I disagree with Chuck Colson about the hate crimes legislation now before Congress. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t very real efforts being made by some in government to shut down Christian speech. Colson’s latest BreakPoint column describes one of the most egregious attempts in many a year:
It doesn’t pay to take your constitutional right to free speech seriously anymore—at least, not if you live in Oakland, California. There, a handful of African-American Christian women recently found out that their free speech rights had effectively been outlawed.
The women, who are Oakland government employees, had formed an organization called the Good News Employee Association. As their flyer put it, their group was “a forum for people of Faith to express their views on the contemporary issues of the day. With Respect for the Natural Family, Marriage, and Family Values.”
As columnist George Will relates, the women posted their flyer after other employee groups, including those advocating gay rights, had advertised their activities on the city’s email system and bulletin board. When Good News asked for equal opportunity, they were told to forget it. City officials destroyed their flyer. They accused the women of Good News of being “determined to promote harassment based on sexual orientation. If the women posted any more flyers, or sent their message via email, the city warned, they would be disciplined and perhaps terminated.
In effect, as Will notes, Oakland “has proscribed any speech that even one person might say questioned the gay rights agenda and therefore created what that person felt was a “hostile environment.” While homosexual rights groups used the city’s email system to advertise “Happy Coming Out Day,” the terms “natural family” and “marriage” and “family values” are considered intolerably inflammatory, he adds.
The Good News group has gone to court over Oakland’s attack on their First Amendment rights, and the super-liberal Ninth Circuit Court, not surprisingly, has ruled against them. The group now hopes the Supreme Court will intervene.
I don’t have the slightest doubt that the Supreme Court will overturn this ruling, and I wouldn’t even be surprised by a 9-0 vote. The idea that someone can shut down someone else’s speech simply because one is personally offended by it is poisonous–to the American constitutional order, to the free exchange of idea, and most of all to the very notion of truth. The conduct of the Oakland officials is redolent of Soviet-style repression (without the “re-education camps”–though the spreading practice of “sensitivity training” makes one wonder what’s next in some jurisdictions), and hopefully the coming SCOTUS smackdown will make that crystal-clear to the West Coast thought police and other like-minded bureaucrats across the country.