Free Speech? Fine By Me.

Wednesday, I said that I agreed with Roy Moore that a public school in California acted unconstitutionally when it banned a student from wearing a shirt that said “Homosexuality is shameful.”

Today, via Bessemer Opinions, I read this story about Elizabeth Esser-Stuart, a student at the Alabama School of Fine Arts here in B’ham, and to whom the ACLU just awarded a $4,000 college scholarship in recognition of her work to protect civil liberties:

Elizabeth and 14 other students wore T-shirts to school that said, “Gay? Fine by me.” The shirts had come from a diversity program started by students at Duke University.

Deciding that the shirts might be offensive, the principal began pulling the students aside and telling them they could no longer wear the shirts. Elizabeth, only a sophomore at the time, did copious legal research on the students’ constitutional right to free expression. She met with the principal several times, urging him to lift the ban. She spent her days, nights, and early mornings working in support of the issue, despite confronting apathy from friends and peers.

In December 2004, Elizabeth contacted the ACLU of Alabama which, with the ACLU Lesbian and Gay Rights Project, notified the principal that the censorship was unconstitutional. The principal lifted the ban.

Three points.

One, good for her. This country needs more people like that.

Two, consider how her actions undercut any argument that schools somehow need to protect the young minds of students from pernicious and offensive ideas. As Ms. Esser-Stuart demonstrated, students are perfectly capable of rationally judging ideas. In fact, she showed a whole lot more wisdom than did the ostensible protector: The school principal. 

Three, there is absolutely no fair way to distinguish an anti-gay shirt from a pro-gay shirt. Every argument in favor of banning one also supports banning the other. I think the much better practice – constitutional requirements notwithstanding – is complete freedom of speech. Let ideas succeed or fail on their own merits, not based on what some state official thinks is offensive.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Free Speech, Roy and the Clones, The Homosexual Agenda

3 Comments on “Free Speech? Fine By Me.”

  1. Texas Redhead Loser Says:

    Back in high school, a dear friend of mine wore a message t-shirt that offended the sensibilities of one ultra-right-wing teacher. It didn’t have obscenities or swearing, but when my friend walked into the class, the teacher (we called her “Antichrist”) told her to go to the office and get another shirt to wear over that one. My friend stood up for herself and the two of them had a nearly 5-minute arguement in front of our class over free speech issues. Unfortunately in our case, the friend was tossed from the class, but I never forgot that day. She passed away 4 years ago this Sunday.

    She would have LOVED this story, Wheeler.

  2. ALmod Says:

    But, but… We NEED the government to babysit our children!!! 😀

  3. Sailer Says:

    The difference in the shirts was that one was encouraging acceptance of others and the other was telling people to be ashamed. Just like a shirt saying “Christ is the one” is fundamentally different than a shirt saying “Jews Repent and accept Christ as your savior”. In a school context I’m not sure how free speech should be. I’d never say that a preacher in a Baptist church shouldn’t be able to condemn fornicators , jews ,muslims and homosexuals. But in a mixed school I’m not so sure. Nazi’s , the KKK and religous fundamentalists should have free speech but maybe not in public schools. I know that I used to love the confederate flag. At the time it was a symbol of the south to me. Now I know that to many it is a symbol of slavery and injustice. As a biologist I don’t believe that most people choose to be homosexuals. It has something to do with hormone levels in the uterus. Animals can be made to act “gay” by giving hormones to their mothers while they are in the early stages of developement. Telling someone to be ashamed of something that they didn’t choose just seems cruel and stupid. There are probably some gays that chose that lifestyle but for many it’s just their nature. Freedom comes with a price and that’s responsibility. When people use their freedoms irresponsibly someone always wants to pass a law to take that freedom away.


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