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Sen. Cruz: ‘Truth is Far More Powerful Than Force’

Participates in hearing emphasizing the importance of upholding the First Amendment on college campuses

June 20, 2017

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and chairman of the Subcommittee on The Constitution, participated in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today titled “Free Speech 101: The Assault on the First Amendment on College Campuses.” The hearing emphasized the importance of upholding the First Amendment in light of the escalating censorship of speech on college campuses across the country.

Seven witnesses testified at the hearing, including Zachary R. Wood, Student, Williams College; Frederick M. Lawrence, Secretary and CEO Phi Beta Kappa Society; Isaac Smith, Student, University of Cincinnati College of Law, Graduate of Ohio University; Dr. Fanta Aw, Interim Vice President of Campus Life, American University; Professor Eugene Volokh, Gary T. Schwartz Distinguished Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law; Richard Cohen, President, Southern Poverty Law Center; Floyd Abrams, Senior Counsel, Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP. 

Watch Sen. Cruz’s opening statement here and read the full text of his opening remarks below:

“Thank you Mr. Chairman and thank you for holding this very important hearing. Free speech matters. Diversity matters. Diversity of people’s backgrounds, but also diversity of thought. Diversity of ideas. Universities are meant to be a challenging environment for young people to encounter ideas they’ve never seen, they’ve never imagined, and that they might passionately disagree with. If universities become homogenizing institutions that are focused on inculcating and indoctrinating, rather than challenging, we will lose what makes universities great.

“The First Amendment is not about opinions you agree with. It’s not about opinions that are right and reasonable. The First Amendment is about opinions that you passionately disagree with and the right of others to express them. It’s tragic, what is happening at so many American universities where college administrators and faculties have become complicit in functioning essentially as speech police, deciding what speech is permissible and what speech isn’t. You see violent protests the senior Senator from California referred to. In acting effectively, a heckler's veto, where violent thugs come in and say, ‘This particular speaker I disagree what he or she has to say and therefore I will threaten physical violence if the speech is allowed to happen.’ And far too many colleges and universities quietly roll over and say, ‘Okay, with the threat of violence, we will effectively reward the violent criminals and muzzle the First Amendment.’

“I saw a recent study from the Knight Foundation that said a majority of college students believe the climate on their campus has prevented people from saying what they believe out of fear of giving offense. What an indictment of our university system. And what does it say about what you think about your own ideas? If ideas are strong, if ideas are right, you don’t need to muzzle the opposition. You should welcome the opposition. When you see college faculties and administers being complicit or active players in silencing those with opposing views, what they are saying is they are afraid. They are afraid that their ideas cannot stand the dialectic, cannot stand opposition, cannot stand facts or reasoning or anything on the other side, and it is only through force and power that their ideas can be accepted.

 “I am one who agrees with John Stewart Mill – the best solution for bad ideas, for bad speech, is more speech and better ideas. Are there people with obnoxious ideas in the world? Absolutely. The Nazis are grotesque, and repulsive, and evil. And under out constitution they have a right to speak and the rest of us have a moral obligation to denounce what they say. The Ku Klux Klan are a bunch of racist, bigoted thugs, who have a right to express their views. And we have an obligation then to confront those views which are weak, poisonous, and wrong, and confront them with truth. We don’t need to use brute force to silence them because truth is far more powerful than force. This is an important hearing. I thank the witnesses for being here and I thank the chairman for hosting.”

  

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