- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 25, 2023

Conservative college students and workers say they fear sharing their political and religious beliefs amid a growing “cancel culture,” according to surveys.

Three out of 5 employees fear losing their jobs if they mention conservative religious or political views at work, according to an Ipsos/Alliance Defending Freedom survey of 3,009 part- and full-time workers, and 54% say that posting religious or political views on social media could lead to “negative consequences” in the workplace.

According to the ADF survey, 40% of employees find left-leaning workplace training on “systemic racism” divisive and 43% feel less comfortable discussing race after the sessions.

Other tensions they flagged include a lack of religious accommodations for workers who want to add Christian nonprofits to employee charitable giving programs. Conservatives noted that 284 large companies such as Apple and Disney have lobbied against state legislation imitating Florida’s 2022 Parental Rights in Education law, which limits gender and sexuality teaching in public schools.

“It puts religious and political conservatives in the crosshairs of cancellation,” Jay Hobbs of ADF, a Christian legal advocacy group specializing in free speech issues, told The Washington Times. “But employee fears of negative consequences cut across partisan lines.”

Conservatives have reason to fear being shut out of advancement opportunities, mistreated by co-workers and bosses and even fired for voicing their beliefs, Mr. Hobbs said.

A growing number of high-profile public figures have lost their jobs for voicing political opinions that liberals find offensive, including “Dilbert” cartoonist Scott Adams, comedian Roseanne Barr and former New York Times opinion editor Bari Weiss.

“The censorship is everywhere and affects everything,” said Jeffrey Tucker, president of the free market Brownstone Institute for Social and Economic Research. “Most employed professionals today, to say nothing of academics, are simply not permitted to speak out. We have developed an East German situation of information control by default.”

The findings confirm that “woke workplace policies” unfairly silence employees who disagree politically with liberal policies, said Andrew Crapuchettes, CEO of Idaho-based recruitment agency RedBalloon.

“Work is where we spend most of our waking hours,” Mr. Crapuchettes said. “It’s where we should be free to bring our whole selves, to be who we are, and to thrive in an open, accepting environment.”

Others point out that conservative opinions on religion and politics also cause divisions in the workplace.

“One should be aware and sensitive to the nature of when, where and how they express their religious or political view so as not to offend another person,” said Karene A. Putney, a business consultant at Maryland-based Etiquette Etiquette and a 2019 graduate of the Protocol School in the District of Columbia. “Etiquette reminds us to be respectful of others at all costs.”

Most offices’ cancel culture targets conservative views, said Scott Shepard of the National Center for Public Policy Research.

He directs the Washington think tank’s Free Enterprise project, which buys stock in companies to challenge their public advocacy for liberal causes such as affirmative action and transgender rights.

“Right now, companies enforce official and unofficial speech and thought codes for their employees, which is toxic,” Mr. Shepard said. “Respect for all viewpoints means applying the same rules to everyone, regardless of whether the viewpoint coincides with executive policy preferences.”

Conservatives say cancel culture entered the workplace from recent college graduates thanks to a growing number of speech codes aimed at silencing politically offensive language on social media and at campus lectures.

The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, a Philadelphia free speech advocacy group, reported in December that 88% of four-year colleges and universities now restrict the free expression of their students, reversing a 15-year trend.

Last month, the University of Wisconsin System surveyed more than 10,500 students at 13 public campuses. The survey found that 61.5% of self-described “somewhat conservative” students and 64.4% of the “very conservative” said a teacher had pressured them in class or an assignment to agree with a particular political or ideological view.

By comparison, 22.3% of “somewhat liberal” and 15.1% of “very liberal” students reported feeling the same pressure to change their opinions.

The survey also found that 31% of all students and 58% of the “very liberal” supported disinviting a campus speaker “if some students find their message offensive.” In contrast, 44% of all students and 75% of the “very conservative” opposed canceling such speakers.

At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, an October lecture featuring conservative political commentator Matt Walsh sparked public protests and graffiti.

In January, conservative Young America’s Foundation, the national student network that sponsored the event, published several bias complaints that liberal students filed in hopes of canceling the talk.

Conservatives and religious believers deserve at least a “trigger warning” before being demonized at work or school over such things, said Michael S. Warder, a business consultant and former vice chancellor at Pepperdine University, a Christian school in California.

“Religion and politics are vital to the soul, our way of living and our common well-being,” Mr. Warder said. “People should feel free to discuss these existential matters, with due respect, with family and friends. At the workplace or with strangers, discretion should be employed.”

• Sean Salai can be reached at ssalai@washingtontimes.com.

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