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SURVEY: Christian & Conservative Students Silenced, Intimidated into Keeping Views Private

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WASHINGTON – Christian and conservative students are being silenced on college campuses. New numbers reveal the phenomenon is causing a growing number to keep their religious and political views to themselves.

An annual survey by Yale's William F. Buckley Jr. Program finds a majority of students, 53 percent, feel intimidated sharing their ideas, opinions or beliefs when they're different from their professors.

Slightly more students, 54 percent, feel intimidated if those views differ from their classmates.

Of those students who feel intimidated, 62 percent are conservative.

"I have talked to students who say, you know what? We talk about politics in our dorm room with the door locked because we're scared of people telling on us," Nicki Neily, president of Speech First, tells CBN News.

Speech First keeps track of these free speech restrictions on college campuses and even challenges them in court.

"If you think that you're gonna get in trouble because your views are considered bigoted, hateful, defamatory – I mean, of course you're not gonna talk about them," Neily says.

The Buckley survey also finds nearly 60 percent of students want to ban speakers from campus who have a history of using so-called hate speech. And a third of students believe physical violence is justified to stop someone from making hateful or racially charged statements.

The problem is determining what's offensive can be different for everyone.

Students at some schools even run the risk of facing punishment for private conversations.

"There are portals on university websites where you can go in, you can type in, 'I heard Joe use this term in a classroom, walking down a hallway – I found it offensive and I think it should be investigated.' And then that student is called in for a hearing," Neily explains.

Why is this happening now? Neily suggests it's a new generation of students created by helicopter parenting, bubble wrapping kids and a culture of trophies for everyone.

"So if you have grown up thinking that you're right and the first time you're told you're wrong or the first time you're being challenged on your views is when you're 18, of course there's going to be an existential crisis on campus," she says.

Some schools, like the University of Chicago, are taking a stand for the First Amendment.

In a letter to the class of 2020, the school's dean of students writes, "Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called 'trigger warnings,' we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual 'safe spaces.'"

He continues by stating, "Diversity of opinion and background is a fundamental strength of our community."

More than 50 colleges and universities have made similar statements.

Neily suggests students check out where schools stand on speech before making a decision on where to attend.

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About The Author


As Senior Washington Correspondent for CBN News, Jennifer covers the intersection of faith and politics - often producing longer format stories that dive deep into the most pressing issues facing Americans today. A 20-year veteran journalist, Jennifer has spent most of her career covering politics, most recently at the White House as CBN's chief White House Correspondent covering the Obama and Trump administrations. She's also covered Capitol Hill along with a slew of major national stories from the 2008 financial crisis to the 2020 coronavirus pandemic and every election in between. Jennifer