The faculty senate of Samford University — not Reed, or Oberlin, or some other godless Yankee college, but a Baptist college in Alabama — is refusing to recognize a new chapter of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) because language in its 1960s-era founding charter could be triggering to communists.
No, really. Look:
[YAF organizer Karalee] Geis received an email from a Samford official who expanded upon the specific reasons the application was denied. ““We are looking for the YAF student group to amend or justify the inflammatory language listed in their Purpose,” the email said. “This is the direct statement from the Sharon Statement that, though likely appropriate in 1960, does not hold the same in 2016.”
Phillip Poole, Samford’s Executive Director of Communications, told Yellowhammer that members of the faculty were concerned with “inflammatory language” and wanted to work with students to make the process work next semester. He noted that the same process applied to YAF is the same standard protocol applied to every campus organization.
“Concerns were expressed by some faculty members regarding what they perceived to be inflammatory language in the YAF statement of purpose regarding Communism and Communists,” Poole said in a statement. “Faculty members were seeking to confirm that opposition to a political ideology would be accomplished in a manner that respects the worth of each individual, as stated within the university’s Code of Values. The members of the committee indicated their willingness to further explore these issues with students during their next scheduled meeting in the spring semester.”
YAF was founded in the 1960 by William F. Buckley and 100 young conservatives who gathered at his home. You might recall that in 1960, there was this entity called the Soviet Union, which held the peoples of Eastern Europe in imperial bondage. It had the year before, with the Cuban Revolution, established a beachhead 90 miles off the US mainland. Two years later, the Soviet Union would attempt to place nuclear missiles on that island. So, that was a thing that happened. Now, here’s the language from the Sharon Statement that caused members of the faculty senate to take to their fainting couch:
That we will be free only so long as the national sovereignty of the United States is secure; that history shows periods of freedom are rare, and can exist only when free citizens concertedly defend their rights against all enemies;
That the forces of international Communism are, at present, the greatest single threat to these liberties;
That the United States should stress victory over, rather than coexistence with, this menace; and
That American foreign policy must be judged by this criterion: does it serve the just interests of the United States?
The existence of these lines in this 56-year-old statement from an organization founded in the Cold War is a reason why the faculty senate of Samford University will not allow YAF to establish itself on campus. A campus that is not in San Francisco, or in Boston, or a Prius-driving cultural precinct inhabited by scholars who consider NPR’s Terry Gross to be a latter-day Pasionaría … but in Birmingham, Alabama.
What’s up next for Samford? The disbandment of patriotic student groups because the Declaration of Independence might hurt the feelings of British exchange students? The banning of Christian student groups because of these words, spoken by Christianity’s founder and recorded in its foundational document — Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? — are too unkind to Pharisees?
It’s worth pointing out to the faculty senate of this Baptist university that the Soviet Union alone mercilessly persecuted Christians, murdering millions of them, and sending countless others — including Baptists — to the gulags because of their faith. In Romania, which was seized by communists near the end of the Second World War, the Marxist government went on a savage campaign of torture against Christians. One of those imprisoned and tortured was the late Father Gheorghe Calciu, an Orthodox priest. He recalled that time many years later, in his American exile:
They wanted to break the people, the whole country. Romania was not a primitive country. We were connected to European culture.
We believed in Christian values. Therefore, they wanted to do this special experiment with the young people, to create a gap between the children and the older generation, to make this generation of students a communist one. They wanted to build a new world – a communist world; a new man—the communist man and so on. Se the arrested the young people – the students – and put them in a special prison for this very experiment.
They took very distinct steps. The first was to destroy the personality of the youth. For example, the guards would come together with a group of young prisoners who had converted to communism in a cell where there were perhaps twenty young students and try to intimidate them. They would beat without mercy. They could even kill somebody. Generally they would kill one of them – the one who opposed them the most; the most important one. Generally he was a leader. They would beat him and even kill him. Thus, the terror began.
After that, they began to “unmask.” They wanted to force you to say: “I lied when I said, ‘I believe in God.’ I lied when I said, ‘I love my mother and my father.’ I lied when I said, ‘I love my country.’” So everyone was to deny every principle, every feeling he had. That is what it means to be “unmasked.” It was done in order to prove that we were the products of the bourgeois, and the bourgeois are the liars. We lie when we say we are virgin, we are Christian, and when we try and preserve our bodies for marriage.
They tried to say I was a prostitute, a young man that had connections with the all the girls. We would be tortured until we denied everything we believed before. So, that is what it means to be “unmasked.” It was done in order to prove that Christian principles we not principles, that we lied when we said we loved Jesus Christ, we loved God, mother, father, and so on. It was to show that I lied when I said that I was a chaste man, when I held the ideal of nation and family. Everything had to be done to destroy out souls! This is the second step
After this came a declaration against everybody who was in touch with us, everybody who believed as we believed. I was to make a declaration against everybody who knew about my organization or my actions, to denounce everybody—even father, mother, sister. We were to sever completely any Christian connection and moral people.
The final step was to affirm that we had given up all the principles of our faith and any connection we had with it. With this we began to be “the new man,” “the communist man,” ready to torture, to embrace communism, to denounce everybody, ready to give information, and ready to blaspheme against God. This is the most difficult part, for under terror and torture one can say, “Yes, yes, yes.” But now, to have to act? It was very difficult.
It was during this third part that many of us tried to kill ourselves.
The memory of the people who did this to the Christians of Romania (and other dissenters from communism) are the people whose sensitivities the Samford faculty senate wishes to protect. What a complete moral disgrace those professors are. The university community ought to be ashamed of them.
A triggered Samford alumnus who reads this blog sent me this story today, and forwarded this letter he sent to the Samford official quoted in the story. I edited it to protect his privacy:
I’m a Samford graduate (’90) and my wife ([name], ’02) is a Cumberland grad. I’m saddened to see that liberal faculty members are now running the ship. Please remove my wife and I from your communications list until further notice. I’m hopeful that we can eventually add Samford back to the list of schools our children will visit. I trust you will take the necessary steps between now and then to restore our faith in the University and what it stands (or stood) for.