20 April, 2006

Thank Heavens My God Hates You Too

I'm at home, and my critically slow internet connection combined with my passionate desire to be lazy means that I thought I'd pounce on a story which didn't require much research.

Hm! Quotations from this article unless otherwise noted.

Ruth Malhotra went to court last month for the right to be intolerant.

Malhotra says her Christian faith compels her to speak out against homosexuality. But the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she's a senior, bans speech that puts down others because of their sexual orientation.

To start with my favourite fallacy, the tu quoque. Obviously Ms Malhotra's own inconsistency doesn't matter one jot to the wider issues involved, but this defender of religious freedom distinguishes herself as an outspoken critic of religious freedom, supporting the Academic Bill of Rights - which is either so weak as to be redundant, or as
student Alex Suarez suggests in the nique.net article '[is] a good movement so long as it doesn’t devolve into a witch hunt for the professors on either end.' There is obviously little evidence that David Horowitz is on a political witch hunt for professors, which somewhat mitigates this concern. Ms Malhotra's citation of it, however, seems to fall in the latter category - seemingly to stifle a professor for holding views she disagreed with and arguing in favour of those views in class.

Ms Malhotra also seems to believe that while universities should be forced by law to allow all religiously inspired beliefs to be expressed...

"If gays want to be tolerated, they should knock off the political propaganda," the letter said.

...homosexuals should shut their damn dirty mouths and stop striving for - well, anything at all. Beleaguered demographics unjustly discriminated against for their exceptionally minor or irrelevent qualities sitting on their haunches expecting the magical, spontaneous proliferation of equality was certainly an effective tactic for ethnic minorities and women, but would it work for homosexuals? We may never know; homosexuals seem to have a perverse, almost determined need to be heard in the public square - imagine the cheek! Many of the buggers aren't even religious.

To the meat: I am exceptionally amused by the idea that a critical principle of many peoples' religious belief genuinely seems to be the crushing need to insult homosexuals and conduct lawsuits doomed to failure. That being said, I'm of two minds regarding this, though I'll try to force myself to come to an opinion. I would rather such ideas be discussed publicly: the best way to battle prejudice and arguments devoid of reason is to confront them openly and freely. Doing so allows their utter vacuity to be exposed - although this instance of Bad Idea is unfortunately religiously based, and religion often seems to remove the need to provide reasonable content for an argument. Allowing the debate to be conducted openly also removes the development of a martyr complex - stripping a critical strategic tool from the arsenal of antihomosexuals as well as being the right thing to do; free speech is meaningless if offensive or ridiculous ideas are forbidden. The university, as the gentle cusping hands of academia, would seem the perfect place for such beliefs to have their straps carefully unclipped; for the coverage of ignorance to be removed and the heaving bosom of religion to be expressed, analysed, and roughly slapped around by people who are less silly.

However, it's clearly wrong that individuals should feel harassed while attending a university, going to work, or otherwise trying to live their bloody lives. Corporations, universities, government employers, etc., may well feel the need to protect their wee charges from harassment by fellow students and colleagues - and to a significant extent, quite rightly too. Striking the balance between a comfortable and safe working environment and individual expression of belief is a tricky customer, and I think narrow attacks on fellow individuals and groups attending one's university - be it for their sexuality, religion, politics or ethnicity - are a different kettle of fish to criticising, in this instance, homosexuality itself. The article is somewhat unclear about the exact terms of the Georgia Institute of Technology's policies, and GIT's (teehee!) site is an absolute pain to try and navigate on a modem connection. The comment by GIT's spokesperson strongly suggests that there's little or nothing I disagree with concerning its policy:

A Georgia Tech spokeswoman would not comment on the lawsuit or on Malhotra's disciplinary record, but she said the university encouraged students to debate freely, "as long as they're not promoting violence or harassing anyone."

Regardless, Ms Malhotra's condemnation of the university's Pride group, and lambasting students coming out of the closet, easily crosses that line.

-The Rev. Schmitt.