You Can’t Say That!!

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( Everyone has the right to say whatever he or she wants to say, without fear of retribution. Attempts to prevent people from speaking or to prevent them from being heard because their views disagree with those of the people making the attempts are unacceptable. Rebuttals of disagreeable speech are of course allowed, as such discussion will allow all points of view to be heard.

The right to speak without retribution makes the imposition of speech codes in schools and the public shaming of those voicing unpopular opinions immoral and deplorable. Such activities are not acceptable in a free society. Such actions only serve to show that those who do them are unable to defend their beliefs against opposition.

You must not allow yourself to be silenced by those who dislike what you are saying. By the same token, you must not try to silence or allow others to try to silence those who say things you disagree with. Rebutting the things others say that you disagree with is certainly your right, but keeping them from saying those things is unacceptable and it is your responsibility to ensure that they can speak. I don’t say that this will be pleasant or easy; what’s easy is allowing speech you agree with. But ensuring that everyone’s right to speak is preserved is something we all must do.

You must refuse any sort of punitive actions against yourself or others, even those you disagree with, for the things they say. If such punitive actions are taken by others or by those in authority, it is your moral obligation to refuse to support those who take such actions, until the actions are overturned. It is also your responsibility to work to get such actions overturned, whenever they occur. “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.”

No speech is automatically criminal, or “hate speech.” If someone’s speech causes him or others to engage in criminal actions, those actions are prosecutable. But the only speech that is prosecutable is that which calls for such criminal actions to take place. However much you may dislike the things being said, the right to say them is absolute.

It is only by speaking out, and by listening to others as they speak out, that we can come to an understanding of the viewpoints of those around us and can work together to build the society we want, where all are treated equally with liberty and respect. If you are speaking wrathfully, or someone else is speaking wrathfully to you, this is a sign that someone is being misunderstood. “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.”

Responding to angry speech calmly rather than returning anger for anger can often be the beginning of understanding. No, it’s not easy; in fact, it’s difficult. But it’s worth the effort. As for silencing those you disagree with, remember the words of Louis Brandeis: “If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.

Staff Writer; Douglas Loss