ATLANTA – Ruth Malhotra was a part of the press conference sponsored by the Georgia Baptist Mission Board’s Public Affairs Ministry at the Georgia State Capitol on Tuesday, Feb. 2. Malhotra is a Georgia Tech graduate who endured ridicule and persecution for her convictions about religious liberty and First Amendment rights. She currently works in communications and research and her areas of focus include religious liberty, family values, higher education, global missions and grassroots politics.
Last year on March 16 She wrote in the Christian Post: “Today marks nine years since I did something that profoundly changed my life. On March 16, 2006, as college students at Georgia Tech, Orit Sklar and I filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against our school for free speech and religious liberty. It was a significant decision, but after much prayer, consideration, and counsel, our love of liberty and our love for Georgia Tech compelled us to take this stand so that every student’s First Amendment rights would be respected.”
At the press conference Malhotra stated, “I’m grateful to be here today to share why I think religious freedom should be a priority for Georgia’s legislature during this session.
“It’s a sad day in Georgia when students are forced to retain constitutional lawyers and police protection simply to go to class and exercise their basic rights to free speech and religious liberty on campus. Yet this was exactly the situation I found myself in at Georgia Tech several years ago when I spoke out on issues important to me and sought to get involved in discussions on campus.
“You see, Georgia Tech had speech codes and tolerance policies which prohibited any speech or activities considered ‘intolerant’ or ‘offensive,’ and often these unconstitutional policies were selectively applied against Christian and conservative students.
Tolerance policies applied against Christian, conservative students
“I experienced these challenges for nearly three and a half years. While I expected to encounter scholarly debate and have my beliefs challenged, I didn’t expect to be repeatedly censored, interrogated, and condemned by those in authority for expressing a point of view not lockstep in line with their own narrow political agenda.
“Ultimately, I was compelled to file a federal civil rights lawsuit against Georgia Tech for gross violations of the First Amendment – a step no other students should be forced to take.
“I was represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, and our case took three years in federal court; we were victorious every step of the way, and now every student at Georgia Tech has their First Amendment rights restored.
“In the years since our case, though, I’ve realized that these problems are not limited to Georgia Tech. In fact, they are not limited to college campuses.
“Religious freedom is under attack”
“Religious freedom is under attack in every arena of society – from elementary schools to small businesses to government settings to even churches and ministry organizations, and we’ve heard many of those stories today.
“The extreme opposition many Christians face when speaking out is yet another example of a tragic lesson I learned firsthand as a student: unless you embrace, applaud, and advocate for certain ideas, your views, your voice, and even your humanitarian work are not welcome in the public square.
“This extreme attitude is as hypocritical as it is vicious, and it filters down to every segment of society. It manifests itself not only in large-scale events and initiatives, but every day in law and policy and procedure at various institutions, including, for example, colleges and universities. Sometimes the tactic of the far-left involves attempts to shame and shun those they disagree with, and other times they actually try to use the force of law to silence those who do not share their worldview.
“We don’t expect everyone to agree with us. That being said, it is frightening that a small group of activists are often able to exercise such absolutist control of public discourse. We are disheartened that people pushing a certain agenda are often willing to undermine free speech, resort to fierce personal attacks, and promote censorship rather than engage in our uniquely American marketplace of ideas where everyone’s voice is heard.
“Given my personal experience and the present political climate in our country, I believe protecting religious freedom ought to be a priority in the Georgia General Assembly this legislative session. I hope our legislators will agree and act.”