Robert Gehl reports that a poster suggesting that the phrase “You need Jesus” is hate speech is being distributed around Kent State University, stirring a debate about what “hate speech” really is.
The Ohio public college was promoting a campus discussion about the nature of the First Amendment, so the Center for Student Involvement created and circulated a poster for an event on free speech. The poster shows silhouetted activists and posters with several messages overlaid with the rhetorical question “FREE SPEECH OR HATE SPEECH?”
— CSI (@CSIKent) October 18, 2017
There are four messages on the poster, three of them are pretty provocative: “Women need to serve their man,” “Build a wall” and “No more gays.” The fourth, however, is non-violent, basic expression: “You Need Jesus.”
The president of one Christian group is demanding an apology.
“The university should apologize because it appears to be targeted toward one political and religious side,” Jared Small, president of Campus Ministry International said. “They could have included hate speech against president Trump or hate speech against Christians as examples. In my opinion, free speech protects hate speech to an extent. However, the university appears to show a bias against Christians and conservatives.”
The College Fix first broke the story, and when they tried to find out who exactly created the poster, nobody would ‘fess up.
Prof. Amy Reynolds, the dean of Kent State’s College of Communication and Information, moderated last week’s KENTTalks panel discussion on free speech.
She told The Fix in an email that she had no involvement in creating the poster for the event: The Center for Student Involvement “created all of the promotional materials … I’m not sure what the process is/was.”
Neither Eric Mansfield nor Emily Vincent, the executive director and director of Kent State media relations, responded to repeated Fix queries. Neither did Kristan Dolan nor Rick Danals, assistant director and assistant dean of the Center for Student Involvement.
One Christian leader said the poster was likely referring to the fire-and-brimstone traveling preachers who visit campus a couple of times every year.
“Do I think it constitutes hate speech? No. Should the university apologize? No,” Jacob Brown, president of the Catholic Student Association said. “Nobody wants to be told ‘You’re going to hell,’” Brown said. “As a leader of a religious student organization, I put my face in my palm every time I see this [religious] protest,” which echoes the “zealousness” of Jesus in challenging the money changers in the temple but also comes across as “tasteless and without empathy.”
Of course, what’s interesting are any examples from Kent State’s recent history. Back in 2011, a history professor, Julio Cesar Pino shouted “Death to Israel!” at a Muslim-Israeli diplomat who was giving a speech on campus.
That was the most prominent – and notable – example of so-called “hate speech” on the campus in recent years, but it went unnoticed by the posters’ creators.
It is unknown whether or not the speakers at the event clearly explained that – according to several rulings by the US Supreme Court – “hate speech” is “free speech” and should be afforded full constitutional protection.
H/T: The College Fix