Waking up to the news this morning I heard a story about a Toronto church group who spent the evening demonstrating against homosexuality in front of a house owned by a gay couple. Apparently this same group had previously driven a lesbian couple out of the same neighborhood.
A quick glance across local news feeds failed to yield a link to the story (perhaps someone will oblige in the comments), so you’ll have to trust me for now.
I think what made the story interesting was that the couple’s neighbours decided that they weren’t too impressed with this sort of organized harassment so they came out and demonstrated right back at the church group. The neighbours also called the police, but the demonstrators left prior to their arrival.
Now my first inclination was to try to point out the “error of their ways” to this misguided church group. Citing a few choice utterances by their Lord, (“This is My commandment: that you love one another as I have loved you” and “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” came immediately to mind.) however I think that instead I’ll go a little broader.
Fortunately for us we live in a free society, (how free and for how long is a matter of debate of course) and one of the things that makes our society “free” is that we have agreed that everyone has the ability to speak their mind, AKA the right to free speech. We even have the right to lawful assembly and the right to peaceful protest thrown in for good measure.
What does this mean really? Well it means that EVERYONE has a right to tell everyone else what they think. This includes both White Supremacists and the Anti-Defamation League, Anti-Abortion and Pro-Choice, as well as supporters of all political, religious, or cultural sects. It is not ok for anyone to say “We’re aloud to say what we want, but those who oppose us are not.” (Well it’s ok for them to say it, but it’s not ok to actually follow through and prevent their opponents from speaking.)
So I say good on the church group for at least having a conviction (however misguided I may feel it is) and standing up and letting people know. That is, after all, what we all should do when we see something we don’t think is right or is potentially harmful to our society. Stand up and tell everyone who will listen. This is how one person can make a difference.
I also want to applaud the neighbours for doing the same. They saw a situation that they could not abide and they came together to stand up and be heard as well.
So there it is. In our society we have agreed that everyone, no matter how misguided or offensive has not only the permission to, but the duty to share their beliefs with the rest of us. What remains for the rest of society to do is protest right back when we cannot tolerate their message.
I wonder how that church would take to a demonstration put on by the residents of their target neighbourhood? It would be great to hear that story when I wake up one day soon.