In defense of free speech


Anthony Torres/The Cougar


Bigotry and censorship have many parallels.

Last week, a man, who refers to himself as “Saint Jesse,” graced the scene of Butler Plaza to perform his preferred method of “confrontational” Gospel preaching.

A large crowd gathered in protest, many holding signs saying “It’s OK to be gay!” among other, more explicit signs.

Jesse Morrel, the preacher in question, has been traveling for 10 years, preaching at campuses all over the country shouting phrases like “your neighborhood homo is like your neighborhood crackhead,” or “I think abortionists should be executed.”

Many tried to interrupt him speaking, starting chants like “Bullshit! Bullshit!”

“One of the reasons I came to this school is for the diversity, and how we accept people the way they are,” said hotel and restaurant freshman Emily Dadeo-Winick. “(It’s) unacceptable that somebody is telling me that what I’m doing is a sin, and that expressing my sexuality is a sin.”

It’s hateful, it’s offensive, and most of it isn’t based on any kind of empirical fact.

But the one fact that is prevalent: Morrel is allowed to say these things.

The First Amendment of the Constitution guarantees Morrel’s right to free speech, regardless of its baseness. He may insult you, he may enrage you, but his rhetoric is protected.

A student stood in front of Morrel at one point yelling “Shut up! Shut up!” and afterwards proceeded to go on a tirade about why he was wrong.

Saying that he should not be allowed to do this, or yelling over him so no one can hear, is simply good old-fashioned censorship.

Trying to stop someone from speaking because they have a belief that contradicts yours does not show that you are brave. It reveals your level of sensitivity when it comes to ideas that you might not agree with.

This is dangerous. Colleges have evolved to the point where anything not considered politically correct is shunned and demonized. Somethings should be demonized, yes, but shunning opposing views just because you disagree with them is the definition of bigotry.

People are quick to label evangelicals as bigots, and many of them are. But many never stop to consider that attempting to silence those who would insult us is just as bigoted.

There are over 300 million people living in the U.S. and each one of them carry different opinions and perspectives. In a democracy such as ours, this is how we learn to compromise to include everyone’s beliefs and concerns for a better society.

My advice: If you see a preacher yelling at you to repent, either engage in a dialogue with them, or simply walk away.

Don’t ever feed the trolls.

Opinion editor Anthony Torres is a political science junior and may be reached at [email protected]


  • I wouldn’t call a preachy zealot a troll because trolls are most often disingenuous. However, you hit on great points like people trying to silence bigots as being bigots themselves.
    Kudos for writing the first opinion column I’ve seen in a while that isn’t completely polarized one way or another.

    • But in doing so, the article basically gives the effect that the sound “eh” does. This article itself is just so surface level, easy, and just average… there could have been way more directions to go in when you get a good little topic/event like this preacher.

      • Well if you take it at surface value then sure it’s cut and dry, but so is the 1st amendment. If you’re looking for an exposé on this guy in particular then we can start talking semantics and “deeper meaning”.

        Now a good conversation to have would be why this guy is only ever in Butler Plaza preaching his rhetoric: Butler Plaza is the only so-called “Free Speech Zone” on campus. That whole concept is bullshit.

  • The theme of this editorial isn’t to talk about the Preacher explicitly, he’s merely an example. The idea of the post is that you can’t drum out dissenting or opposing opinions because they piss you off. For example: with the preacher, you can’t destroy his mics or get in front of him for the purpose of silencing him because you’re pissed of at him. That’s not how this works.

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