared and evaluated. In this case, one of those controversial ideas appears to be the Constitution and whether or not a student has the freedom to express themselves without the need to filter through a byzantine bureaucracy or the restriction of being regulated to a tiny concrete space.
We must sometimes be reminded that freedom means letting others do things you don’t like. It includes allowing some people to believe in atheism, to preach communism, or to support other bankrupt ideologies. Freedom also means a sacred right to follow one’s own religion, to share one’s thoughts in the public forum and to engage others in challenging accepted notions.
This is the very essence of college. What happened on Tuesday crushed all of that under the jackboot of bureaucracy. Freedom of speech is a fundamental natural right. It is not subject to a perimeter, a schedule, or a wait in line.
The sooner our colleges learn this, the better it will be for all.