This may be getting old for those of you used to me babbling on about my latest hijinks in school and other similarly pointless yet amusing things, but the Religion section in the newspaper every Saturday always seems to bring up some issue I have to rant about. Today, it’s the conflict between free speech and intolerance. Gray areas are always fun!
As many of you hopefully know, the United States is based on the near-complete freedom of speech. Everyone has a right to speak their piece. This does not, however, apply to racists and other intolerant sorts. So really, free speech is only free if you don’t have anything degrading or intolerant to say. No, it’s not quite fair, but let’s face it, complete freedom of speech would result in civil war against the whining tree-hugging hippie Communist gay-loving liberals and the closed-minded Bible-thumping gun-toting war-mongering hateful fascist conservatives. The South would still segregate blacks and whites, and homosexuals would be nailed to fenceposts across the Midwest. Bush would probably not be in office, and Clinton would have been exiled (or worse) instead of simply impeached. No, complete freedom of speech doesn’t work. But then, where do you draw the line? Is forcing people to be tolerant of homosexuals being intolerant of their religion? I don’t see how, but apparently 60% of the United States does.
The article in the paper I read about this in was about a 22-year-old Georgia Tech student named Ruth Malhotra, who is a Christian, and who’s suing the school for the right to speak out against “shameful homosexuality.” Georgia Tech, along with many other liberal-minded colleges, bans this kind of speech that puts down others based on their sexual orientation. Fair enough: everyone has the right to get an education without hearing that they’re going to hell every day. Who would want to hear that? But there exists a growing number of people who are calling for an elimination of such policies from public schools, state colleges, and private workplaces. Anyone with half a brain can see where this will lead: a rather large increase in the number of teen suicides, not to mention a rise in unemployment (all the gays and lesbians who can’t get jobs) and possibly even public stonings. Okay, maybe that last one is a bit extreme, but you never know.
Because Malhotra’s religion apparently compels her to speak out against homosexuality (I never learned that in Sunday School), she feels that being told she can’t do that is discriminating against her as a Christian. And a number of self-important Christian pastors agree, claiming that religion is under attack in the United States, and that Christians will have to stand up for the right to be Christian. Now, I personally abhor this kind of “Oh, I’m being persecuted!” behavior. It’s whining, pure and simple. Let me spell it out in bold: the world’s not attacking your religion. What we’re attacking is your lack of compassion and pathetic attempts at being human. What kind of hypocritical religion goes around spouting things like “Love your neighbor” and “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” and then turns around and condemns a group of people simply because they are different? And people wonder why I turned away from Christianity…
All right…deep breaths. I didn’t mean to get so scathing there. I try to keep my cool when I rant like this, but sometimes my emotions get the better of me. Of course, it’s not too hard when I read about people like this Malhotra character who apparently have no shred of decency. No wonder the ACLU seems to be anti-religion (even though they aren’t; they’ve often defended religious institutions in lawsuits). This culture of intolerance has pervaded nearly every religion.
Argh, I did it again. Sorry. Now, I’m going to sit on the fence here and provide the big problem with banning intolerant speech. Freedom of speech means you can say whatever you want without worrying about the government showing up at your doorstep and escorting you to Siberia. This includes the right to be racist, bigoted, intolerant, and a whole host of things that the majority of people dislike immensely. Why are neo-Nazis allowed to organize rallies? Freedom of speech. Why are Christian pastors allowed to preach against the “evils” of homosexuality and liberalism? Freedom of speech. Why are atheist authors allowed to write books skewering every religion ever thought up? Freedom of speech. The list goes on and on. But as I said earlier, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Degrading speech or discrimination of any kind (whether it be based on race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation) causes problems and can be extremely harmful, not only to the people being degraded, but to society as a whole. I can’t think up any examples off the top of my head…well, I just killed that argument. Meh.
Well, that whole rant was apparently a jumbled mess of arguments and examples with no point to draw it all together. I think it’s sufficient to say simply that everyone has the freedom to do and say whatever, so long as it doesn’t interfere with anyone else’s right to do the same. In other words, if you (the theoretical you) see fit to degrade someone based on their sexual orientation, don’t start whining when someone does the same to you based on your religion. I think that’s worthy of a “duh,” don’t you?