A group of leading thinkers, scholars and practitioners have launched a new free speech movement called the “Philadelphia Statement” (thephillystatement.org) that pushes back against the current “cancel culture” that threatens the fundamental principles of free speech upon which our nation was founded.
Professor Robert P. George of Princeton, Aayan Hirsi Ali of the Hoover Institution, Alan Sears and Michael Farris of Alliance Defending Freedom, Rev. Albert Mohler of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. Russell Moore of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and Dr. Carol Swain, a retired professor from Vanderbilt University, are among the initial signatories of the Philadelphia Statement.
Anyone can sign on to the statement.
What is the Statement about? What is it trying to accomplish? In the words of its organizers:
“The Philadelphia Statement affirms the uniquely American commitment to free speech. In today’s ‘cancel culture,’ people and groups of good will are too often demonized or blacklisted simply for expressing their views. This needs to stop. In these turbulent and polarized times, we must recommit to principles of freedom that inspire peaceful coexistence rather than division.
Too often, silence in the face of the current cultural atmosphere is taken as assent to the demonization that takes place on social media and the erosion of civil discourse in general. By obtaining signatures on the Statement, its organizers hope to place a symbolic marker that will be the start of the return to the time when people could disagree without being disagreeable.
“The Philadelphia Statement is much more than a document,” the website explains. “It’s the catalyst for an ongoing, ideologically diverse movement working to build a culture where the open exchange of ideas is universally respected, and where civil discourse is widely practiced throughout our society. Amid increasingly visible threats to these principles, it is encouraging that a growing number of groups and individuals are lending their voice to protect the fundamental value of free speech. The Statement is a clarion call to act on these shared values by prizing free speech and civil discourse, while simultaneously resisting illiberal calls for censorship and blacklisting.”
Vice President and Senior Counsel Jeremy Tedesco of Alliance Defending Freedom is one of the organizers of the Philadelphia Statement. He appeared on Fox News to explain the Statement’s purpose.
“The Philadelphia Statement is a call for all Americans to recommit to free speech, open debate and dialogue, while also committing to a shared future alongside people that we disagree with,” Tedesco said. He noted some of the prominent signatories to the statement. “But what gives real power and energy to a movement like this is when everyday Americans join,” he continued.
Tedesco cited a recent poll by the Cato Institute where 62% of Americans said they are afraid to express their opinions because others may find them offensive. The poll found that majorities of Democrats (52%), independents (59%) and Republicans (77%) felt this way.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the group that felt the safest to express their views are what the poll calls “strong liberals” (58%).
It’s easy to see why the Philadelphia Statement is needed. We need a return to robust but respectful debate in this country. The “cancel culture” itself needs to be canceled in order for that to happen. The Philadelphia Statement is the first step toward realizing that goal.
In addition to signing on to the Statement, you can follow the movement’s developments on Twitter at @thephillystatement.
Photo from The Philly Statement
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