More than 11,000 scholars of a conservative or academic bent and other intellectual leaders have signed the Philadelphia Statement on the Strengthening of Liberal Democracy.

It is a much-needed statement in response to the prevalent cancel culture that is threatening the bedrock American right of free speech.

Signers include Princeton’s Robert George, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, scholar Wilfred McClay, retired Philly Archbishop Charles Chaput, Religious Freedom Institute’s Tom Farr, Christina Hoff Sommers, Mary Ebserstadt, and Nina Shea.

The statement is named after Philadelphia, a city that “calls to mind the timeless principle of free speech enshrined in the Constitution” and which is under attack today.  

Please read the entire statement. Here is a nugget to get you started:

The American tradition of freedom of expression, complete with its attendant responsibilities, is our school for democratic citizenship. It trains us to think critically, to defend our ideas, and, at the same time, to be considerate of others whose creeds and convictions differ from our own. It enables us to learn from, and peacefully live with, one another despite differences. It further instills in us an understanding that the mere exposure to ideas we find offensive is not an act of “violence.” And it admonishes us that if we value the freedom of expression, we must extend the same measure of freedom to others, even to those whom we believe have gone very wrong in their thinking.

Tragically, we are losing these defining features of our democracy. Common decency and free speech are being dismantled through the stigmatizing practice of blacklisting ideological opponents, which has taken on the conspicuous form of “hate” labeling. Responsible organizations are castigated as “hate groups.” Honest people of good faith are branded “hate agents.” Even mainstream ideas are marginalized as “hate speech.” This threatens our ability to listen, discuss, debate, and grow.

Blacklisting is spreading. Corporations are enacting “hate-speech” policies to protect people from “wrong” and “harmful” content. Similarly, colleges and universities are imposing speech regulations to make students “safe,” not from physical harm, but from challenges to campus orthodoxy. These policies and regulations assume that we as citizens are unable to think for ourselves and to make independent judgments. Instead of teaching us to engage, they foster conformism (“groupthink”) and train us to respond to intellectual challenges with one or another form of censorship.

Humanity has repeatedly tried expunging undesirable beliefs and ideas. What self-appointed speech arbiters, whether in the majority or in the minority, fail to grasp is that they will likely eventually become the targets. The winds inevitably shift, sometimes rapidly. The question is whether civility norms and free-speech safeguards will remain in place to protect them, or whether they will become victims of the dangerous precedents they themselves have established and advanced.

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