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Sunday, January 21, 2018

Complicated and Uncomplicated Religious Universities

In a previous post on speech issues at religiously affiliated universities, I made a distinction between uncomplicated and complicated religiously affiliated universities.  Uncomplicated universities have institutional policies that subordinate speech to its religious mission, while complicated religious universities try to accommodate speech values and that mission in complex ways.

I do want to emphasize that, in making this distinction, I didn’t mean to say that free expression is a different category of value than “religious” values, although the post could be read that way.  (I invoke the infrequent blogger’s privilege to fire off some late-night distinctions that need a bit of refinement!)

The complicated-uncomplicated distinction is maybe better stated as a distinction between (1) universities that lexically rank a privileged set of religious mission values over respect for expression when these two values come into perceived conflict, thereby taking an uncomplicated view of speech’s role in its institutional culture and (2) religious universities that either (a) respect freedom of expression as a side-constraint on the promotion of its institutional mission or (b)  otherwise treat expression as one of a plurality of mission-based values that have a roughly coequal ranking, thereby taking a richer or more complicated view of the value of expression in its institutional culture.

This latter type of religiously affiliated institution includes schools where the status of speech in relation to other mission values is internally contested, leading to speech and expression policies that make equally strong commitments to speech and competing mission-based values without specifying how to accommodate these values when they come into perceived conflict.  At past junctures in its institutional history, my own university fit into this category.

But this category can also include religiously affiliated schools that incorporate speech protections into their mission through crisp speech-protective policies.  One stab at the latter type of policy by a religiously affiliated university is in fact my own school’s new speech policy, properly interpreted, which I’ll talk about in the next post.

Posted by Mark Moller on January 21, 2018 at 01:36 PM | Permalink

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