A White Supremacist, Richard Spencer, was at the University of Florida campus the other day for a speaking engagement. There were hundreds of protesters, extra police brought in, some violence (by the protesters) and the Governor declared a state of emergency before Spencer even showed up.
This ministry, Messianic Moment, is not a venue for political activity or opinions, but I couldn’t let this one event go unmentioned.
I am not going to talk about racism; I want to talk about the right to free speech, and when that right should be ignored.
Here are some examples from the past when free speech was legally blocked:
The Alien and Sedition Acts were four bills passed by the Federalist-dominated 5th United States Congress and signed into law by President John Adams in 1798. … The Federalists argued that the bills strengthened national security during an undeclared naval war with France;
The Sedition Act of 1918, enacted during World War I, made it a crime to “willfully utter, print, write, or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of the Government of the United States” or to “willfully urge, incite, or advocate any curtailment of the production” of the things “necessary or essential to the prosecution of the war.”
Currently there are legal exceptions to free speech: one cannot publicly use obscenity, child pornography, use fighting words and offensive speech, make false statements of fact, incite illegal activities, and under certain conditions regarding the government cannot talk about work, national security, etc. Of course, these things do happen, proving that what is illegal is not always policed.
The best known example of an exception to free speech is that you can’t scream “FIRE!!” when sitting in a crowded room if there isn’t any fire.
Getting back to the U of F event, the freedom of speech given to Mr. Spencer caused violence, cost the state (probably) tens of thousands of dollars in extra security, property damage and police salaries, and the protesters also spent their own money making signs that, truthfully, were saying things which everyone else already knew.
I would have just told Mr. Spencer that he isn’t welcomed here. His right to free speech and public assembly would infringe on the rights of the general public to their safety by creating a potentially violent confrontation. Even if his words are not inciteful, the message he presents is, and as such does not qualify as “protected” speech under the Constitution.
I believe this country is so obsessed with protecting the rights of the “little guy” that they are abrogating the rights of everyone else. There are examples everywhere (too many to list) of someone (usually a member of some minority group) claiming their rights have been violated, and consequently trying to get the courts to force the other party to give up their rights in order to appease the plaintiff.
It is the case of the squeaky wheel getting all the grease.
If it was up to me, I would have told Mr. Spencer, “Thanks, but no thanks. Take it somewhere else.” And if he didn’t like that, tough! And as for the people that went to protest, I think the best way to protest someone saying things you don’t agree with is simply don’t go to hear them. Doesn’t that make more sense than showing up, causing a violent scene and costing the state money? Besides that, the violent actions by the protesters gave credibility to his message of supremacy! He was just talking, they were being violent- who’s the hateful one now?
If protesters just didn’t go, then the only people that showed up would be the ones that agreed with him, and his whole engagement would have been nothing more than “preaching to the choir”- a total waste of his time. And to top it off, the university could have charged him to be there, so instead of the state wasting any number of thousands of dollars, the racist would have paid to have no one show up. Again- doesn’t that make more sense?
The bible tells us we shouldn’t stand by and allow evil, but does that mean we have to go out of our way to protest a speech that is by someone who advocates hatred? Yeshua said we shouldn’t throw pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6), and told Shaul (regarding his persecution of the new Believers) that one shouldn’t kick against the goads (Acts 26:14.) The message is that we shouldn’t waste our time and wisdom fighting against something when we can’t win. There will always be bigotry, hatred and racism so long as there are people in the world. If we were all one skin color and one religion, we would then separate ourselves by eye color, or shape of the nose, or size. It doesn’t really matter what the object of hatred is, there will always be hatred. There will always be love, too, and these two opposites will fight against each other forever.
Love is stronger, but because hatred is easier it will often win out. Sad, but that’s the way it is, and it will be that way until Yeshua rules.
From a spiritual standpoint, I would say we should ignore these events. Don’t go to protest something you disagree with because that will only make it more visible. And if you are in a position to refuse an audience to someone who is preaching what you believe to be sinful, evil or just plain wrong, don’t allow their right to speech overrule your right to speech- speak up and say, “NO: you are not welcome here. Go somewhere else.” If you hear someone speaking hatefulness and biblically incorrect rhetoric, ignore them. The best way to win an argument is to not start one. Personally, I think the biggest insult any one person can give to another is to pretend they just don’t exist.
We are to be a light to the darkness, and in order to do that we must be in the darkness. But there are times we must realize that some darkness will never allow the light to shine. The racist and hateful darkness in the world is often times like a Black Hole, which is so dense light cannot escape it.
Don’t fall into a Black Hole; choose your battles, and don’t waste your time fighting against stupidity and hatred. Instead, ignore it and give it nothing to work with.
Let your speech and godly actions be like water on those fires of hatred, and you will be the light that you need to be.