This week, following John Brown University’s attempt to keep the truth about communism hidden from their students—a story broken exclusively by YAF—Young America’s Foundation sent a letter to JBU outlining how the school is stifling the free exchange of ideas on campus.

Administrators at John Brown University had incorrectly deemed posters, distributed to YAF activists around the country for our annual Freedom Week activism initiative, as “political” speech in their decision to ban their display on campus. JBU’s definition of “political” has no basis in law and is apparently designed to censor ideas unpopular with its faculty.

YAF’s letter, sent to JBU President Dr. Charles Pollard, addressed the school’s decision as well as feeble attempts by JBU faculty to defend their employer’s erroneous decision:

“After YAF posted an article calling attention to JBU’s decision, Professor of Politics Daniel Bennett doubled down on Twitter that YAF’s posters were ‘political.’ Julie Gumm, Director of University Marketing & Communications, contacted YAF to ‘clarify’ but also insisted the posters were ‘political’ after ‘examining the message of the posters on its own merits.’ YAF understands that JBU is a private university entitled to set its own requirements on content posted on its property, however, the justification for denying these posters set forth by your employees is so far above the legal standard around political advertising that it certainly implies that JBU is actively stifling the free exchange of ideas on its campus.”

The letter continues by outlining Young America’s Foundation’s status as a 501(c)(3) organization, addressing additional faulty claims made by JBU staff:

“If JBU employees view YAF’s advertisements as political, it is solely because those employees are inserting their own subjective opinions onto the content of YAF’s posters. It is surprising to see faculty and employees of a university like JBU believing that it is improper to criticize atheistic communism, perhaps the single greatest courage of human history directly responsible for the muder and deliberate deaths of more than 100 million souls.”

YAF’s legal team calls out JBU’s apparently-inconsistent application of their standard, pointing to an advertisement that appeared on a JBU website featuring an image of Black Lives Matter activists. “If the IRS’s standards resembled what JBU is applying to YAF’s students,” YAF’s letter states, “JBU’s own tax-exempt status under 501(c)(3) would be in danger from that advertising and discussion.”

The letter, sent by YAF’s Deputy General Counsel Steven Mairella, closes by calling for John Brown University to revisit and revise the policy at issue:

“I strongly urge you to consider revisiting JBU’s policy on political advertising and how it is being implemented on your campus. The free exchange of ideas, both popular and unpopular with its faculty, is essential to the growth of well-rounded students. If JBU’s stance on political advertising remains as it appears, YAF will need to continue using our extensive communications apparatus to continue inviting national attention to the JBU administration’s actions in opposition to free speech. The apparent support of communist ideas stands in start contrast to your stated mission of providing a ‘Christ-centered education that prepares people to honor God and serve others by developing their intellectual, spiritual and professional lives.'”

YAF also sent a copy of this letter to the U.S. Department of Education since they may be interested in JBU’s apparent hypocritical stance on free speech for its students.


For additional information or to request an interview contact YAF Spokesman Spencer Brown via sbrown@yaf.org or 800-872-1776.