The trend of illiberal liberals shutting down open debate is similar to certain forms of religious zealotry, a diverse set of panelists argued.
Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore compared liberals' growing intolerance toward religious views on college campuses to certain fundamentalist Christians' dissent of heretics. Though representing diverse political and theological viewpoints, the other panelists made similar arguments.
The Tuesday afternoon panel, Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, liberal pundit Kirsten Powers and atheist Pitzer College sociology professor Phil Zuckerman, was hosted by Georgetown University's Religious Freedom Project at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs. Religious Freedom Project Associate Director Timothy Shah moderated.
The discussion was inspired by Powers' new book The Silencing: How the Left is Killing Free Speech. In the book, she lists the numerous examples of how liberal colleges across America are punishing people, even some fellow liberals, for dissenting from certain liberal viewpoints on issues like gay marriage, abortion, Islam and others by, for instance, taking away honorary degrees or uninviting scheduled guest speakers for things they have said.
In explaining the purpose behind her book, Powers, who previously worked for the Clinton administration and now serves as a contributor to USA Today and Fox News, stated that colleges are attempting to silence opposing viewpoints on certain social issues in an attempt to avoid having to debate these viewpoints.
"Even though my book isn't explicitly about religious freedom, there is a crossover because a lot of the issues that have to be off limits [or] silenced, are beliefs that tend to be held by religious people," Powers, who recently converted to Catholicism, stated. "It usually involves same-sex marriage, or it involves abortion and these views are treated as if they are actual attacks. When someone expresses one of these views, they have somehow created harm or committed an act of violence by expressing a view that other people don't want to have to discuss on campus."
As a professor at a liberal arts college in a liberal town in a liberal state, Zuckerman agreed with Powers assertion that colleges' attempts to silence opposing viewpoints is becoming a dangerous trend and threatens the liberal principle of free thinking.