ORLANDO, Fla.—A Christian former professor who nearly got fired for ostensibly creating a “suicidal environment” for LGBT students in the classroom is now running an organization dedicated to helping college students maintain their faith in a hostile environment.
“We’ve moved beyond, in this country and especially at universities, free speech,” Corey Miller, president and CEO of the Lafayette, Indiana-based Ratio Christi, told The Daily Signal in an interview last week at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Orlando. “This is talking about free thought, cognitive liberty, and if you even think the wrong things, if your organization or individual members in the organization think the wrong things apart from the Gestapo viewpoint, the politically correct viewpoint, then you could be targeted.”
“So, we’ve moved a long way, especially in academia, from a place for ‘the free exchange of ideas and may the truth win out’ to now the idea of political truth,” he warned.
Miller faced numerous attacks for his faith while in academia, and he opened up about one of the most shocking examples of that in the interview.
“I was an ethics professor. I used all and only atheist or agnostic textbooks, because I felt like I had to, but then at some juncture I would come out of the closet, so to speak, and self-identify,” Miller said.
“We were talking about human sexuality, and I gave another viewpoint in addition to the textbook, and I happened to have a student in the class that semester who was a former pastor who had turned gay and charged me with creating a suicidal environment,” he recalled. “Alliance Defending Freedom came in to take my case pro bono, and I was helped by two of my atheist students, who took my defense against the university, and I was exonerated.”
According to Miller, the student claimed that he felt oppressed by the lesson about how some people might oppose the LGBT movement.
“He made the case that he was afraid for his life that other students might haze him or jump him or something like that after class, and he no longer felt safe,” Miller recalled.
“The university was not even going to give me a chance until my two atheist students, who record all of my lectures, took it upon themselves to take the flash drive and force the university to listen,” he added. “Otherwise, they were threatening to transfer to a different university because, they said, ‘This is not free thinking.’ Even though they didn’t believe what I believe about God or human sexuality, they at least understood the telos, the purpose and nature of what the university is supposed to be at its best.”
This censorship amounts to the “wrongthink” criminalized in George Orwell’s classic novel “1984.”
Miller also spoke about Ratio Christi’s recent efforts, defending a Trump administration rule allowing Christian clubs on campus to require leaders to uphold biblical sexual morality and launching a new program for Christian Ph.D. students.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript:
Tyler O’Neil: This is Tyler O’Neil. I’m managing editor at The Daily Signal. I’m joined by Corey Miller, president of Ratio Christi, a really impactful Christian organization on college campuses. It’s amazing to have you with me.
Corey Miller: Hey, Tyler. Good to be back with you again.
O’Neil: So you were telling me a little bit about this Malik Academic Fellowship that’s focused on equipping and training professors to be missional in their field. Can you discuss a little bit about that?
Miller: Sure. Having been engaged in faculty ministry myself for over a dozen years, it’s clear to me that there are a number of Christian faculty in our universities, but I would say that probably a good portion, maybe most, are professors who happen to be Christians, not Christian professors, not missional professors. And if we’re ever going to have a serious endeavor at reclaiming the intellectual voice of Christ or even a conservative voice at the universities, we need to begin with the professors.
And so we have launched a kind of a special ops program called the Malik Academic Fellowship. It’s designed to get Christian Ph.D. students, raise them up in the way they should go, and when they get older, they won’t depart from it. So we want to train them on how not to be a professor who happens to be a Christian, but a Christian professor, a missional professor.
O’Neil: And how do you see academia right now for Christians? What is Ratio Christi doing to make the atmosphere more amenable to the Gospel?
Miller: Yeah. Ratio Christi focuses historically on apologetics evangelism. The professor ministry is a little bit different in that it focuses on integration of Christian faith and life, Christian faith and reason and vocation. And then on infiltration back into the institutes that were once ours.
I’ve been to all of the colonial schools, all of them were Christ-centered. In fact, every university president from 1636 until 1840, I believe, were actually members of the clergy. And so the university has come a long way.
A century ago, scientific naturalism took over as the reigning paradigm there. And now we are looking at the second revolution in the history of academia in America, and it’s cultural Marxism now. And so things have changed, but they are rapidly and radically changing.
O’Neil: And how does fighting for a Christian worldview, for the ability to speak freely on these issues and challenge cultural Marxism, what does that look like right now for Ratio Christi?
Miller: Well, we’ve been involved in a number of court cases. We have four federal victories with the help of Alliance Defending Freedom. I myself, as a former ethics professor, Indiana University, was exonerated with the help of ADF. And we’ve participated in the Supreme Court victory and right now engaged in a legal case that the Biden administration and the Department of Education have stepped in and taken executive privilege.
O’Neil: Can you explain what the Trump administration rule had been that the Biden administration rule is rejecting and why this battle is important?
Miller: Sure. When [Donald] Trump was president, he had Betsy DeVos leading the Department of Education. And Betsy DeVos put in a regulation intended to strengthen the ability for campus ministries, for religious organizations on campus to be free to believe what their religion teaches. Go figure.
And if universities thought differently about that and inhibited or prohibited them from operating on campus, maybe not giving them club status or kicking them off campus, then the Department of Education could think twice about sending federal funds to that public university. And that really scared the far Left.
So the Secular Student Alliance and the American Atheists sued the Trump administration on Trump’s last day in office. And we jumped in then knowing full well that [President Joe] Biden would take over and give them whatever they wanted and so we became intervening defendants in that case.
O’Neil: So this rule being reversed by the Biden administration would make it so that schools can defund organizations that wish to follow or require leaders to follow certain religious tenets, like opposing same-sex activity or things like that?
Miller: Yes. The other side has argued that the regulation actually gives license to organizations that hold to traditional views about sexuality and so forth, license to discriminate. And so they’re saying it’s open season on trans people or gay people or the whole LGBT network.
We’re saying, “No, this is how we’ve always operated. This is just standard Christian, Jewish Christian teaching on the topic. And we ought to be free to be at the table like everyone else to believe what we do.”
And at the university, if there’s anywhere that ought to be about viewpoint diversity, it ought to be there. And this attempt to dismantle the regulation is an attempt to create open season on groups like us.
O’Neil: And it’s almost less about discriminating against people and more about having people be able to follow their faith and require leaders of a faith-based organization to uphold the standards that they claim to value.
Miller: Right. So we’ve moved beyond, in this country and especially at universities, free speech. This is talking about free thought, cognitive liberty. And if you even think the wrong things, if your organization or individual members in the organization think the wrong things apart from the Gestapo viewpoint, the politically correct viewpoint, then you could be targeted.
So we’ve moved a long way, especially in academia, from a place for the free exchange of ideas and may the truth win out to now the idea of political truth.
O’Neil: And you also mentioned being exonerated yourself through an ADF legal case. Would you unpack that a little bit?
Miller: Sure. I was an ethics professor. I used all and only atheist or agnostic textbooks because I felt like I had to, but then at some juncture I would come out of the closet, so to speak and self-identify.
It happened to be we were covering a controversial issue, like, what topic isn’t controversial in an ethics class? But we were talking about human sexuality. And I gave another viewpoint in addition to the textbook, and I happened to have a student in the class that semester who was a former pastor who had turned gay and charged me with creating a suicidal environment.
And so Alliance Defending Freedom came in to take my case pro bono and I was helped by two of my atheist students who took my defense against the university and I was exonerated.
O’Neil: Wow. Well, yeah, that’s insane. How did he even make that argument?
Miller: As Carl Trueman calls this age, the age of virtuous victimology. So if you can claim victim status, if you can make things up and claim that you are oppressed somehow, that a professor is hateful and preempting possible harm after class—he made the case that he was afraid for his life that other students might haze him or jump him or something like that after class. And he no longer felt safe.
And so it wasn’t a safe zone and the university was not even going to give me a chance until my two atheist students, who record all of my lectures, took it upon themselves to take the flash drive and force the university to listen. Otherwise, they were threatening to transfer to a different university because, they said, “This is not free thinking.”
Even though they didn’t believe what I believe about God or human sexuality, they at least understood the telos, the purpose and nature of what the university is supposed to be at its best.
O’Neil: Yeah. Was there anything else you’d like to add about what Ratio Christi is doing on campuses right now? What you’re you’re looking at in the future?
Miller: Yeah. So, we establish clubs on campus that focus intently on apologetics evangelism. We say we have two ears and one mouth for a reason, so that we listen more. If someone needs a hug, we give them a hug. But if they need an argument, we are the ministry on campus to give them an argument. But we also have a professor’s ministry and part of that entails what is now called the Malik Academic Fellowship.
As we get grants coming in, we continue to fund Christian Ph.D. students to enter back through the pipeline at the highest level universities in order to have a Christian presence there. We’ve seen it happen once before with scientific naturalism taking over the universities. It’s happening right now, again, before our eyes, the second revolution, and it’s high time that we have our own little revolution and put good Christian, thoughtful Christian representatives back in academia.
O’Neil: Thank you so much, Corey. Can you tell the people where to follow you?
Miller: RatioChristi.org. Go to our website and join the movement.
O’Neil: Thanks again for being with me.
Miller: Thank you. Always a pleasure.
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