Freedom of Speech: So Necessary, So Complicated
So today I’m reading all over the web about this Cincinnati teacher, Mike Moroski, who was recently dismissed from his job at a Catholic high school for writing—on his personal blog—that he didn’t think there was any reason gay people shouldn’t marry each other.
Here is the relevant passage from that blog entry, which he titled “Choose Your Battles”:
Furthermore – I unabashedly believe that gay people SHOULD be allowed to marry. Ethically, morally and legally I believe this. I spend a lot of my life trying to live as a Christian example of love for others, and my formation at Catholic grade school, high school, 3 Catholic Universities and employment at 2 Catholic high schools has informed my conscience to believe that gay marriage is NOT something of which to be afraid.
To me, it seems our time would be much better spent worrying about the economy, our city’s failing pensions, retaining our big business neighbors and finding creative, efficient, effective ways to fund our excellent Cincinnati Public Schools.
Not much time left over to worry about gay people marrying one another.
See his statement about the firing here at said blog.
For my part, I agree with Moroski. I fully support gay rights. Let ‘em marry, let ‘em adopt children, let ‘em inherit each other’s property and share health insurance and visit each other in hospitals.
If certain churches don’t want to marry them within their walls, I’m OK with that, too. I mean, churches will actually refuse to perform ceremonies for a lot of people, for a lot of reasons. Because one of the couple has been divorced previously, or because they live together, or have children together, or just because they refuse to sit in a Marriage Skills class taught by a priest in which they learn how to practice natural family planning by evaluating the state of the woman’s vaginal discharge. (Yes, that happened, to a friend of mine.)
But let’s not confuse the legal status of being married with the joining together of two souls before God, or whatever a church wedding means. There are plenty of beaches, botanical gardens, and historical mansions to get married in, by a justice of the peace, or some weirdo friend of yours who got ordained on the internet. (If Joey Tribbiani can do it, why not anybody?) And legal marriage brings with it all those rights and privileges I described above.
Or, just find a gay-friendly church, of which there are many.
So I support all that, and I support Mr. Moroski, who I think was unfairly dismissed, the school having no other concerns with his behavior or performance of his duties.
But the situation has got me asking myself, do I really support freedom of speech? Or just freedom of speech that I agree with?
I read a story like that of Mr. Moroski’s and I get all indignant. “He’s expressing a perfectly legal opinion on his own blog yada yada yada rant rant rant.” It’s easy to do because I agree with his stance.
But what if his blog was expressing hate speech instead of preaching tolerance?
Remember that gross lady who made those racist comments about Obama and got fired? Remember Andrew Shirvell, that Michigan lawyer who was dismissed from his job for blogging about a University of Michigan student who he believed was using his position in the school government to forward a “homosexual agenda”?
I was against Shirvell keeping his job because, as a lawyer for the Attorney General’s office, he had (as far as I know) influence over decisions that were going to affect the lives of people who could easily fall into the categories he found so personally disgusting. (It’s worth noting that the ACLU fought for Shirvell’s right to express his bigotry, and to appear on the University of Michigan’s campus whenever he wished, assuming he followed the regulations of the restraining order placed upon him by his target.)
Similarly, if Moroski’s comments had been racist or blindingly intolerant, I would have supported him being ousted based on the fact that he is a teacher, and in a position to “mold young minds.” That is a privileged position. The students are there to learn from him; there is an implicit trust there that he’s not going to throw bullshit at them and tell them it’s the way of the world.
Conversely, the woman who made the Obama comments worked at a Cold Stone Creamery. She wasn’t in a position to influence anybody. However, the supervisor who fired her defended the action by saying that the store was being bombarded with messages from people who were outraged by her. It could have led to boycotts, which could have easily led to significant financial losses for the store. The company should certainly not be compelled to keep someone on who is going to represent a public relations nightmare for them.
But I’ll tell you this: I liked that she was fired anyway. I took smug pleasure in it.
I am just so tired of seeing that racist shit on Twitter and Facebook—not from my friends, mind you—but whenever there is a compendium of that stuff on the web. “Racist reactions to Obama’s election.” “Racist reactions to The Hunger Games casting a black girl to play a character who was written as a black girl.” OSU Haters, a tumblr blog created to publicly shame OSU students who post unabashedly racist thoughts on their Twitter pages.
I like the idea that if someone makes statement—a statement which, while not necessarily for public consumption, is distributed far and wide amongst one’s friends and is easily shareable beyond that private circle—which is what Facebook and Twitter do, make no mistake—if someone makes that statement and it is full of hate and violence and uses a word that hasn’t been used by right-thinking people for generations, I think that statement should have some negative consequences.
But when we all have such different conceptions of what equals right and wrong, it gets terribly complicated. Moroski’s statement also had unfortunately negative consequences, because his admission runs counter to the teachings of the church that employed him. And even though I think it is unconstitutional to do so, most parochial schools have policies for employment that include “living by the teachings of the church.” Moroski doesn’t see a contradiction in religious devotion and being tolerant of alternative lifestyles, and props to him for that. The Archidocese of Cincinnati disagreed with him; they find homosexuality to be antithetical to religious devotion. They believe they are right and righteous in that belief. And a church, as a private institution, has that basic right to belief.
(…Which is why I believe in the separation of church and state, and the unconstitutionality of employers legislating their employee’s personal beliefs.)
(Unless those beliefs are so hateful they can’t be ignored, or they are diminishing the person’s ability to do their job properly, or the ability of the company or institution to accomplish its purpose.)
You see why this issue is so complicated? There are so many factors here.
Anyway, I hope some secular institution snaps up Mr. Moroski, who, by all accounts, has an excellent record as a teacher and administrator. I hope he continues to write and fight for his beliefs. I hope anti-hate groups keep doing their thing, and the ACLU keeps doing theirs, because they are all on the “right” side. And I hope intolerance continues to be called out in every constitutionally-appropriate way that it can be.