Ruling plays into conservative hands

By Brian Pierce

Last Wednesday, students and others across the country participated in a daylong ceremony known as the Day of Silence. This day has been an annual nationwide tradition on college campuses, in high schools and elsewhere for 11 years. It is a day of memorial, celebration and protest in which members of the LGBT community and their allies remain silent all day as a symbol of solidarity with those across the country and around the world who are silenced as a result of their sexual orientation.

The following Thursday, students and others across the country participated in a daylong ceremony known as the Day of Truth. This day has been a yearly nationwide tradition on college campuses, in high schools and elsewhere for three years, organized as a response to Day of Silence. According to its official Web site, the Day of Truth was “established to counter the promotion of the homosexual agenda and express an opposing viewpoint from a Christian perspective.”

The Web site goes on to justify the existence of the Day of Truth by citing instances in which students who have opposed the “homosexual agenda” have been censored or punished for expressing their views. “It is important that students stand up for their First Amendment right to hear and speak the Truth about human sexuality in order to protect that freedom for future generations,” it argues.

I’m tempted to suggest to students who participated in the Day of Truth that the best way to protect freedom for future generations is to exercise those freedoms responsibly, which in my view would not include preaching intolerance or creating a hostile environment for their gay classmates and then hiding behind the First Amendment.

But the fact of the matter is that the organizers of the Day of Truth are not wrong to cite with regret the unfortunate fact that at times students who have expressed views sympathetic to theirs have indeed been censored or punished.

The most recent case comes from Neuqua Valley High School, in which the school district refused to allow two students to wear Day of Truth T-shirts reading “Be happy, not gay.” A federal court recently denied the students a preliminary injunction. Jonathan Scruggs, an attorney for the Christian civil rights organization Alliance Defense Fund, called the ruling “disappointing,” saying that “when a message comes along that the school doesn’t like, it censors it … You can’t suppress speech just because someone might find it offensive.”

He’s right. You can’t. And while I would ordinarily scoff at this type of argument so often employed by conservatives, I can’t in this case. When certain conservatives got up in arms about “political correctness run amok” after Don Imus got fired or Ann Coulter was universally condemned for her use of the epithet “faggot,” I could comfortably dismiss them as confusing disagreement and accountability with censorship.

Here, however, we just have clear-cut censorship. A school, an agent of the state, is not allowing the free expression of ideas. And when that happens and liberals celebrate the progressiveness of this restriction, we play right into the hands of those conservatives who wish to portray us as the “thought police.”

The best way to respond to the students wearing T-shirts is to respond to their “Truth” with the actual truth: That homosexuality is a fact of nature and that any religious doctrine that condemns it as sinful deserves to be relegated to the tier of outdated religious beliefs occupied by slavery and the subjugation of women. Or, even better, make a punch line out of them.

The students who want to wear these shirts are ignorant, hurtful and wrong. But suppressing their ideas won’t eliminate them; it will embolden them. If liberals want to effectively counter the Day of Truth, they will remain quietly confident that a truly free dissemination of ideas will only serve to prove them right.