The constitutional right to freedom of speech is often paid lip service until it opens the door for unsavory characters to challenge the normative beliefs and values of society.
This week, free speech cleared the path for what might have otherwise been considered a bias-related incident: two individuals speaking out against homosexuality, imposing a predatory belief system on a campus of students unhesitant to defend themselves and each other.
Despite our traditionally unwavering faith in the First Amendment, the cutting words projected over the patio on Tuesday make it difficult for us not to pause and consider the negative ramifications of free speech when it's used as a gateway for hatred and ignorance.
But while the scene may have been unsettling, the hours that followed the initial demonstration offered insight to the even greater power of free speech when used as it was by students and faculty. Tuesday's assembly on the College Green displayed the solidarity of the campus community, beyond its capacity to follow a tree arbitrarily. By overpowering the ignorance of two homophobic evangelists with nothing more than a crowd and a voice, free speech prevailed to serve a higher purpose.
The preaching pair of bigots came to our campus with the aim of isolating and demeaning members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. The outcome of their demonstration instead brought forth the powerful presence of Pride Alliance, which further inspired support among students and faculty who may have never before given LGBT discrimination a second thought. Not only did the preachers fail to impinge on our values, but they succeeded in reinforcing them.
University Police were on guard, but no intervention was necessary. Freedom of speech afforded the opportunity for this enormous demonstration of campus unity and facilitated the promotion of acceptance and appreciation for our differences, all without a trace of physical violence.
Convincing no one with their reckless verbal lashings, the dynamic duo publicly humiliated themselves, empowered the LGBT and campus community, and presented the uncommon occasion to examine the deeper implications of free speech and its indispensable value as a constitutional right.