Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) is a conservative youth activism organization that offers college students across the United States a variety of outlets for promoting Right-Wing ideology. YAF originated at two separate points in time, but Young Americans for Freedom specifically began in 1960, when 100 conservative students assembled to construct YAF’s guiding principles at the Great Elm Conference, hosted by William F. Buckley. In 2011, Young America’s Foundation and Young Americans for Freedom combined into YAF, with Young America’s Foundation maintaining the name of the parent organization. In 2015, it raised $36.2 million, and it spends around $20 million a year.
YAF focuses more on general national politics as opposed to on-campus issues. Some of their campus initiatives have included: Resist Obama fliers, March Liberal Madness, 9/11: Never Forget Project, No More Che Day, and Who is Dividing Our Campus?—the last of which claims that liberals are “often the first intimidate, attack, and silence conservatives when they speak out.”
YAF reveres former president Ronald Reagan and works to preserve and protect the Reagan Ranch in Santa Barbara. YAF’s website says the “Ranch is an important component of the Foundation’s broader mission to ‘ensure that increasing numbers of young Americans understand and are inspired by the ideas of limited government, free enterprise, a strong national defense, and traditional values.’”
Board members of YAF, past and present, have a history of supporting oppressive programs and organizations.
Former board member, the late Howard Phillips, was appointed as as the head of the Office of Economic Opportunity by president Richard Nixon where he immediately defunded anti-poverty programs, although a federal court ultimately stopped him, ruling his actions illegal because he was never confirmed to the post by the Senate.
In 2004, YAF president Ron Robinson and board member James B. Taylor donated $5000 to the Charles Martel Society, a White Nationalist group. Since then, the three-person board of the group’s PAC has raised and spent over $5 million on various Republican candidates. Robinson spoke out against concerns that the donation to White Nationalists was racist, saying that the PAC’s donations to Allan Keyes, Ken Blackwell, Allen West and other Black conservatives proved the contrary.
James B. Taylor, on the other hand, was once the vice president of the National Policy Institute (NPI), which was founded as a White Supremacist think tank, according to Marilyn Mayo, codirector of Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism. While Taylor says he would no longer involve himself with NPI, tax returns prove he was serving as vice president of VP of NPI as late as 2007, when they released the book The State of White America 2007, which called Brown v. Board of Education “arguably the worst decision in the Court’s 216-year history.”
Robinson was, in 2017, given the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s Annie Taylor award, which is an award given to those who are “going over the ledge when others would be afraid to even go near it.” The Horowitz Freedom Center commended Robinson for creating the conservative movement’s “most important youth organization.” A key goal of his organization is supposedly to “restore sanity” to college campuses.
One of YAF’s most controversial speakers is Ben Shapiro, who is scheduled to speak at Liberty University, Georgetown University, and Susquehanna University in 2018. The former editor of large at Breitbart News, Shapiro is well-known for books such as The People vs. Barack Obama: The Criminal Case against the Obama Administration. Shapiro has also been an advocate against same-sex marriage, and even stated that those who pay taxes and pay tuition are sponsoring the “militant homosexual agenda.”
YAF’s website offers its students a recommended reading page, which consists of books from conservatives such as Rush Limbaugh, Ted Nugent, and David Horowitz. They’ve also hosted speakers such as Rick Santorum, Ann Coulter, and Newt Gingrich on various campuses.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) listed the Michigan State University chapter of Young Americans for Freedom as a hate group, making it the only student hate group in the United States. MSU-YAF hosted White Supremacist speakers for lectures on their campus and organized racist events. Activities they’ve organized range from a “Catch an Illegal Alien Day” game, to a “Koran desecration” contest. They’ve also condemned and attempted to eliminate affirmative action at the school.
In 2013, after the student congress of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill passed a rule to enforce stricter rules on the use of their student funds—a rule which hindered the school’s Tar Heel Rifle and Pistol Club from using those funds to purchase ammunition—YAF said liberal students improperly targeted the gun club, calling it an act of discrimination.
In 2012, YAF invited Fox News personality Andrea Tantoros to speak on campus at Guilford College. During Tantoros’ speech, she made flagrantly anti-Muslim statements, including a claim that all Muslims have been commanded by Muhammad to perform Jihads on non-Muslims. The speech sparked outrage, and prompted the school to formally apologize for allowing Tantoros to speak on campus. YAF spokesperson Ron Meyer responded with an article claiming it was not a racist speech, and referred to the Muslim students who protested the speech as “jihadists” who were intolerant of free-speech.
Other YAF writers have put out articles on the following topics:
- Education on gender neutral-bathrooms for trans* people “actually infringes on the liberty and equality” of cisgender people at The College of New Jersey
- Efforts to creating inclusive environments on college campuses by the Association of American College and Universities is a way to “redefine…educational priorities and adopt more aggressive racial preferences programs”
- Affirmative Action is “modern discrimination” against White people
- Condemnation of Dr. Ben Carson’s comparison of LGBTQ people to bestiality and pedophilia attacks his “freedom of speech”
- The UNC Chapel Hill Student Congress’ passing a resolution in support of in-state tuition for undocumented students will “encourage more illegal immigration.”