Jones Trumpets Academic Freedom

by Stephen Raymond

U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., criticized the infringement of academic and religious freedoms within collegiate and religious institutions Monday night in an event sponsored by the Duke College Republicans. A small, but enthusiastic crowd of students gathered in a Biological Sciences Building lecture hall to hear Jones speak on key issues in his campaign for re-election.

"The freedom of speech must be returned to academic institutions, churches, synagogues and all other religions so that the future of this country can be secured." Jones said in his short talk.

Jones decried a recent controversy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where a Christian student was labeled a "sexual bigot" by his professor for saying that homosexuality was immoral. Jones said he went to UNC after the incident, talked to the chancellor and took action against the "injustice." Jones said he would have spoken out against the incident regardless of the student's religion.

He also cited the recent ousting of the Alpha Iota Omega Christian fraternity at UNC as one of the many "deplorable" occurrences of faith-based discrimination on university campuses nationwide. Jones said he would fight adamantly for an Academic Bill of Rights that would facilitate dialogue on religious issues among professors and students.

Religious institutions' alleged lack of freedom to profess their political opinions was also among Jones' major talking points. "Church must become more than a social club," he said. "If the preacher wants, he should be allowed to say '[President George W. Bush] will be the man to protect marriage between a man and a woman.'"

Jones cited the work he had done with ministers across the country to advocate churches' freedom of speech on political issues.

"We are not going to have morality unless we return to freedom," said Jones, who is running for re-election in North Carolina's Third Congressional District. He pledged to remove 10 lines from a 1954 amendment to the tax code, which states that churches may not indicate a preference for a political candidate and still keep their tax-exempt status.

Jones ended with a blessing to those in service, both domestically and abroad.

The speech received tremendous approval by the supportive crowd. "Walter Jones is an inspiration. He is a strong Republican and one of the strongest defenders of conservative values in the state. It was an honor to be here with him," said sophomore John Schronce, a member of Duke College Republicans.

Before Jones began his speech, Duke College Republicans members announced the creation of The Walter B. Jones Campus Defender Award, which will be presented each fall to the "politician, protester, or activist who best exemplifies [Jones'] legacy." The organization will announce their first award recipient decision after the election Nov. 2.

The Duke College Republicans said they will continue to focus on working and campaigning in the Durham community, and they will also be hosting a number of campus events over the coming weeks. Representatives from the College Republicans will participate in a debate with members of the Duke Conservative Union, Duke Democrats and Duke for Kerry Wednesday night. The Duke College Republicans will also screen "FahrenHYPE 9/11" Sunday in the McClendon Tower media room.

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