Thursday, September 22, 2011

Immorality and Free Speech on Campus

It's the start of a new academic year now, two weeks in for me. This week was the week for clubs to advertise and recruit, so there are lots of posters up around campus advertising clubs and causes, etc.. One of the groups that is advertising fairly aggressively right now is "Queers on Campus"; they've put signs up on all the bulletin boards with pretty typical slogans like "Homophobia: now that's a choice", "Closets are for clothes", etc., etc.. Just sound bytes really.

I don't like these ads, and I'm going to explain why.

I do support free speech, free expression, etc., 100% and unqualified. I would disagree with anyone telling them that they can't put up these signs, even though I think this group is completely wrong, and I find the ads and the message behind them rather distasteful. That's not the issue here. The issue for me is that these signs represent an implied threat.

What makes these an implied threat? My own freedom of speech and freedom of religion are being slowly eroded by new policies that make their definition of homophobia essentially illegal. According to my university's "Campaign for Positive Space", students are called to "treat homophobia and transgendered discrimination as seriously as you would racial discrimination or other forms of sexual harassment and act on them." How does that same page define homophobia? "Hatred and mistrust of homosexuals." As we've seen in recent years, the definitions of all of these words are becoming more and more broad. For instance, this pastoral letter written by my bishop got him sent to the "Human Rights Commission" against charges of discrimination. As far as I know the two complaints against him were eventually dropped after the ensuing controversy, however the challenge has been issued. For simply preaching as the Church has always preached, Bishop Fred Henry faced legal attack which in theory could have resulted in thousands of dollars in fines and legal costs.

So, the precedence has been set for labeling all remarks, spoken or written, that are critical of homosexuality, as "homophobia" and "hate speech", which opens the targeted individual to hefty fines and legal costs. These fines of course would be considered unjust under Catholic morality. (An unjust law is no law at all.) If that hypothetical person refuses to pay, what happens? I don't think it's happened yet, but it's not such a stretch to think that it involves imprisonment. So there's the threat. It's a threat of extortion, and at the end of the day, a threat of violence. Who backs up these government policies? The enforcement arm of the government. Guns and metal cages.

St. Polycarp: killed for refusing to offer incense to the Roman gods.
Believe what you want, but if you tell anyone else, you're a criminal.
Sacrifice to our gods if you want to live.

Why don't I like those signs? Every single time I see them, I'm reminded that the day may be coming where I'm no longer permitted legally to say that I believe what they do is morally wrong. Maybe that day is already here. I don't want to find out.

No comments:

Post a Comment