Allen Harris Law’s Samantha Harris Helps Graduate Student Fight for Freedom of Conscience at Princeton Theological Seminary

A modern classroom with rows of desks and chairs facing large windows overlooking a green landscape, reflected sunlight brightening the interior, yet obscured by the shadow of free speech violations.

Allen Harris Law’s Samantha Harris was recently featured in an article about Timothy Keiderling, a graduate student at Princeton Theological Seminary who fought back against PTS’s efforts to make him attend so-called “anti-racist” trainings that conflicted with his religious beliefs – and won.

PTS required its students to participate in training sessions that segregated students by race and, in Keiderling’s view, perpetuated racial stereotypes about people of all races. He considered this a form of indoctrination and refused to participate in the sessions, though they were mandatory.

Ultimately, with guidance from Samantha Harris and others, he convinced the seminary to exempt him from the training.

“Students and faculty of all races and ethnicities have increasingly been objecting to diversity trainings that label people as oppressors or oppressed based on their group identity rather than focusing on the importance of treating every individual with equal worth and dignity,” Harris said. “And increasingly, these students and parents have been paying a steep price for challenging the official orthodoxy of the educational elite.”

After a consultation with Harris, Keiderling wrote to Craig Barnes, the seminary’s president, requesting an exemption from the training and expressing his view that the mandatory, ideological training was antithetical to PTS’s mission and impinged upon the freedom of thought and expression of those who attend.

In response, Barnes offered that it might be possible “to develop a creative way forward that meets the seminary’s goals in antiracism training while honoring the dictates of your conscience.”

Keiderling then emailed PTS’s dean with a proposed agreement: He would read several works by thought leaders in the “anti-racist” movement and write an essay “with an emphasis on how I might apply the lessons … to my own work and ministry while still upholding the values and beliefs I cherish.”

Keiderling also met with his dean, and the two men had a discussion that – according to Keiderling – “went well,” with a respectful exchange of differing views. In the end, Keiderling was able to hear the seminary’s perspective without being required to submit to intrusive training sessions that infringed on his freedom of conscience, and was “quite happy” with that result.

To read the full story of Keiderling’s fight, follow the below link:

Guided by Faith, Divinity Student Fought His ‘Anti-Racist’ Princeton Seminary — and Won

Samantha Harris has dedicated her career to protecting free speech and civil liberties. Her advice has guided students, faculty, administrators, and attorneys on issues of free speech and due process on campus for more than 15 years.

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