“Freedom is in peril. Defend it with all your might.”
I first heard these words at a summer internship program during college. The speaker explained how this phrase was used as a rallying cry in the United Kingdom during World War II. The state commissioned millions of these and similarly phrased posters to be displayed throughout the country to keep morale high and embolden the British people to stand strong in the face of peril and an impending Nazi invasion.
Fast forward nearly 80 years to the United States of America in 2021. Again, freedom is in peril.
Cancel culture is rampant in schools, on social media, and in corporate America. Instead of posters emboldening the public to “defend freedom with all their might,” we have trigger warnings, speech zones, bias response task forces, and educators being compelled to speak messages that they sincerely believe are harmful to children.
While colleges and universities are confining conservative students to tiny areas of campus to speak, and arresting people for passing out copies of the U.S. Constitution, school boards are stifling the voices of concerned parents, and teachers are being suspended just for participating in public debate about school policies.
On top of all that, the Department of Justice is essentially treating parents as “domestic terrorists” by directing the FBI to investigate them in what seems an attempt to intimidate them into silence.
Yes, all these years after World War II, the threat to freedom continues—even if the source of that threat has changed.
Back then, western governments encouraged their people to stand strong for freedom. Today, even supposedly democratic institutions regard the exercise of freedom as “hateful” or “dangerous” and warn citizens to shut up or get shut down.
What happened to securing liberty as the entire reason that “governments are instituted among men?”
While this drastic shift can be discouraging, the good news is that some people are taking a stand.
One example is in Loudoun County, VA, where three teachers are boldly challenging a radical policy that compels teachers to say things that are untrue and harmful to students.
In August, the school board passed Policy 8040, which requires teachers to use whatever pronouns a student requests, regardless of the student’s biological sex. It also allows students to use bathrooms or join sports teams based on gender identity, not sex. Despite outrage from many in the community in the months leading up to the passage of the policy, the board decided to push its own political and cultural agenda on a captive audience of students.
We have already seen how dangerous this policy is to free speech – when a concerned teacher, Tanner Cross, spoke out against this policy, he was suspended from his position and forced to file a lawsuit to get his job back. (With the help of my organization, Alliance Defending Freedom, Tanner was reinstated while the legal battle continues.) Since then, two more teachers – Monica Gill and Kimberly Wright – have joined the lawsuit in an effort to protect students from harmful policies and preserve the freedom of teachers to live and work according to their beliefs. Their case is currently pending before the Loudoun County Circuit Court.
We live in a country where citizens, from our earliest days, have celebrated and exercised their ability to speak freely and openly in society. Whether you are a teacher, student, parent, or citizen, you have the opportunity, even responsibility, to protect that freedom from peril and defend it with all your might.
The three teachers mentioned are just a few of the many brave ones standing for freedom of speech in a country increasingly determined to silence them. While our government might not be posting signs of encouragement for freedom, we can certainly look to Monica, Kim, and Tanner for this encouragement.
If their freedom is at stake, then yours is too. Freedom is in peril. Defend it with all your might.
Ellie Wittman is a media relations specialist with Alliance Defending Freedom (@ADFLegal).