Day 68: The politics of Speak Up University

Every fourth song or so, my Pandora account is inundated with a advertisement that features college students claiming persecution that they faced on their college campus because of their Christian faith. The relation to college campuses was enough to get me to visit the website and find out what the sponsoring group was all about. The Speak Up movement’s tagline is “Protect and promote religious freedom at our public universities” and features a scrolling banner of student stories from colleges across the country. Though still VERY skeptical, I was encouraged by the inclusive tagline. I assumed form the Pandora ad that the group was Christian-based.

I began clicking through through and reading the four stories profiled, my initial assumptions were proven accurate. ALL stories featured were about supposed acts of Christian discrimination. I went back to the homepage to make sure I had read the tagline correctly. I had. I scanned the rest of the homepage and found a section titled “Why Speak Up?” The answer was: “Illegal discrimination against Christians on public university campuses is pervasive and must be confronted.  The Constitution has something to say about this—and so should you.”

I then found a logo at the bottom of the homepage that indicated sponsorship by the Alliance Defense Fund. Continuing the utilization of my sleuthing skills, I clicked the link to the ADF website and found out the conservative Christian non-profit worked to advocate for “religious freedom” the “sanctity of life” and  ” marriage and the family.” Their motto is “A legal alliance defending the right to hear and speak the Truth.” The capital “T” in truth referencing the Gospel, which they mention explicitly many times on the website. The group was founded by Bill Bright (founder, Campus Crusade for Christ), the late Larry Burkett (founder, Crown Financial Ministries), James Dobson (founder, Focus on the Family), the late D. James Kennedy (founder, Coral Ridge Ministries), the late Marlin Maddoux (president, International Christian Media), and Donald Wildmon (founder, American Family Association), along with the leadership of over thirty other conservative Christian organizations.

I found many of the ADF and Speak Up‘s claims about the protection of religious freedom highly deceiving, as they are explicitly in the business of protecting one specific type of religious freedom, as all of the cases they have helped fund have been protecting Christian students. I wonder what they would say if a Muslim student came to them after seeing their website and asked for assistant in funding a legal case? “Religious freedom”…

Anyway, all of this reminded me of Christian privilege and its work in our universities, enterprises, media, and of course, the government. Presidential hopeful Rick Santorum recently made headlines when he described President Obama as a “snob” for asserting that every American should strive to attend college and supporting legislation that helps make that a reality. He also described colleges and universities as “indoctrination mills” for godless liberalism.

It seems that so many of these groups and initiatives in the US since we elected our first Black President in Barack Obama. As a dual secret Kenyan Muslim/radical Christian under Jeremiah Wright (sarcasm), Obama’s black identity had undoubtedly played into ignorant white racism and generated asinine fears about the state of our nation with regards to religion, race, national origin, sexual orientation, and a number of other topics. Powerful groups are feeling threatened (whether real or perceived), they feel as if social markers like a President that isn’t white, or a marriage that isn’t between two people that they see fit to be married- that those indicators are a sign of “moral digression,” which equates to nothing more than slowly loosening grasp of dehumanizing levels of oppression.


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