In 2012, a Catholic student group left the Vanderbilt University campus over a controversial school non-discrimination policy which barred the group from requiring its leaders to be Catholic.
At the same time, the Philadelphia Statement comes after years of debate about how to respond to political misinformation, false or misleading medical information, alleged foreign interference in elections, online harassment, political extremism, and pornography.
Free speech, in the view of the Philadelphia Statement, does not include "defamation, obscenity, intimidation and threats, and incitement to violence."
However, it stressed, making "hate speech" an exception to free speech is "foreign to our free speech ideals." The concept is "impossible to define" and is "often used by those wielding political, economic, or cultural power to silence dissenting voices."
"That is why we must favor openness, to allow ideas and beliefs the chance to be assessed on their own merits; and we must be willing to trust that bad ideas will be corrected not through censorship but through better arguments," the statement said.
To seek unity instead of division and to secure a free, pluralistic society where people may live according to their consciences, the statement said, "we must renounce ideological blacklisting and recommit ourselves to steadfastly defending freedom of speech and passionately promoting robust civil discourse."
The statement's signers include Alan Sears, former president of Alliance Defending Freedom; Dr. Daniel Mark, past chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom; Dr. Mary Eberstadt of the Faith and Reason Institute; Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom; Howard Slugh, founder and general counsel of the Jewish Coalition for Religious Liberty; Dr. Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; and Dr. Thomas Farr, president of the Religious Freedom Institute.
One signer is Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born former Muslim who is now an atheist, a staunch critic of Islam, and a research fellow at the Hudson Institution. Another signer is Dr. Charles Murray, whose controversial 1994 book "The Bell Curve" discussed social stratification and apparent racial differences in intelligence. Kevin D. Williamson, a writer for the conservative National Review, also signed. In 2018 Williamson was briefly hired by the prestigious cultural commentary journal The Atlantic, then fired for polemical comments he made in 2014 that appeared to suggest hanging as a criminal punishment for abortion.