By Abi Hillrich
Can silencing voices be Christian?
As a Christian campus, it is our job to look at the pitfalls of other Christian institutions and learn from their (and our own) mistakes. Surely, the students of Taylor University, Seattle Pacific University, and Liberty University would be some of the first to raise awareness of the surprising number of Christian schools whose publications have been censored in some way.
Taylor University’s publication staff, a group of students frustrated with the unrealistic boundaries placed on them by the administration at their school, conducted a survey last year within the group of Christian schools listed as members of the CCCU (Council for Christian Colleges and Universities). One hundred and thirty-eight school newspapers were interviewed with an online survey, and the results are astonishing. Forty-nine schools participated, and more than three out of four student editors surveyed admitted to having been censored. An astounding forty-eight percent of schools admitted to being forced to end pursuit of a story in the research or writing phase. What began as an attempt to better the administration at Taylor University has exposed a problem deeply imbedded in the traditions of Christian institutions.
Liberty University, a religious institution that is not a part of the CCCU, has had similar issues. In March of 2018, Erin Covey told Religion News Service that her attempt to write an article concerning religious figures’ disapproval of Liberty’s controversial president, Jerry Falwell, had been censored. She even mentioned that the student publication seems to be “more a PR vehicle for the university than a newspaper.” In an article covering the same event and other similar cases, New Republic calls this the “Invisible Free Speech Crisis.”
As Christians, we should be able to understand that censorship is wrong. Not only does it go against the constitutional rights of publications and free speech, but it is also against the teachings of Jesus. Christ calls us to enter into the world, in all of its unholiness and imperfection. He calls us to find truth in the midst of it, and stand alongside others on their own searches for truth. Is this not what he has done for us?
The root of this problem of censorship does not seem to be the students’ actions or a misinterpretation of the Bible, however, but a miscommunication of the purpose of a student publication. As Erin pointed out, the administration of many Christian colleges seems to believe that the student publication should be used as a way to draw new students into the school, while the students in these universities simply desire a place to publish their opinions, thoughts, and art.
At Greenville University, we can choose to keep ourselves away from this debate. With communication between administrative staff and students, with open minds and respectful attitudes, we can avoid becoming another statistic in the censorship debate. The choice is within reach.
Sidebar 1: What is censorship?
Censorship: the suppression or prohibition of any parts of books, films, news, etc. that are considered obscene, politically unacceptable, or a threat to security.
Sidebar 2: For More Information
Read Threats to the Independence of Student Media, a study by Chris Evans
View the Taylor University students’ study results at the Student Press Coalition website
Read The Invisible Free Speech Crisis by Sarah Jones for The New Republic