One of the infamous attractions held by public universities is their promise for free speech and expression embedded into their constitutions; private universities do not have this luxury. While living on a public university’s campus, you will see varying accounts of how students exercise these specific rights and privileges. For those of you who crossed through the lawn in front of Parks Library during the middle of last week, you know about the interactions between the street preacher and the Atheist Agnostic Society (AAS), clearly representing how beautiful the expression of free speech is on a public university, but also how ugly a conflict can develop into because of these rights and freedoms. For those of you who were on the opposite side of campus, here is the run down:
Between The Hub and Parks Library, waves of hundreds of people flowed in and out of a circle surrounding a street preacher, who carried a Bible while responding to various inquiries concerning his beliefs and the Bible itself. The event with the street preacher spanned two afternoons, with one Sept. 24 and the other Sept. 25. However, the ruckus escalated at around 3 p.m. Wednesday when the AAS produced Street Preacher Bingo cards, whose slots contained various comments the preacher had previously mentioned when preaching or answering students’ questions. Some of the slots comprised of the following remarks:
“Misunderstanding of carbon dating,”
“[Yelling] Free Space,”
“[Accusation of sinful act] (For more, see the bingo chart below).
Between the two parties, the controversy amplified to harsh, demeaning levels to the point where the street preacher left the scene while the AAS presented rewards for students who received a Bingo on their Bingo card. While some of the statements on the Bingo card consisted of light-hearted jokes, others mentioned serious, derogatory comments from the preacher. The basis of free speech is not to address distinct affairs with harsh, slanderous commentaries, but to invoke discussion between people of various backgrounds and identities in a cooperative environment. The opinions of the street preacher and the AAS were clearly on opposite sides of the religious spectrum.
Imagine this: On a private campus, your exposure to such situations or differing viewpoints would be nonexistent in this type of setting. You would not have seen the street preacher conduct a public, open seminar and you would not have seen how the AAS responded to the street preacher. There are no limitations to free speech because, of course, that would be an immeasurable violation to our beloved First Amendment. After all, according to the United States Courts, free speech includes the right “not to speak” and “to use certain offensive words and phrases” to express a given message.
On more severe and philosophical levels, is hate speech a department within free speech? Is there a distinction between free speech and hate speech? Should the emerging importance of political correctness be involved in productive speech? All this depends on someone’s own moral, religious level and how they wish to communicate.
Welcome to public universities, where you can truly be witness to the artistry of the First Amendment on all subject platforms.
No true Scotsman
“Evolution is a lie!”
Appeal to Nature
[accusation of sinful act]
Anti-choice (pro-life rhetoric)
Shifting the Burden of proof
“Why do you hate God?”
Misunderstanding of Carbon Dating
Appeal to authority