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Student banned from criticizing gay ‘marriage’ in class at Jesuit college

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A student at Marquette University, a Roman Catholic institution in Wisconsin run by the Jesuits, says his philosophy professor that he was not allowed to express his view against same-sex “marriage” in her classroom.

The student, speaking to The College Fix, said that MU philosophy instructor Cheryl Abbate told her “Theory of Ethics” class that "gay rights" was a settled issue because, unlike issues such as immigration, civil rights and the death penalty, “everybody agrees on this, and there is no need to discuss it.”

The student, who asked to remain anonymous, challenged Abbate, telling her he thought the issue deserved to be discussed, and that dismissing arguments against gay "marriage" and gay adoption because of her personal views set an inappropriate precedent for the class.

Abbate then told the student that “some opinions are not appropriate, such as racist opinions, sexist opinions.” When he insisted on his rights to free speech, he said Abbate told him he did not have “a right in this class to make homophobic comments.”

She then invited the student to drop the class, telling him, “In this class, homophobic comments, racist comments, will not be tolerated.”

The student said he filed a complaint with the associate dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, Susanne Foster, who referred him to Nancy Snow, the philosophy department chair, but they not only failed to address his complaint, but warned him not to talk to Abbate in a “disrespectful manner.”

The student told The College Fix that his intention in filing the complaint was simply to have Marquette University acknowledge the instructor was wrong to tell him he couldn’t bring up gay "marriage" in her class, and to ensure that students in the future will be allowed to speak freely in similar classroom situations.

The College Fix notes that Nancy Snow co-chaired a task force that resulted in the establishment of MU's Gender and Sexuality Resource Center, which "seeks to bring academic work on gender and sexuality to the attention of a wider student audience than traditional course offerings allow," was the adviser to the Gay-Straight Alliance on campus, and headed several task forces relating to feminist and gender studies.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), an organization that defends free speech and religious liberty at America’s colleges and universities, said Abbate’s alleged behavior toward the student not only violates Marquette’s commitment to free expression as stated in its student handbook, but their “hostility towards Catholic viewpoints is just bizarre.”

"Professors who truly wish to educate should encourage students to voice controversial opinions rather than proclaim from on high that some viewpoints are off-limits," FIRE said in a statement on the situation at MU.

"Students benefit from having their beliefs challenged, being asked to articulate and defend their own views, and being exposed to differing viewpoints. Universities are meant to be “marketplaces of ideas,” where students openly share their own opinions and debate with others,” FIRE said.

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"And Marquette students, in particular, have two reasons to think they’d be able to freely discuss same-sex marriage, regardless of their viewpoint," namely, its student handbook's assertion that "the spirit of inquiry and challenge that the university seeks to encourage will produce many conflicts of ideas, opinions and proposals for action," and Marquette's purportedly Catholic identity as declared in its mission statement

Marquette political science professor John McAdams voiced his concern about the treatment of the student on his non-school-affiliated blog, the Marquette Warrior, where he pointed out that "Abbate, of course, was just using a tactic typical among liberals now. Opinions with which they disagree are not merely wrong, and are not to be argued against on their merits, but are deemed ‘offensive’ and need to be shut up."

McAdams, who indicates that he knows the student, said fighting for his freedom of speech has put the student in a precarious position "among a small minority of Marquette students."

"How many students, especially in politically correct departments like Philosophy, simply stifle their disagreement, or worse yet get indoctrinated into the views of the instructor, since those are the only ideas allowed, and no alternative views are aired?" McAdams asked.

“If Marquette actually cared about ‘leaders concerned for society and the world’ the university would welcome ‘push back’ from students directed toward their professors. That would indicate students are thinking and critically analyzing. It would indicate they are intellectually engaged,” he said. “But that would be highly inconvenient for professors who want to indoctrinate.”

"Like the rest of academia," McAdams stated, "Marquette is less and less a real university. And when gay marriage cannot be discussed, certainly not a Catholic university."

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