Young Americans for Freedom is an organization committed to the founding, Constitutional principles of America. We are a non-partisan organization willing to engage all individuals regardless of their ideological views or position on the political spectrum. Our decision to bring Reverend Rafael Cruz to speak to our organization and to the SMU community on November 12 coincided with YAF’s National Freedom Week—a week dedicated to the memory of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the celebration of the freedom we are so fortunate to have here in America. So often today we hear sentiment about everything “wrong” with America; YAF sought to celebrate America’s exceptional freedom and prosperity during Freedom Week by titling the event “What’s Right with America.” The SMU chapter enjoys a personal connection to Rafael Cruz and given his experience as a citizen under the oppression and torture of the Bautista regime in Cuba, we decided he would be an excellent speaker on what makes America distinct and great.
The purpose of our event was to present the campus with a positive, uplifting message about America and why we should be proud citizens of an exceptional nation. However, when our event’s funding came up for a vote in the Student Senate, the session devolved into a two-hour debate, and three separate votes failed to defund our event. A minority of Senators claimed that to allow Rafael Cruz to speak on our campus would be to propagate hate speech, and to give Senate funding to the event would be the equivalent of hosting a Ku Klux Klan rally. These irrational and unfounded statements were made after a Senator presented categorically false mischaracterizations of Reverend Cruz’s Christian faith and views on marriage, accusing him of supporting pedophilia and hating members of the LGBT community. The first, regarding pedophilia, took a statement out of context from an interview in which Reverend Cruz argued that if consent was the sole basis for the formation of a relationship (a standard he personally disagrees with), then that would also justify pedophilia if an adult and young boy or girl sexually consented to each other. The second was a poor attempt to paint Reverend Cruz as a homophobic extremist. This is utter nonsense. The mandate of Reverend Cruz’s Christian faith is to love all individuals, even those with whom he may disagree. Further, he did not even address homosexuality at this forum. Even had he done so, he would be well within his Constitutionally guaranteed right to the freedom of speech.
This kind of attempted censorship bears the same nature as the restriction of freedom that Reverend Cruz fled in Cuba. The Constitution of the United States protects the freedom of all Americans to express ideas through speech. No entity has the authority to overrule the First Amendment to the Constitution and arbitrarily decide which speech or worldviews are allowed. Especially at a University, whose purpose is to facilitate free dialogue and intellectual inquiry in the pursuit of truth, no individual should be barred from presenting their viewpoint for academic consideration. The majority of SMU’s Student Senators agree. During the debate, one Senator stood up and articulated that if the Student Senate is going to fund speaking events, all views should be allowed to be represented and intellectually examined. Indeed, that is the essence of Freedom of Speech. The individuals who sought to de-fund our event under the banner of “tolerance” demonstrated their hypocrisy in that they themselves were intolerant of Mr. Cruz’s views, simply because they differ from their own. Disagreement or offense at someone else’s viewpoint does not negate freedom of speech. If on a university campus we cannot have open, rational discussion about relevant, real-world topics and problems, then why are we here? Aristotle wisely said, “It is the mark of a truly educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” A university seeking to cultivate a truly educated student population should welcome all viewpoints for students to entertain and consider, regardless of whether they choose to accept them.
Grant Wolf is the Chairman of SMU Young Americans for Freedom. Drew Wicker is the Vice Chairman.