Mr. Alan E. Sears, Esq.
President, CEO & General Counsel
Alliance Defense Fund
Alan E. Sears - Employment- President, CEO, and General Counsel, Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), founded in 1994, ADF is the nation's largest religious liberty legal alliance, there he has led strategy, training, funding, and litigation initiatives in the national legal battle to defend and protect religious freedom, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family; former executive director, Attorney General's Commission on Pornography, Reagan Administration; former assistant United States attorney; key positions in the Department of Justice and Department of Interior. Works- Co-Author, The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing the Principal Threat to Religious Freedom Today and The ACLU v. America.Education- Graduate, University of Kentucky; J.D., Louis D. Brandeis School of Law; post-graduate education, Harvard Law School, Stanford University, Pepperdine University. Personal- Father of six; married to Paula; they live in Scottsdale, Arizona.
The Legal Battle for Freedom at Our Nation's Universities
Thank you very much, good afternoon, and thank you for the privilege of being with you again here at CNP.
I want to try in this late part of the afternoon to have a little bit of fun with a very serious subject because this is one fight, one area that we can win.
What I want to do is talk about a war, not the one being fought in Iraq or Afghanistan that Senator McCain discussed. I want to talk about another front in the war that all of us who make up the Council for National Policy have been fighting for a long time and will continue to fight, and that is the war for the soul of America.
Ground Zero in today's discussion is on the college campuses and in the courtrooms of our country, and when it comes to this front, I am speaking as a 30‑year veteran on the front lines and as an active member of CNP for 22 years.
As with so many issues, this is a war that is going to determine what tomorrow looks like in America, and unless we act decisively, much of tomorrow isn't going to be very pleasant.
For the 14 years since a group of CNP members launched the Alliance Defense Fund as a unique, one‑of‑a‑kind legal alliance, we have been very busy defending America's first liberty, religious freedom. We have worked with many of you in over 2,000 legal cases. We have stood on the front lines together and won issue after issue and case after case, all thanks be to God, and it is from the experience and perspective of those hard‑fought legal struggles that I report on today's challenge, and as I said, I want to deliver some good news.
Many members of CNP have worked on college and university issues for years, Phyllis Schlafly and Ken Cribb and David Horowitz and Morton Blackwell, just to name a few, and you all know the serious threat posed by the various totalitarian policies on our tax‑funded university campuses, policies which in many cases are being incubated for use in broader segments of our culture.
Today, 13.6 million young Americans are enrolled in our public universities. About 75 percent of all U.S. college students are on tax‑funded campuses, and these students, for better or worse, will greatly shape the world our children and grandchildren are going to live in, and many of them are being systematically cut off from campus presentation of conservative thought or of traditional Judeo‑Christian beliefs.
ADF and its allies have represented groups ranging from the Fellowship of Christian Athletes to the College Republicans in legal battles fought over their very survival on a campus, and of course, the attacks on these ministries are being funded in great part with your and my tax dollars.
What are the leading campus censorship tactics? How are these schools driving away conservative and Judeo‑Christian thought from the campuses? First, they discriminate against Christian and conservative students, clubs, and ministries in denying them equal access to campus meeting spaces and the facilities that other groups enjoy.
Second, they marginalize politically incorrect speakers and displays by restricting them to so‑called speech zones located off in the middle of nowhere in remote, less visible areas of the campus. Such speech zone requirements are ignored for leftist speakers or demonstrations.
Third, they illegally deny conservative and Christian groups equality in accessing student fees. These aren't the tax dollars. These are dollars that we as parents and students fund, and this disproportionately benefits countless leftist causes and agendas by the tens of millions of dollars a year.
Fourthly, they censor politically incorrect speech by enforcing restrictive speech codes, codes which selectively suppress conservative or Christian ideas.
Fifth, they coerce Christian ministries, ones that many of you know well and may support, like InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Christian Legal Society, with so‑called "nondiscrimination policies." These policies require Christian ministries to allow non‑Christians to occupy leadership positions, and of course, if this rule were equally applied, you would have Democrats heading up the Young Republicans. You would have Evangelical Christians heading up the Lesbian Avengers, and the absurdity and the inequality of these rules is clear.
Last, they violate the conscience and the constitutional rights of countless Christian students by mandating assignments that violate their core beliefs.
These are the kinds of policies that are in effect this afternoon on at least 230 tax‑funded university campuses, and every day, these unconstitutional restrictions shape the message being drilled into the minds and hearts of the next generation and prevent effective rebuttal.
Now, some of you are probably saying about this point, "Alan, I know all about those schools, the Left Coast, Berkeley, Harvard, the liberal northeast establishment." Well, I'd say let's try again. Try Georgia Tech, the University of Alabama, the University of Houston, the University of Texas, not to pick on Paul Pressler's place, or even Missouri State University, to name a few.
I think we have a screen somewhere, and I want to show you a picture of a young lady. This is Emily Brooker. Five years ago, Emily enrolled at Missouri State where her love and concern for others led her to major in social work. Like most of her young peers, Emily wasn't prepared for the sometimes harsh realities of life in today's academic realms or for the daily indoctrination.
Emily really didn't know what to do when in her first semester, her teacher gave her class an outrageous assignment. Emily and her fellow students were told to go out, engage in homosexual behavior in public, and then write for a grade about that experience.
Now, Emily was stunned. Her next big grade in a class toward her major hinged on her ability to act out sexual acts and then put that pretext into words. Her other classmates were going along and doing the assignment, and she pondered maybe it was best just to go along to get along, do what you have to do, but Emily didn't want to do it. She just couldn't bring herself to feign lesbian behavior.
So, instead, she turned the assignment into a creative writing assignment. She made up an experience. She made up the reactions of the people who watched her and turned in a report. She got a grade, and the professor was none the wiser, but the whole thing left her feeling embarrassed and ashamed. Her compromise hurt her conscience. She wished she had been a lot braver about her faith.
Then in the fall of her senior year came another unbelievable assignment. This time, the professor ordered Emily's class to become lobbyists, to write letters to the Missouri legislature encouraging lawmakers to legalize adoption by same‑sex couples. The assignment like the play‑acting one before ran very hard against Emily's conscience, but this time there would not be compromise, because this time Emily said no. She declined to do it, and she respectfully asked her teacher for an alternative assignment. Her request, to say the least, was not well received.
Emily's professor stormed out of the classroom and filed the stiffest level charge a faculty member can make against a student. This level of grievance means a student has to appear alone, no parents, no lawyers, before a departmental ethics committee, and if that committee agreed with their fellow professor's accusation, Emily knew they could do a lot more than give her a bad grade or even flunk her out of the class. They could withhold her diploma and keep her from graduating, just like that. Her four years of effort would be meaningless.
This short video clip, about three minutes, features David French, Director of the Alliance Defense Fund, Center for Academic Freedom. It tells a little more of Emily's story.
[Video clip presentation begins.]
MR. [David] FRENCH: Our institutions of higher education have to be very far gone before you can even have a case like Emily Brooker's. Emily Brooker's case occurred because we have an ideological monoculture on campus that says there is one idea that is the truth and says that not only can your alternative idea not be heard, but you are going to have to vocalize the Left's positions to receive a degree.
It's hard to get more un‑American than that.
DR. [Debra] McDOWELL: John Q. Public really isn't aware of some of these manipulations and issues that go on, but in most cases in universities, what they are wanting to do is to move you to a higher level of understanding and to develop you and make you more enlightened, and a lot of times, they want you to just leave your belief system at the door.
STUDENT [Emily] BROOKER: I walked into my Policy II class, fall semester of my senior year, and I get handed an assignment to be an advocate for homosexual foster parenting and adoption, and my heart just sunk because I was like, oh, my gosh, I can't do this, how am I going to get through this class without compromising my beliefs.
MS. [Gayle] BROOKER: When Emily came home and told us about the assignment to support homosexual adoption, we were floored. We knew this was not correct.
MR. FRENCH: The President of the United States cannot come into her classroom and say, "You have to advocate in favor of my policies." He can't do that. A citizen of this country can say, "Respectfully, Mr. President, I decline to do that."
What makes a social work professor believe they have more power than the President?
When Emily Brooker was brought into what I call her "star chamber hearing," she was sitting alone surrounded by a series of professors who asked her unbelievably intrusive questions.
STUDENT [Emily] BROOKER: So I walked in there, me and seven professors sitting at the table in front of me, and went through about two and a half hours of questioning about my faith, questions like do you think homosexuals are sinners, are you a sinner, what about us, and what's the difference, and tough questions, very intimidating, and this went on for hours.
MS. [Gayle] BROOKER: The sense at that point, I felt that I was there allowing someone to question my daughter's beliefs. As we found out later when we met with David French of the Alliance Defense Fund, that was the reason why, because people in our nation need to know that these kinds of things are going on in college classrooms everywhere.
MR. FRENCH: We want to give Christian students and professors the opportunity, the ability to take the road less traveled, to be the voice of opposition and dissent to so many of the leftist policies that dominate our campuses and increasingly our culture.
The Center for Academic Freedom, quite simply, exists to give people a chance, to give them their voice back, and allow them to influence the culture, allow those individuals and those students who are in the trenches every day to change our nation.
[Video clip presentation ends.]
MR. SEARS: Emily's case, Emily's story is far from an isolated event. As was said in the video, hundreds of tax‑funded universities have these policies in effect today that silence meaningful disagreement, coerce and compel students to conform or else, and the Alliance Defense Fund is determined to have these illegal policies thrown out, and thanks be to God, we have been highly successful in doing so.
We have now trained, as you heard in my introduction, nearly 1,100 allied lawyers nationwide to help in these and other critical legal battles, and you have been given a little handout, a map that has on the back side a list of some of the cases and a legend describing what I talked about, the six different ways or several of the ways of discrimination, some of our successes.
And you may have wondered, after what was inflicted on Emily by Missouri State, why was she smiling all the way through this video clip. She was smiling because she knows the rest of the story. She was smiling because she called for help, and those Missouri State professors never knew what hit them.
Our lawyers sued MSU, and faster than you can spell "GPA," things there changed dramatically. MSU administrators quickly learned that the Alliance Defense Fund legal team representing Emily with our allied lawyers had already successfully sued 30 other major colleges and universities.
And MSU really had no interest in being number 31. So the school offered to settle with Emily, and it landed on its own Social Work Department like the Marines at Iwo Jima. The professor who filed the complaint was placed on academic leave, pending an outside investigation. Do you like that? And that investigation brought back a scathing report, calling the Social Work Department "toxic," a toxic environment where professors enjoyed bullying their conservative students, particularly those with deeply held religious beliefs, and the independent report said that things were so bad that the university might need to disband the entire department and rebuild it from scratch.
And it gets better. That's not all. Missouri State completely exonerated Emily. They removed the grievance from her record. They restored her to full academic standing. They offered to pay for two years of graduate school for her to get a master's at any Missouri State university. Do you like this? And one State of the Missouri legislature passed the Emily Brooker Intellectual Diversity Act which calls for genuine institutional self‑examination at colleges throughout that State. So we are very thankful for that.
And Emily's precedent is now impacting other colleges across America, prompting them to reconsider the ways in which they are bullying their own students. Now, that is what I would like to call a happy ending, but it is really a happy beginning. These early victories are what we would like to call an opening round. We have got a lot more to do.
For example, just one Federal lawsuit since this was printed settled last month against San Francisco State University is going to rewrite the unconstitutional speech code policy at all 23 California State universities affecting the life and liberty of 450,000 students at those campuses. We are very thankful for that.
This next slide is a map that shows the location of the next 20 public universities whose unconstitutional policies we would like to target.
So you may want to ask what is holding us back from moving forward to these other top schools, and there is really only one thing, and that is why I asked to speak today. We need qualified students, our ministries, our organizations who are willing to become plaintiffs, students like Emily Brooker.
Look at Emily's face again. There are a lot of great young people like Emily Brooker. Many are here at the CNP Youth Council, many in the Federalist Society, in campus clubs, in ministries. There are many great young men and women who are willing to stand up and fight for the deepest beliefs of the American soul and willing to stand for the truths that built this nation and civilized our world, and they are a great part of why we are winning. But if the affected students don't know of us and of this effort and we don't know of them, there is very little we can do to help each other.
So today, I would like to invite you, your organizations, your ministries to join this effort. Over the next decade through litigation and other legal activity, these tax‑funded campus censorship tactics can be eliminated.
One of the things I was talking to people about earlier today, even judges appointed by Presidents with a different philosophy than that of our first speaker this afternoon, but even some of the most liberal judges in America can get it and see that this is unconstitutional. But no matter how much we work at this, we can't do it alone.
Some of you here in this room have already been a crucial part of cases we have won, and many more of you are in unique positions to help this project for academic freedom to proceed. We need your help to find the Emily Brookers and the other students who will take a stand. We need your help to connect us with the clubs and the ministries that are willing to fight to actually protect their own future.
So I would ask you this afternoon, please help connect our litigators with your students, with your efforts and your campus contacts. Let's strategically, wisely bring legal challenges to the unconstitutional policies used by the Left to suppress Christian and conservative ideas on campus because together we can win this. We can achieve victory, and victory for our effort is a public university environment that reflects a true marketplace of ideas where Christian students and faculty enjoy the freedom to live out and share their faith without fear of censorship, reprisal, or punishment.
So, together we can defend and we can win the right for all Americans to hear and speak the truth on our tax‑funded university campuses, and by doing that, we will, in fact, help shape what tomorrow looks like in America for the sake of our children and grandchildren.
So thank you for your time. God bless you.
I am told I can answer a question or two. ATTENDEE: Alan, looking at this map, one gets the impression that you don't lose any cases. If so, that is a very enviable record. If not, could you tell us about some of the more outrageous ones you have lost?
MR. SEARS: Well, I actually will tell you this. The theme verse of our ministry is John 15:5, which says we are the vine, He is the branch, and without Him, we can do nothing. So we give all credit for all our success to God. Have to do that.
But the miracle story is right now on the merits, we have not lost a case, and that is a miracle.
You know, we have had a lot of ugly rounds, and we have lost at different places, and fights over amounts of damages and things haven't all gone our way, but on the merits, it is 100 percent. And the reason that I think this is so is because the other side has so far overreached. They have just absolutely done this.
Like at the University of Houston. The Pro‑Life Cougars came to town working with the students on the campus, and they wanted to put up a display to tell the other side of the story of the pro‑life movement. They wanted to have Planned Parenthood at a large booth in a central corridor, large amount of traffic, large visible booth. They told the Pro‑Life Cougars under the speech zone that they could go off to the north 40. I think it was close to Dallas somewhere, and if any students found them at all, that would be great.
And in that case, Ben Ball litigated, and Ben, I believe you were successful not only to win, but wasn't there something like $100,000 in attorney fees that were awarded?
And actually, then this began to crop up at other colleges and universities in the State of Texas, and the Attorney General's office there entered into kind of a broad agreement on behalf of the other schools to try to stop this kind of activity.
What we have found is with the overreaching, many times the public officials who are charged to defend them don't even know what is going on on those campuses, and some of the Attorneys General are very alarmed when they get called on to do it.
Of course, as I said, this is all being funded with your tax dollars. These schools go out and hire the most expensive law firm in town and say fight them, fight them, and fight them. So it really is kind of an amazing thing.
ATTENDEE: Alan, when you win these cases, is the fact that they get Federal dollars part of the reason you can win, so that if there is a college that does not get any government money ‑‑
MR. SEARS: Yeah. The fight that we are dealing with here is a publicly funded institution where the Constitution applies, the First Amendment applies. There are certainly arguments about the privately funded schools, but to be blunt with you, there is so much. I guess it would be like if you are trying to draw targets for a bombing map, it is such a rich target zone to look at the publicly funded that we don't even want to talk about the privately funded ones with our resources at this time, and of course, different arguments.
ATTENDEE: Just hypothetically, though, for those of us on our side of the aisle who are starting colleges or who are running colleges, when you are setting up a school, if you set it up from the very beginning to receive no government money, then you are protected against this kind of suit from the other side. Correct?
MR. SEARS: A couple of things, and I can't give legal advice, of course. Disclaimer, disclaimer, disclaimer, bar association rules, but a couple of things. First of all, you might want to talk to the folks at Hillsdale and Grove City about how effectively they have done such a good job through the years.
Secondly, if you are going to be a religious organization, overtly be one. One of the great problems we are seeing with a lot of people that want to have it both ways is if you don't have clear statements of faith and clear requirements for faculty and so forth in alignment with that faith, then you are going to see some problems down the road.
A lot of Christian schools and others are now having terrible conflicts when people with opposing philosophies and very destructive philosophies are now wanting to come under those campuses, and they have never adopted a statement of faith. They said, "Well, we believe what the Bible believes." Okay. Well, let's let a Federal judge decide that for you.
So these are the kinds of things that we suggest. If you want to call some lawyers who can give legal advice under the property circumstance, we would be glad to try to help or direct you to those who have expertise.
ATTENDEE: To pursue that a minute further, what about the various so‑called "Catholic universities" who are doing the very same sort of thing? Can you approach them in the way that you have approached the, quote, "tax‑funded ones"?
MR. SEARS: Well, again, target‑rich environment, of course, one of the issues there is the whole mandatum issue, have the professors filed, have they signed a contract where they agree to adhere to the teachings of that church or the faith statement of that school or university.
As I said, we haven't even begun to touch the private realm because of the gross overstatement of what is being done with our tax dollars, but one of the things that I found is very effective with the private colleges and universities, especially those that purport to be faith‑based, is publicity, and alumni have had great influence.
Just for an example of a publicly funded school, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Rutgers in New Jersey was told they had to adhere to the nondiscrimination policy. They had to let non‑Christians be eligible to lead the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. This causes conflict for various reasons that some of you might want to talk to me about later if you don't understand, but the alumni went nuts when they heard about this.
Actually, one of the members of the board of visitors resigned. A long‑term board member resigned because of this outrage when he couldn't get his fellow board to do it, and that probably helped move that case forward as much as anything we did in court.
So alumni, publicity, and then the giving. Some of you may have followed what happened with William and Mary recently where the president of the school decided they had to remove the little cross out of the chapel, and I can't remember. Was it a $30‑million gift that was withdrawn? And to make a long story short, we now have a new president at the College of William and Mary.
ATTENDEE: Alan, it is not just a problem with these kind of off‑the‑wall professors. Tell us a little bit about what we see going on with opposing student groups and how that leads to problems on the public school campuses.
MR. SEARS: Give me a little broader area.
ATTENDEE: For example, so many of these cases I understand start with a student bar action against their own colleagues.
MR. SEARS: Oh. Well, you know, one of the things, Sam Casey, of course, is head of the Christian Legal Society, a great ally and friend, and actually has been a plaintiff in some of these cases, like at Southern Illinois where the Christian Legal Society was brought forward on ‑‑ I don't know ‑‑ "charges." We use that term. I don't know what the actual language would be, but they charged the Christian Legal Society with all sorts of gross and egregious violations of various codes because Christian Legal Society did require their officers to do things like believe in Jesus Christ, to believe that the scripture was authoritative, and to believe that there were certain standards of behavior that people in an organization should follow. This was alleged to violate various campus policies.
Now, the interesting thing about that case is that was finally won at the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Now, the University of Wisconsin is in the Seventh Circuit. We have now sued them five times, twice to the U.S. Supreme Court and back. Have we lost any of those yet? I think we have won them all now. I think all of them are done. Five times, the same university with various ways to discriminate against students, and yes, starting with student governments.
One of my favorite cases involved the University of Virginia where the president of the group that decided the funding, the funding among student groups with the student fee, the private dollars, was asked to explain why they funded the Muslim group, why they funded various groups of environmentalists and others, but would not fund the Christian Club that wanted to publish a newspaper called Wide Awake.
The president of that group said to a reporter on the record, "Well, you see, all those other groups are part of the culture, but Christianity is not a part of the culture." That was I think Footnote 24 in a brief to the United States Supreme Court where that case was decided 5 to 4 in favor of the Christian students, and the funding was ordered to be allocated on an equal access basis.
So this is one, as I said when I started, we have a little fun with. It is beyond ‑‑ I can't even ‑‑ my wife won't let me use the language to describe some of the things that are being funded on these campuses, and when they are exposed to the error and when we have students who will stand, we can make a difference.
So, please help align our lawyers with your students, and let's see what a difference we can make. I would like to come back here in a few years and talk about instead of 32, 34 wins, let's talk about 230 wins.
Thank you all very much.
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