At the end of Adam Ramey’s opinion piece, Ramey asks for “all of those in our community who have insisted on insulting the Catholic Church to cease and desist.” The author details a recent experience with this kind of “bigotry” involving a picture on campus of a Catholic nun smoking out of a crack pipe. Why, Ramey asks, “is it that when Catholics are insulted, we must take it as a joke protected by “free speech??” To the authors of this crack-smoking nun, Ramey has one message: “your actions are offensive and are not “free” speech – they are “hate” speech.
An interesting distinction is Ramey’s idea of “free” speech and “hate” speech. “Free speech,” it would have to be said if his logic were to be adopted completely, are all things that are pleasant to Ramey and “hate” speech are all things that are deplorable to Ramey. You can respect the traditions of a particular religion, but you can never joke about these traditions. What authority does the author have to be suggesting such things? What if a secularist were to make a similar complaint about a religious poster?
Of the more important cases in history on this issue is the Supreme Court case Texas v. Johnson, where all laws prohibiting the desecration of the flag were found to be unconstitutional. In the majority opinion, the Court noted that “if there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression on an idea simply because society find itself offensive or disagreeable.”
It should follow from this important principle that freedom of speech does carry unfortunate and uncomfortable consequences; namely that it must be a universal principle afforded even to those whose views we despise. I hope that Ramey agrees.
-Kyle RichardsonClass of 2010