When I climb out of my automobile at the Yale University lot, I usually walk past a car with a bumper adorned with a fish-shaped symbol. But this is not the traditional Christian symbol for Christ. The creature—much like the recently discovered Tiktaalik—has peculiar little legs. Its graceful lines encompass not the Greek letters exalting Christ as Savior but the English letters D-A-R-W-I-N. The meaning could hardly be clearer: Blind chance, not God, rules.

Offended and angered by it, some days wounded by it, I have learned, as have other Christians, to pray for the owner and walk on. Even if I had the desire to stop this daily mockery of my faith, I would be held back by the quaint idea known as the First Amendment.

Silly me!

I have forgotten, it seems, that we live in an era in which nobody's feelings are supposed to be hurt. Speech that people find offensive grows increasingly restricted—especially in the world of education. Consider the cartoons purportedly mocking Muhammad. I say "purportedly" because I have seen the cartoons, and it seems to me that they mock some of those who speak for Islam far more than they mock Islam itself. But suppose they did, indeed, mock the faith of 1.3 billion Muslims. I still would not have imagined the response in the name of sensitivity on some American college campuses.

Some students reported being forced to remove the cartoons from their doors. The editor of a University of Illinois campus paper was fired for publishing them. A university official helpfully explained that it is possible to debate the issues surrounding the cartoons without publishing them. This is true. An Ivy League professor also once published an article attacking a book he had never read. When I asked ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Civil Reactions
Stephen Carter is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Yale University. He is the author of The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln (2012), The Violence of Peace, The Emperor of Ocean Park, and many other books. His column, "Civil Reactions," ran from 2001 until 2007.
Previous Civil Reactions Columns:

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.