Kelly defends freedom of speech on college campuses in subcommittee hearing

U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) spoke out during a recent subcommittee hearing into reports that free speech and the open exchange of ideas have been limited at colleges across the country.

The House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight, chaired by U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL), recently held a hearing entitled “Protecting the Free Exchange of Ideas on College Campuses” that looked into reports that the free speech rights of radical student activists from both sides of the political spectrum have been quelled.

“I think it is absolutely chilling that we have to have this kind of a hearing to expose what’s going on,” Kelly, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, said. “And I think, when I look back on my college days, that if we ever were suppressed or not able to express the way we felt, you would have to go to the very depths of who it is we are as a people.”

A Georgetown University law student named Alexander Atkins and a Princeton University student named Joshua Zuckerman testified at the hearing about their respective universities limiting their speech in the name of their universities’ tax-exempt status.

“Isn’t it stunning that you have to come, Mr. Zuckerman and Mr. Atkins, to Congress?” Kelly said. “Your right to free speech — whether I agree with what you say or whether I don’t agree with what you say — that is the beauty of who we are as Americans. That goes to the very fabric of what this country was founded on, and especially in our universities. You should never ever feel that you don’t have the ability to do this and to speak out, especially on a university campus, especially in the United States of America.”

Kelly noted that freedom of speech is enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

“But what (Zuckerman and Atkins) had to go through is absolutely ridiculous,” Kelly said. “And I don’t care what college it is, private or public; all these folks are influenced in some way or another by the tax code. So I don’t want anybody to ever be confused about why we would hold this today. If not, ask who? Who would hear you? Who would stand up for you? Who would defend you in the public place?”

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