Never underestimate the capacity for secular institutions of higher education to protect religious belief from scrutiny. Columbia University’s radio station invited author Laurie Stone to read her work over the air, but prohibited her from uttering the following line: “Women who live in secular countries and conform to religious dress codes make the lives of all women less free and less safe.”
A student producer told Stone that the line—which comes from her book, My Life as an Animal, Stories—does not reflect “our station’s values and more importantly our university’s values,” according to the National Coalition Against Censorship.
What’s more, the producer described her own actions as a form of censorship. “We can continue this evening with the lines explicitly censored, but there is no wiggle room on the censorship,” she told Stone.
Stone refused, and instead took to Facebook to complain. The radio station didn’t like that:
WKCR’s Arts Department Head, Danielle Fox, then emailed Ms. Stone demanding that she remove the Facebook post on the grounds it contained “personal information” and “harassing comments.” In the Facebook post, Stone claimed Courville treated her like a “antichrist bitch.”
One need not agree with Stone’s opinions to be disturbed about a university refusing to give airtime to a particular view because it might offend a particular religion. Not questioning religious dictates, it seems, is one of Columbia’s “values.” (Keep in mind that this is the same university that once hosted Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.)
The station has since apologized and offered assurances that it remains committed to robust freedom of expression. Offering Stone another chance to read her work would probably be the best way to prove that.