BOULDER, Colo. -- Living in the land of the free isn't what it used to be. Basic freedoms are under attack; many blame the politics of the Left and a mission to silence those who disagree.
In the movie Ben Hur, one famous scene depicts an ancient Roman ship reaching the speed needed to ram an enemy.
Wall Street Journal columnist Daniel Henninger wrote recently the Left has hit "ramming speed" these days, hitting hard those who disagree with its viewpoints.
Graduation: Disinvitation Season
Case in point: graduation season 2014 and its potential commencement speakers. The group known as FIRE, or Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, called it "disinvitation season."
After two months of protests over her role in the Iraq invasion, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice withdrew as Rutgers' speaker.
Brandeis withdrew its invitation to Somali author and activist Ayan Hirsi Ali, saying her statements against radical Islam were not in line with the school's "core values."
"People on campuses have become more and more used to the idea that they should only hear things that they're comfortable with," Robert Shibley, senior vice president of FIRE, told CBN News.
"Regardless of who is on campus or who is doing the educating, the fact is the message is getting across from... everything from, unfortunately I think our high schools, and definitely in college that there are some views that are just so awful that they shouldn't even be heard on campuses," he added.
Bullseye on Christians, Conservatives
Shibley said it's a sad fact that on campuses today, conservatives and Christians are the most likely to face censorship or discrimination because of their viewpoints.
FIRE's office is located across the street from Independence Hall in Philadelphia, the site where our founding fathers signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
Shibley said America has strayed far from what our founders intended when it comes to protecting basic freedoms.
Over the last year, conservative scholar and author Steven Hayward found himself at a hub of Left-wing thinking -- the University of Colorado in Boulder.
The university hired him as the first visiting scholar in conservative thought and policy. He said the school deserves some credit for thinking out of the box but admits it wasn't easy.
"It was quite a challenge," Hayward shared with CBN News. "People joked that being a conservative at a campus like Boulder that has a reputation for being very far to the left was like being a Rabbi in Mecca or something like that."
Hayward said one major area where the Left is asserting itself on college campuses is gender definition.
He said it's startling how gender "de-norming" is now prominent. That's the belief that human beings can actually choose their gender regardless of their physical makeup.
"There's lots and lots of courses on this," Hayward said. "So I had said on a radio interview that I thought there was a lot of this and that it was quite politicized."
"That did not go over very well on campus, and first some students found some old writings of mine, and then a faculty member, a chairman actually of the faculty assembly, said what I had said on the radio amounted to hate speech," he explained.
"Well, this is preposterous, and he proposed trying to censure me until cooler heads prevailed," he continued.
Goodbye to 'Academic Freedom'
Hayward said it makes sense he wasn't censured because of what's known as "academic freedom" on campus, but he believes the fact he was caught in a firestorm sends a message.
"What it really showed I think is there is an impulse on many universities today to shut down academic freedom, to shut down free speech, to squelch any dissent from radical ideology," Hayward explained.
"In other words, it's a new form of oppression all in the name of ending oppression," he said. "It's very Orwellian; I think it's very dangerous and quite sinister."
Hayward and other conservatives have written extensively about growing attacks on academic freedom and free speech.
They point to an undergraduate columnist for the Harvard Crimson who went so far as to write, "Let's give up on academic freedom in favor of justice."
"When an academic community observes research promoting or justifying oppression, it should ensure that this research does not continue," the student wrote.
The student columnist focused on conservative Harvard government professor Harvey Mansfield.
How did we get to the point where it's "open season" on anyone who disagrees with liberal viewpoints? Many believe the Obama administration's policies opened the door.
They say the trigger event happened last year, when the federal government and the University of Montana signed an agreement to end a 12-month investigation of the university over its handling of sexual harassment cases.
The document is known as "The Blueprint." It makes it easy to accuse someone of sexual harassment, and critics say it could threaten all kinds of speech protected by the First Amendment.
"In other words, things that people might say is sexist, all kinds of sort of strange things in certain circumstances -- requesting a date and things like that," Shibley elaborated. "And so, it was so broadly drawn and so carelessly done that it really threatened free speech on campuses across the country."
Shibley said universities around the country are confused about whether they're required to follow the so-called "Blueprint." He believes that could lead to people on campuses being afraid to speak or write politically incorrect viewpoints.
'We're Right, You're Wrong'
In addition, Hayward says the Far Left no longer tries to cover up "its authoritarian streak in any kind of theory" except, "We're right; you're wrong; you must shut up."
"If you dare to raise any objections or even questions about some of the radical dogmas on campus, like gender identity theory, but also global warming, and even animal rights, I discovered to my surprise, people will say not just that you're wrong, but that you shouldn't even have the right to say such things," Hayward said.
And if you do, you may find yourself the victim of ramming speed.
Mark Martin also reported from Philadelphia, Pa., for this story.