Free speech and Christians protesting either abortion or gay rights presents some ethical dilemmas for freethinkers who have the opposite views. I am one who does not want to restrain free speech in almost any form and I hate the concept of “free speech zones” that have been most commonly used near political conventions. Free speech zones are also used as an excuse against Christian protestors.
I may not have the full story here, but according to OneNewsNow.com, Pastor Mark Holick had a restraining order issued against him by local authorities in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The event was some sort of festival and the good (?) pastor was protesting abortion with the usual signs showing photos of aborted fetuses which might upset attendees.
Per the story: “The restraining order said that we had to stay two blocks away and that we couldn’t show any graphic signs within that two-block area,” Holick accounts.
As much as I would not want my fun ruined by abortion protestors, I do not like the idea of limiting free speech in this manner. I also do not believe it is a valid excuse that your child might see those graphic signs and be disturbed. Holick has a right to his views and signs as long as he is not being violent or blocking entrance ways, etc.
Now I don’t know if there was some other element going on here. Was Holick being peaceful in his protest or was he being a disturbance? It may be called for in certain situations to make sure everyone is safe when a particularly inflammatory argument is being put forth and people on both sides of the issue are getting into heated exchanges.
It doesn’t sound like that was the case here. It honestly sounds like Pastor Holick had a right to protest on public property. Those signs can be ugly and offensive, but that’s the nature of free speech. I don’t like the idea of authorities coming in and shooing him away from his intended crowd target to get his message across. Rather, I would like to have simply seen a counter protest or a creative way of diluting Holick’s message. This way the Christian fringe can’t claim persecution or brand themselves as martyrs for the cause. For the fringe, persecution of any sort validates their message and really the fringe is it’s own worst enemy. For example, most Christians by now cannot stand Pastor “God Hates Fags” Fred Phelps who has done more to promote gay rights then to stop them by presenting such a bad image of homophobia.
Pastor Holick has already made a fool of himself by declaring Obama a Muslim on a marquee (I’m to the point now that I think it’s an issue of racism or some form of bigotry when people insist Obama is something that he claims not to be). He obviously likes testing the bounds of free speech and is paying a price for it. I don’t care much for the content of his message, but let’s allow him to make a fool of himself. It’s his right. I think a creative alternative would be to put Mark Holick’s name on a marquee and claim he isn’t a true Christian. Unfortunately, I have a bad feeling he might sue.