Free Speech Isn’t Only for Ideas You Like

Someone (thanks, Mel!) sent me a link to this story about Daryl Banther and his 8-year-old son. The poor guy. He just wanted to hand out pamphlets and religion “surveys” to unsuspecting festival-goers in Georgia. But the cops chased him away….

He thinks he should be allowed to pedal God. In a way, I agree with him. But there’s an appropriate time and place for that.

– From Evangelizing.

It was difficult to condense this topic into a short quote. I highly recommend reading the original article and Deborah Mitchell’s response to it in order to understand the nuances of the story.

Raising Kids Without Religion is a fantastic blog, but I disagree with Deborah’s assertion that it is inappropriate to pass out tracts at a public event. If anything, public events are an incredibly appropriate place to discuss your beliefs so long they don’t fit into the short list of exemptions to free speech.

After all, free speech isn’t only for ideas we like. In order to work properly it must apply to people we vehemently disagree with as much as it does to our beliefs. No one is guaranteed the right to never hear ideas they find offensive, heretical, or just plain objectionable. Daryl has just as much right to pass out pamphlets and discuss his beliefs in public as the rest of us have to ignore him.

After living in Toronto for eight years I’ve become quite adept at quickly walking past the too-friendly smiles of preachers, performers, and salespeople while in the busier parts of town. 🙂

Assuming the accusations are true, should Daryl have been asking children he’d never met before for their home address and telephone numbers? It might be legal, but I have serious ethical issues with anyone attempting to extract such private information from minors. Any adult who tried that in my city would be perceived as incredibly creepy. No one approaches strange children here without getting permission from their parents or caretakers first, although I acknowledge that this sort of thing may be more socially acceptable in Daryl’s community.

If he broke the law he should be ticketed or arrested, of course, but I cannot support the officer’s decision to pressure him into going home that evening if he wasn’t doing anything illegal.

Ideas aren’t inherently dangerous. What matters is what we do with them and how we treat people who see the world through other lenses.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorised

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *