Suspension from School and Possible Jail Time for Wearing an NRA Shirt!?

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National_Rifle_Association

National_Rifle_Association (Photo credit: ChrisWaldeck)

At the link, http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/06/17/west-virginia-teen-arrested-for-nra-shirt-officially-charged/, is the story of a fourteen-year-old boy suspended from school for wearing a pro-NRA t-shirt. Not only was he suspended, but he was arrested and faces up to a year in jail for “obstructing an officer,” apparently because of something he said that offended the officer. Freedom of expression is dead in the United States except for the politically correct. A student would probably get away with wearing a pro-abortion t-shirt or a shirt promoting every kind of moral perversity, but God forbid the student wear a shirt defending gun rights. The officer claimed that the student’s “refusal to talk” kept him from doing his job as an officer. Now silence is punishable by arrest and a prison sentence.

Now I know many police officers personally–the vast majority are not like the arresting officer in this case. However, none of them appreciate having their authority questioned. To some extent that is understandable, but this does not justify abuse of police power. School officials also lacked common sense in calling the police in the first place.

The situation reminds me of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, when the dictatorial pig who rules over the animals says that “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” In the United States, we are rapidly getting to the point, and are most likely already to that point, that “We have freedom of speech, but some speech is freer than other speech.”

Like many Americans, I feel a sense of anomie watching my country turn into a totalitarian state. This incident in West Virginia, the constant surveillance, the rising power and  increasing militarization of federal law enforcement agencies, and the United States military engaging in judicial executions without trial of American citizens through drone strikes–these are just the beginning of what promises to be the end of what little remains of the American republic. Sometimes I could sit down and cry. There seem no realistic options to escape a totalitarian state other than to leave the country, but Europe is moving the same direction. As a Christian, I trust in God that all will be well in the end. In the meantime, we can all love God, love our families, work with dignity, and do what little we can to slow the inextricable destruction of liberty in what used to be the land of the free.

Traditional Moral Positions and the Public Square

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Freedom of Speech (painting)

Freedom of Speech (painting) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Canada, it is a crime to publicly assert that practicing homosexuality is a sin. In my ethics class, students regularly write on their essays that being a virgin until marriage is “prudish,” and they do not take seriously the traditional view that couples should refrain from sexual intercourse until marriage. In many academic settings, those who believe abortion to be morally wrong are silenced, to the point that the University Faculty for Life presents an option to its members to hide their membership in the organization so that their colleagues do not find out. The notion that there is objective right and wrong is excluded from most public schools, and moral relativism is taught as the gospel truth (and teaching it as such is, of course a contradiction).

It is true that freedom of speech does not, as the old saw goes, give anyone the right to yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater. Surely being morally opposed to abortion or to practicing homosexuality or to premarital sex is not the equivalent to shouting “Fire!” Yet such opinions are being increasingly excluded from the public square, in academic institutions first, and then in the wider society.

I believe in academic freedom. If a student or faculty member wishes to defend the moral rightness of premarital sex, of practicing homosexuality, or of abortion, that student or faculty member should be allowed to have a say in the university square. But academic freedom also implies that those with the opposite views on these issues should be allowed to make their case. I am a conservative, but if a liberal student makes a strong case for his position, he will get a good grade on his test and will not be punished for his views. The situation should be the same for a conservative student who makes a good defense of his position in a class with a liberal professor. To give them credit, some liberal professors do give their students such academic freedom and believe in such for their colleagues. There is a subset of professors, however, who want to silence conservative voices, especially on controversial moral issues. Such violation of freedom of speech has taken place in some institutions of higher education, to the point that a professor in one school who presented a natural law argument against homosexual practice (and did not even claim to agree with the argument) was fired–until a court awarded him his job back. The problem is that he should not have lost his job in the first place. What is going on is that hostile rhetoric against moral conservatives is repeated so much that people begin to believe it (“they are haters,” “these people are filled with anger,” etc.). I have never understood why holding moral action A to be wrong implies hating the person who performs moral action A. I wish I could say that such an ignorant position prevails only in academia, but it is present in broader society. More and more the elites in academia, the media, and in Hollywood, are attempting to exclude traditional moral discourse from legitimate discussion and to push their views onto society as a whole. It may be just a matter of time before the United States goes the direction that Canada has gone (depending on election results, court appointees, etc.) and makes illegal conservative moral discourse on abortion and on sexual ethics. I wonder who the real narrow minded people are, the real bigots, the real haters. I would venture a guess that most of them are not moral conservatives.