The other day I was walking through the Quad on my way home and was distracted by what appeared to be an angry mob encircling a young man. My curiosity overcame me so I walked over with intentions to only observe. What I witnessed was a man claiming to be a Christian berating a group of students and essentially condemning those who do not adhere to the strict teachings of the Bible’s Old Testament. He claimed that homosexuality and abortion where sins against God, Christianity was the only true faith recognized by God, and that anyone found guilty of murder should be killed. Many of the students present were extremely young and new to the university experience, some were homosexual, others were of different religious faiths, and some of the young women may or may not have had abortions at some point in life. This man was filled with conviction for his faith and I can respect this, but I question his right to essentially verbally assault a crowd of young people with opposing beliefs (consider the Westboro Baptist Church).
The First Amendment grants us the right to free speech but do we not have the social, if not moral, responsibility to not use speech to harm others? In light of all of the recent suicides of young people caused by bullying and harshness towards their lifestyles, is it not the responsibility of a university to create a non-hostile environment for its young people. If so, then how do we do this? How do we not infringe upon one’s right to speak freely and at the same time assure that one’s speech does not infringe upon another’s right to maintain a non-hostile environment conducive to learning? Or is this smorgasbord of different people and different ideologies thrown together, when under normal circumstances they would never interact, what higher learning is all about?