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EDITORIAL: Frightened by debate

Left-wing professors urge shunning conservative generosity

- - Thursday, December 26, 2013

Liberals can't stand competition. From their comfortable lofts in ivy-covered towers, left-wing professors sneer at free-market philanthropists eager for a role in the support of higher education. Several disgruntled professors are hectoring the administrators of the Catholic University of America to send back generous donations of $1 million from the Charles Koch Foundation and $500,000 from the Busch Family Foundation. So far, the school is standing firm.

According to the angry academics, the Koch and Busch families are guilty of building successful businesses and of wanting to share their love of the free market. The $1.5 million grant is meant to support Catholic University's fledgling business school in hiring scholars to conduct research into "principled entrepreneurship."

Acceptance of the seven-figure gift, the professors argue, would "send a confusing message to Catholic students and other faithful Catholics," that Charles and David Kochs' "anti-government, Tea Party ideology" has the blessing of a school established by the Catholic bishops of the United States.

The letter to Catholic University President John Garvey and Dean Andrew Abela contends that the billionaire Koch brothers support organizations that "advance public policies that directly contradict Catholic teaching on a range of moral issues from economic justice to environmental stewardship." Catholic social teaching, they say, "articulates a positive role for government, an indispensable role for unions, just tax policies and the need for prudent regulation of financial markets in service of the common good."

We don't presume to argue Catholic theology, and leave that to the religious leaders at Catholic University, who chided the "presumptuous" letter writers for acting as "arbiters of political correctness" and for lecturing the university about Catholic social teaching "in a manner that redefines the church's teaching to suit their own political preferences."

The letter and an accompanying petition drive were orchestrated by Faith in Public Life, a left-wing advocacy group. The National Catholic Register, a religious journal, observes that the group lobbies "to undermine the U.S. bishops on abortion, the redefinition of marriage and the [Obamacare contraceptives] mandate."

Catholic University says it has "no intention of revisiting its decision" to accept the Koch and Busch money. Nor, in our view, should it. The irrational fear of conservative philanthropy betrays the left's lack of confidence in the survival of its core beliefs. The unhappy professors would no doubt have welcomed $1.5 million had it come from George Soros or Tom Steyer, prominent billionaires active in left-wing causes, who defend not the faith but their own political views.

With a $240 million endowment, Catholic University isn't likely to exchange its principles for $1.5 million. The Kochs have made gifts to schools such as Georgetown, Harvard and Johns Hopkins, which have hardly become hotbeds of "Tea Party ideology."

The mere possibility that differing political ideas could flower on campus shakes the ivy tower and makes certain professors tremble. Having a small handful of conservative scholars walk the hallways might awaken young minds lulled into the sleep of liberalism. In a free market of ideas, they know theirs can't survive.