children of all ages are invited to attend
As a self-described "First Amendment fundamentalist," I cannot bring myself to call for censorship of viewpoints with which I disagree - even of those with which I disagree strongly. I do not believe that anyone has a right to avoid being offended, and in fact believe that most offense is taken, not given.
But if I were to begin a campaign against unbridled freedom of speech, I think I would start with these examples - every one an incident I witnessed myself:
- A bumper sticker reading "Live simply, so that others may simply live." On a silver Mercedes, parked on West End near Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, Tennessee
- Advertising using a giant reproduction of the American flag. The particular culprits I recall are billboards for a banking chain in L.A. and an automobile dealership in West Virginia - but I'm sure there have been others.
- In Los Angeles, at a bus stop on Vermont Avenue, watching a drunken, homeless man confronted by a righteous woman, who yelled "Jesus is Lord... now git on down the street!"
- The roadside sign in Port Angeles, Washington: "Save babies - abort whales and owls."
- A full page advertisement in the Portland Oregonian on October 10, 1997 (page A20) - the item which specifically prompted the posting of this piece. The ad consisted of a large black and white photograph of a kind-faced, if rather glassy-eyed, woman, with accompanying text describing how unhappy she'd been as a lesbian, and how she found peace, love and a husband and child through Jesus, who'd never really wanted her or anyone to be gay in the first place... and offering the same sort of existence to any homosexual who wanted to "leave homosexuality behind in response to Jesus Christ."
I find it hard to articulate how deeply offended I felt by this smug waste of space. Even if this woman's story were true in every particular, and I have no real reason to doubt that it is, to generalize from that to the notion that all or even a significant fraction of homosexuals are captives (the ad's sponsors used the slogan, "Proclaiming Freedom for the Captive"), desperately unhappy with their lot, who would leap at the chance to abandon their orientations if only they thought Jesus would take them back, is just as ridiculous as any stereotype of Christians as cafeteria-style hypocrites who pick and choose their subjects for Christlike tolerance and mercy from the ranks of those whose sexual politics they agree with. And it's obvious how silly that is.
But my point is that, despite my outrage at the perpetrators of these examples, they nevertheless have the inalienable right to express these opinions - just as I have the right to mock them mercilessly. The First Amendment is useless if it supports only unobjectionable speech... it is precisely that speech at which some take offense which is most in need of legal recognition of its inherent right to exist.
If you see something on my pages to which you take offense, feel free to tell me about it. I'll listen. Just don't expect me to stop.
Original content on this page ©1997, 1999 Alan P. Scott. All rights reserved.
This document was posted October 10, 1997 and last modified March 11, 1999.