- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 28, 2019

The assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice just issued a statement reminding that America is not a “police state,” and neither should be the college campuses that dot the landscape of this country.

The very fact the DOJ has to release this statement shows how very far America’s freedoms have fallen.

“College campuses should not be mini police states,” wrote Eric Dreiband, assistant attorney general, as well as several other attorneys, in a “Statement of Interest” filed in U.S. District Court on behalf of plaintiffs accusing Jones County Junior College in Mississippi of several egregious freedom of speech violations against students.

And in a statement on the DOJ website, Dreiband elaborated with this: “The United States of America is not a police state. Repressive speech codes are the indecent hallmark of despotic, totalitarian regimes. They have absolutely no place in our country, and the First Amendment outlaws all tyrannical policies, practices and acts that abridge the freedom of speech.”

Yet college campuses, with increasing frequency, have in fact, in some instances, become breeding grounds for police state-like hits on the First Amendment.

Yet America, with equally alarming frequency, has in fact, in some instances, become less-than-free in the First Amendment department, particularly in the category of political expressions. MAGA beatings, anyone?

The problem is the left.

The problem is that Democrats and far leftists, no matter how much they talk the diversity and tolerance talk, don’t walk that walk when it comes to respecting countering viewpoints.

The case at JCJC in Mississippi centers on an attempt by the student group Young Americans for Liberty to discuss — simply discuss! — the legalization of marijuana on campus. JCJC police broke up discussions; students soon after contacted the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education to sue.

The DOJ weighed in on the First Amendment repercussions of school administrators dictating what’s allowable speech on campus versus what’s not, and in so doing, warned of “a society in which a citizen must petition the government for permission to meet with his fellow citizens,” Dreiband wrote.

That’s a frightening scenario. Yet in America, it’s not so far off as one might imagine.

“The Silencing: How the Left is Killing Free Speech,” wrote Kirsten Powers, a former Fox News Democratic pundit who nonetheless saw cause to write a book a few years back about the left’s assault on free speech.

College campuses are of especial concern because this is where our rising generations get their training. And it’s bad enough leftists have taken over the teaching slots in America’s places of higher learning. But free speech zones to keep out the offensive — i.e., conservative — viewpoints? For shame.

Up until the 1980s, free speech zones on college campuses were few and far between. Nowadays? They’re simply part of the college experience.

“[T]hese zones function more like free speech quarantines,” FIRE wrote in May. “Worse still, students who wish to use free speech zones often have to comply with onerous requirements.”

States, thankfully, have stepped in and legislated against some of these zones. But it’s not enough. It’s not enough for students to graduate at a college where free speech zones have been abolished only to find an entire segment of U.S. political society, the Democratic Party, has happily maintained its own free speech code book, above and beyond anything even the most speech-restrictive college administrators could have conceived.

Powers wasn’t the only one to write a book about the left’s tear-down of freedom of speech — or about the left’s myriad of sometimes-subtle ways of shutting down one viewpoint, while elevating another.

“The Intimidation Game: How the Left Is Silencing Free Speech,” was political columnist Kimberly Strassel’s take.

“The Smear: How Shady Political Operatives and Fake News Control What You See, What You Think, and How You Vote,” was investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson’s.

In August, Democrats pushed a Democracy for All Amendment to the Constitution that limits political rhetoric coming from the corporate and labor union worlds during election times.

And in December came this from California Democrat Rep. Ted Lieu, speaking on CNN: “I would love to be able to regulate the content of speech. The First Amendment prevents me from doing so. And that’s simply a function of the First Amendment. But I think over the long run, it’s better that government does not regulate the content of speech.”

Well, isn’t that special. Are freedom-loving Americans supposed to thank Lieu for that?

Let’s remember one thing here, and one thing only: The First Amendment is not the government’s guarantee of freedom of speech. It’s not a government gift; it’s not a government grant; it’s not a government promise.

It’s a reminder to government of a God-given right to the individual. It’s a reminder to government that freedom of speech comes from God — not government.

And that God-given freedom extends to college students on campus, as well. Only in a police state is it otherwise. There’s no other way to slice or dice it: free speech zones must go.

• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at cchumley@washingtontimes.com or on Twitter, @ckchumley. Listen to her podcast “Bold and Blunt” by clicking HERE. And never miss her column; subscribe to her newsletter by clicking HERE.

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