More Attacks on Free Speech

Two cases have raised red flags on the matter of free speech.

One case is in Boston, where a urologist, Dr. Paul Church, who worked at Beth Israel Deacon Medical Center for 28 years, was fired after a ten year battle over what BIDMC regarded was inappropriate communications he sent regarding the hospitals support for the LBGT lifestyle as well as his alerting the community to the health risks of male homosexual sex. Four other hospitals and a clinic have now either cut ties with Dr. Church or refused to hire him, after saying they would, because of his row with BIDMC.

A second case involves an adjunct professor, Lisa Durden, at Essex College in New Jersey who was fired for her defense of Black Lives Matter during a debate with Tucker Carlson on his Fox News program.

One doesn’t have to agree with either Church or Durden to see that their losing their respective jobs is chilling.

Neither of these cases reflect a government crackdown on free speech. Beth Israel and Essex College are not government-run facilities. Even still, it bodes ill for employees who must now feel that they work under the unrelenting gaze of supervisors monitoring their every email, tweet, or public statement. Free speech and the freedom to disagree mean nothing if those freedoms don’t extend to the workplace, especially on matters not directly related to your job responsibilities. It’s one thing for a urologist to question standards of care and refuse to apply those standards in his practice. It’s quite another for him to simply recommend, for a variety of reasons, that a hospital not promote certain activities and to point out the very real health hazards of engaging in those activities. For the life of me, I have no idea why hospitals and health clinics feel the need to sponsor public actions that promote a particular lifestyle or political or social position, especially when they know that there are among their employees those who have a different perspective or position on those matters. Will hospitals in the future start endorsing political candidates and fire those employees who publicly support the other candidate?

Colleges and universities are supposed to be places where the exchange of views and opinions takes place in a free and safe environment. Why have they now become places where, if you take a public position contrary to the views of the administration, or of the students in your classroom, you become subject to firing? How can a professor feel comfortable about teaching, especially on controversial subjects, when he or she knows that, if he or she slips and says something that someone doesn’t like, he or she is subject to having their jobs and their livelihood taken away?

In 2007 at San Jose College, biology professor June Sheldon was asked about the impact of heredity on homosexual behavior. She answered the question based on the textbook and the current science on the matter. But, someone didn’t like that answer, they complained, and she was fired. In 2010, Kenneth Howell was teaching a course on Catholicism at the University of Illinois. Howell presented the Catholic Church’s position on homosexuality in the context of natural law. A student was offended, but didn’t want to say anything. So, his friend wrote the administration complaining about Howell, who was subsequently fired. Howell fought back and was re-hired.

Let’s be clear. The First Amendment does not always protect employees from being fired for speaking their minds or engaging in political or social movements, even if the opinions they express or the movements they espouse having nothing to do with their responsibilities at work. Even still, there is a culture in these United States that people ought to be free to say what they think without reprisal, so long as they are not promoting violence or abuse against others. That’s not a bad thing, I think. Certainly, institutions like hospitals, colleges, churches, etc … ought to be able to expect that their employees either fully support or, at least, don’t publicly oppose the mission of the institution. Why are you working there if you don’t support the mission of the institution? Indeed, it seems that, in the minds of many, only the Church is expected to hire and keep in hire people who openly oppose her mission. But, that is something altogether different from an employee merely expressing his opinion, or of an employee offering her recommendations for company policy. If every word we say or action we take is up for scrutiny, then we become a culture where the free exchange of ideas is stifled rather than encouraged. And, that isn’t good for business.

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.


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