- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 5, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

A recent poll from Virginia Commonwealth University found that half of the state’s residents think freedom of speech should play second fiddle to concerns of discrimination.

Another way to put it: A growing number of U.S. citizens say censorship is a good thing.

Specifically, 50 percent of respondents polled by the Office of Public Policy Outreach said college students should be protected from perceived acts of discrimination, even if those perceived acts of discrimination were part of another’s exercise of free speech, Campus Reform reported.

Only 40 percent of Virginians fell on the side of supporting “unlimited freedom of expression,” even if that expression was seen as racist or otherwise discriminatory.

Got a Confederate flag hanging in your dorm room?

Destroy it. And quickly. College administrators are very likely reading these same survey results.

The poll was conducted in mid-July, weeks before violence raged in the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, over the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue.

So what that means is the pro-censorship crowd has probably grown even larger. That 50 percent who found cause to limit speech on college campuses so as not to cause hurt feelings about discrimination has probably etched up a few more points.

“On one hand, universities have long traditions of robust debate and free speech,” said Robyn McDougle, the director of the Office of Public Policy Outreach, in a written statement. “But increasingly, administrators are called on to ensure zones of safety from ongoing discrimination for students and other members of campus communities.”

And Virginians, it seems, are “divided” at which is more important: freedom of speech versus protecting individuals from feeling discriminated against.

That a divide exists at all is concerning. That a divide this large exists is outright frightening — particularly if it’s trending upward.

Freedom of speech is not an option. It’s not a matter of regulatory consideration. It’s not a theory or a best-case practice that’s put to scholarly scenario test. It’s a constitutional right — a God-given right.

And while discrimination ugly — racism horrendous — fact is: Reining in free speech to make all the ugly go away doesn’t change human’s hearts, where racism and discrimination take root and grow. Rather, it creates a stifling, chilling environment for all, and one that ultimately sets government as the regulator of what ought be uttered — and fast-forwarding a few years on that scenario leads to a country without a Constitution, a nation that looks more like North Korea or Cuba than the free and robust America of Founding Father vision.

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