Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Censorship from the Left

As I’ve written many times, censorship certainly does not always come from the right. The left has more than its fair share of Torquemade wanna bes, they just tend to couch their arguments in terms of diversity rather than morality. Case in point: a group of folks from the University of Arkansas is attempting to prevent the Promise Keepers from being able to rent Razorback Stadium for a rally June 10-11. The arguments are predictable:

“I don’t think this singleminded group should have their meeting here. It’s not an all-encompassing group and we are promoting diversity at the university,” said Marian Kunetka, an archeologist at the Arkansas Archeological Survey at the University of Arkansas.

“I have to look at the rest of it as freedom of religion. I can’t get past that. We have to give them that; but, I don’t think that they should be meeting in places like the university.”…

NOW, the Washington County Green Party and the OMNI Center for Peace, Justice and Ecology joined forces to voice concerns Sunday evening about the Promise Keepers rally scheduled June 10-11 at the University of Arkansas campus.

Now it hardly needs to be said that I’m not a fan of the Promise Keepers. They represent pretty much everything I fight against on this blog day after day. But you see, that’s the difference between me and this consortium of groups in Arkansas: rather than trying to take away the Promise Keepers’ right to use public facilities to exercise their freedom of speech, I’d rather use my freedom of speech to argue, cajole, dispute and disprove the ideas espoused by the group. These would-be censors, however, have plenty of silly arguments for why those they oppose should not be allowed to hold their rally:

According to Dick Bennett, retired professor of English and president of the OMNI center, that very mission speaks to the groups intolerance of others. “They are extremely exclusive in favor of Christianity to the exclusion of all the other religions,” Bennett said. “This is a very fundamentalist, intolerant religious organization. Even though they say they are open to all denominations, ethnic and cultural backgrounds, they really mean if those different peoples will convert to Christian,” he said.

Egads, exclusively Christian! Well gosh, you’ve got em there. They are indeed exclusively Christian, just like practically every single church, bible study, prayer group and seminary in the nation. But they are, of course, a private organization with every right to decide their own membership. Just like the National Organization of Women is a private organization and can decide who gets to be a member and who does not. And private organizations are permitted to use public property to hold rallies, demonstrations, vigils or what have you as long as the same rules apply to all such groups. Ah, but here is perhaps the silliest argument of all for why this situation is different:

“We try to promote thinking and critical analysis and then we let this huge meeting come in with this one narrow viewpoint and try to promote it to everyone on campus. There’s no way that competing viewpoints could get the stadium; they wouldn’t have enough people here,” added Wanda Stephens, immediate past president of the Arkansas National Organization of Women.

Well gosh, that’s just terrible. The fact that your opponent has more followers and can fill the stadium doesn’t mean it’s unfair to you. It means you need to get off your butt and convince people that they’re wrong so they won’t have as many followers, or convince people that you’re right so you do have as many followers.

I say the same thing to these whiners that I say to the moral majority types who complain of immoral movies or books – don’t read them. Don’t see them. Turn the channel. Argue with them, show them up, prove them wrong. But don’t try and shut them up. Because if you give to the government the power to shut up those you oppose, you’re also giving them the power to shut you up too. Let all ideas remain free so long as reason is free to combat them, said Jefferson, and he was right.


  1. #1 Kyle Smith
    May 27, 2005

    Here’s a better reason for keeping them out of the University facilities: All the extra traffic is going to make my drive past the stadium to work a bitch.

    Even though I cringe every Sunday when they promote the upcoming Promise Keepers rally in church, I figure if they want to fork over the cash for the use of the local stadium, more power to them. The University can always use the income and it seems silly to only use the stadium a few times a year for football games anyway.

    As long as the school can put butts in the chair and charge admission, they really shouldn’t care what the occasion is. They’re not endorsing it, just profitting from it.

  2. #2 Roger Plothow
    May 27, 2005

    No doubt in my mind, the bigger threat to free speech comes from the left, not the right. The left cloaks its disdain for free speech in politically correct garb, while the right is less subtle (as evidenced by Spencer Bacchus’ recent bashing of Bill Maher). Universities are the worst, though attempts to criminalize certain types of speech run a close second. It’s hard to know in which direction to establish lines of defense.

  3. #3 Sam
    May 27, 2005

    I agree with you.

    J.S. Mill would add that only through completely open discussion can we obtain:

    1. understanding
    2. conviction
    3. freedom from universal fallibility
    4. partial truth

    to the stadium!

  4. #4 spyder
    May 27, 2005

    I had a faculty colleague who was a Promise Keeper. I learned a great deal about the organization from him, and his own personal struggles with trying to live up to that life callings especially as his daughters moved into their teenage years. When doors like that open one has to move right in. My message to him then applies to this rally now. The more self assured empowered a teenage female is in our culture the less likely she is to be thwarted in her dreams and success. Promise Keepers need to place the firm masculine hand down upon the women’s heads all the time. That may work at home behind closed doors, or in their Christian only work places, but not on basketball courts or debate teams. My colleague’s oldest daughter was a major basketball talent, and needed to be in charge and assertive. He realized that all that his PK training was not providing him the necessary skills and strategies for helping her succeed.

    My suggestion for the community, though i am sorry to Kyle for saying it, is for large numbers of empowered assertive scantily clad female protestors will work far better than telling the PK’s they can’t use the facility.

  5. #5 Kyle Smith
    May 27, 2005

    Spyder, no appologies necessary. Though I think the scantily clad female protestors should be joined by some scanitily clad male protestors making out at the front gate. I’m sure the Promise Keepers would be thrilled, and it’d be a great warm-up for the following weekend’s gay pride parade. We sure now how to juxtapose our conventions here… Wal-Mart shareholders, Promise Keepers, and gay pride one right after the other. 🙂

  6. #6 steve
    May 28, 2005

    Yeah, the left and the right are both bad about speech. Many self-identified liberals are not liberal at all. University speech codes are sick. Leftists might not be quite as bad as Rightists, but too often, people in power want to criminalize the other side’s ideas.

  7. #7 Bill
    May 28, 2005

    In a way leftist censorship may be more dangerous than rightist censorship. It has better intentions because it is usually motivated by sensitivity to social inequalities. Rightist censorship is usually directed at bare breasts,the theory of evolution, gays, and people like Ward Churchill. Aren’t most people justifiably offended by the N-word? That makes it a more tempting proposition.

  8. #8 raj
    May 29, 2005

    This might be an interesting issue, but why the presumption that this is from “the left”? Because the opposition is from university?

    Give me a break.

  9. #9 Ed Brayton
    May 29, 2005

    raj wrote:

    This might be an interesting issue, but why the presumption that this is from “the left”? Because the opposition is from university?

    No, because the groups that make up the opposition – the green party, the OMNI Center for Peace, Justice and Ecology, etc – are groups that would generally be considered on the left while the Promise Keepers would generally be considered on the right. Seems reasonable to me.

  10. #10 raj
    May 29, 2005

    Ed, I seriously hate this right/left dichotomy. The Promise Keeper organization appears to be a conservative pseudo-Christian organization. I’m actually surprised that they’re still around, since they appear to have outlived their usefulness (other than as a fund-raising tool, of course).

    You’re a lot younger than I am. And I have possibilities elsewhere. I do wish you well, but I doubt that you or your descendents will achieve your or their possibilities.

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