In Utah and elsewhere, silencing another based on religion or ethnicity is unacceptable, the editorial board writes

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Protesters chant as the crowd pushes inside the offices in the Union Building, during a sit-in, as the group Mecha stages a protest on the University of Utah Campus, on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023.

“Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves, and, under a just God, cannot long retain it.” – Abraham Lincoln, in a letter to H.L. Pierce on April 6, 1859

The recent decision by University of Utah officials to end their sponsorship of the student group called MECHA was reasonable and did not violate the First Amendment rights of that club or anyone else.

Members of the self-described socialist group — which calls for “liberation for all colonized and oppressed people,” “the termination of land ownership” and “abolishment of all police and prisons,” among other radical positions have every right to meet, promote their views and demonstrate in support of their causes.

What it doesn’t have the right to do is to stop other people and other organizations, on campus and elsewhere, from meeting to promote their views and demonstrate in support of their causes. Even if one of the causes might well be seen as a heinous stand against the rights of transgender people.

The Nov. 9 letter from the U.’s Center for Equity and Student Belonging withdrawing that office’s support for MECHA came on the same day that group staged a demonstration in support of the Palestinian cause in the wake of the war between Hamas and Israel in Gaza. So it might seem to MECHA members that they were being punished for merely taking an unpopular view.

But the justification for the school’s action actually came on Nov. 1, when MECHA members shut down a meeting sponsored by another campus group, the conservative Young Americans for Freedom.

That organization tried to show a film about transgender people who had transitioned back to the gender assigned at birth and arguing that transgender women are a threat to other women.

MECHA has every right to find those ideas extremely distasteful and to say so at its own meetings and events. But it had no right to cause the shutdown of the YAF meeting, which is what campus police did when everything got so chippy as to threaten violence.

It was that disruptive action, not any views or expression of views about Palestine or anything else, that university officials ruled violated the school’s rules for sponsored campus groups.

“The law does not permit one side of a dispute to disrupt and prevent another from peacefully speaking their mind,” university officials correctly noted.

Without formal U. sponsorship, MECHA can still organize meetings and express its views on campus or anywhere else. It just won’t be able to claim university sponsorship or use University of Utah logos or symbols in its materials.

MECHA took the university’s action hard. Its members occupied the Center for Student Equity’s offices, protesting the decision, accusing the school of silencing minority groups, demanding a meeting with university officials and waving a Palestinian flag.

The university also canceled what was to have been the 28th annual campus conference to introduce high school students from minority communities to the campus and its many opportunities. That conference may be rescheduled for a later time.

Since Hamas terrorists from Gaza massacred 1,200 Israeli civilians and took 240 hostages on Oct. 7, the world has weighed in on every aspect of that and the Israeli military’s pursuit into the terrorists’ own territory, where Hamas seems ready and able to endanger and sacrifice the Palestinian people for its cause. Incidents of anti-Semitism on American college campuses and elsewhere have spiked more than 400%. Palestinian Americans have experienced a 182% increase in hate crimes in this country.

Hamas clearly has no respect for human life on either side of the divide and seems more than happy to sacrifice its people for its cause. The deaths of its people appear to be acceptable collateral damage, in the eyes of Hamas leadership, if it undermines global support for Israel, in particular, and Jews in general.

Which, sadly, it is.

In the United States, violence against anyone based on their ethnicity or religion, or official or unofficial actions to silence any view, are not acceptable.

That’s what the University of Utah sees, and is acting accordingly.