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Free speech or hate speech?


By Aidan Crane




Douglas Wilson’s impending visit to Indiana University is raising the specter of one of our nation’s oldest debates: What is the limit to freedom of speech?

Even those who are otherwise repulsed by Wilson’s hateful message seem paralyzed with the fear of violating his supposed right to speak wherever he pleases.

But the debate about freedom of speech is a red herring, a distraction from the real issue. Douglas Wilson is one of the most spiteful, bigoted men in the United States. His visit to our campus is being billed as a discussion about the legacy of Alfred Kinsey and the nature of sexuality, but Wilson’s true message is being left out of the advertising.

Wilson’s hateful views run the gamut from racism to homophobia. In an interview with “Christianity Today,” when asked about executing gays, he replied, “You can’t apply Scripture woodenly. You might exile some homosexuals, depending on the circumstances and the age of the victim.” In the same interview, he advocated executing adulterers.

Wilson is also the author of “Southern Slavery as it Was,” in which he describes the relationship between whites and blacks in the antebellum South as “based upon mutual affection and confidence.”

Remember that the Code of Student Rights, Responsibilities, and Conduct, which binds every student at this University, forbids any activity with “an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment for academic pursuits, housing, or participation in university activities.”

If Wilson were a student, would his bigotry be tolerated? Why then should we tolerate it from a guest speaker?

But the reasons to reject freedom of speech defenses of Douglas Wilson’s visit run deeper than bureaucratic quibbling about codes of conduct.

For many students, hate speech is not a theoretical concept but a real force in their lives. How must black students feel to see a self-described “paleo-Confederate” invited to our campus only weeks after Trayvon Martin was murdered in the streets for the crime of being black?

How must female students feel when a man who argues that “men will always be dominant in marriage” is invited to speak on their campus?

With Wilson’s attack on Kinsey and homosexuality, how must gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans students feel to be personally attacked in their own home — a University that is often a refuge from a hostile world?

Remember that it was the suicide of a gay teen from Indiana that inspired the “It Gets Better Project.”

Remember the loss of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers University freshman who killed himself after suffering homophobic harassment.

Remember the GLBT teens and adults who live every day in a nation that hates them. Remember the potential of this University to be a place of healing and safety.

This is not a choice between freedom of speech and censorship. This is a choice between hate and love.

­— atcrane@indiana.edu

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