In light of recent campus tension, it has become increasingly difficult for us to defend our First Amendment rights while also being considerate of other students’ individuality. Furthermore, it is even more challenging to separate the importance of our beliefs from their impact on others.
When do we stop voicing our opinions and start respecting people’s feelings? Where do we draw the line between free speech and hate speech? Is there even a line dividing them? In times when we realize there is division in our community, it should urge us to distinguish the difference between an opinion and an attack. The first aligns with free speech and the other promotes hate speech.
For many that advocate for free speech, censorship is a serious concern. As a student-led publication, we strongly advocate for freedom of speech and of press. We actively encourage students, faculty and staff to share their opinions on a plethora of topics of interest to our campus. Because censorship goes against our journalistic duty of informing our campus, we do not condone silencing any individuals in our campus who are willing to share their opinions without hesitation, so long as they publicly own their words and consequences.
However, we do not support any speech, writing or displays that promote violence, prejudice against individuals on the basis of their identities or targeted harassment against other members of our community. As fervently as we hold on to our freedom of speech, we should hold the same passion for respecting our peers’ rights as well. Our rights should not be at odds with other people’s identities.
At The Threefold Advocate, we strive for inclusivity of all types – opinions included. Yet, we stand by the notion of our opinions reflecting Christ’s teachings, loving our neighbors as we love ourselves. There is a reason why He compares both – We are not supposed to be above our neighbors or vice versa. Likewise, our beliefs should not outweigh the relationships we hold with people we disagree with. We are meant, as a community, to equally respect and love each other. Even if we are divided in opinion, our faith unites us.
John Brown University, brothers and sisters in Christ, let’s learn to use our voices and platforms to cultivate tolerance, not discrimination; to promote love, not hate; to display Christlike behavior, not our fallen nature. Let’s remember that our rights stop when others’ rights start. Actively mocking, bullying and targeting people in our community for who they are is unproductive at best and hurtful at worst.
In times of tension, let’s not forget that our words, either online or offline, can create an impact on someone’s self-acceptance. We are more than just our opinions. We are JBU students who should all feel welcomed and validated in this community.