Student petition to ban hate speech moronic
February 1, 2016
The extreme fundamentalist Christian group that preaches near the De Anza College cafeteria is disgusting, nauseating and offensive. But the petition attempting to ban this group is misguided, moronic and the least effective way of dealing with these preachers.
The main reason the preachers are allowed to loudly share their views in the middle of campus is a pesky little sentence called the First Amendment. In part, this sentence stops the government — including the college and district — from restricting both free speech and free assembly, so the preachers would have not one, but two of their constitutional rights violated by this ban.
School and district officials, both student and non-student representatives, are part of the government, so the ban would be government censorship.
Still, a De Anza student started an online petition,which received more than 500 signatures, seeking to remove the preachers. It was then discussed by both the DASB Senate and the FHDA Board of Trustees.
The petition mentions freedom of speech but then dismisses the idea saying, “… what this man was clearly promoting was hate speech…”
The thing is, when it comes to the First Amendment, there is no exemption allowing the government to restrict or outlaw hate speech. There is no legal definition of hate speech and attempts to ban what people consider hate speech have been repeatedly struck down by the Supreme Court.
While there is an exemption for speech that causes immediate physical violence and harm, telling people they’re going to hell when they die or yelling that someone is a bad person doesn’t count.
There is no doubt that the preachers are hateful and people, especially those the preachers single out, feel hurt and rightfully so. It’s truly shameful that these preachers hold, much less share, these views.
If history is any indication, the group could easily turn around and sue the Foothill— De Anza School District, win a settlement and come back to De Anza richer than before. So a ban would not just fail, but finance the group it was levied against.
This scenario is not just a hypothetical worst case scenario or pessimistic shot in the dark. It is an entirely plausible outcome that has happened before.
When the FHDA tried to restrict anti-abortion activists back in 2005, the activists sued over free speech violations and got paid in a settlement.
Even though the discussed ban would be counter productive, there are still ways to stop, or at least limit, the preachers from coming to campus. You’re never going to be able tocontrol what other people say and trying is futile, so focus on controlling what you can, how you respond.
Protesting the preachers is akin to posting on an internet message board; responses are neither rational nor constructive. Instead of getting your point across, you make the preachers feel vindicated and encourage them to return again because they know the students at De Anza are willing to pay attention.
What would be effective is if any time preachers came to De Anza, students ignored them and refused to give the preachers the attention they crave.
Next time the preachers are up on the stage in the main quad, just walk away. If you have to walk through the main quad, keep your eyes straight ahead and don’t stop to listen or respond. If you think you’ll be compelled to respond or don’t want to hear what the preachers are saying, go the long way around and put a building between you and the preachers.
Instead of removing the preachers from campus via ban and risking a lawsuit, a more elegant solution is to simply ignore the preachers until they go away.