LSU’s Free Speech Plaza is known for attracting some colorful characters. Some of the views expressed there can be controversial, to say the least.
It has prompted one columnist for The Daily Reveille to write and complain that Free Speech Plaza creates a “hostile environment” and urges the university to crack down on speech.
Slander is not tolerated under freedom of speech. While hate speech is still protected under the First Amendment, blackening someone’s name is illegal. Everyone who visits the Student Union or passes by Free Speech Plaza knows of the dreaded “screachers,” those who preach about this or that at the top of their lungs to the chagrin of their listeners. When confronted, they hide behind both the First Amendment and University’s lack of rules.
70 percent of Americans believe hate speech should be protected according to a National Constitution Center poll. The First Amendment was designed mainly for unpopular, inflammatory opinions, but there is a line between inflammatory and contemptuous. The latter attacks someone on a personal level, and the former incites a change. When screachers are standing on elevated platforms in Free Speech Plaza labeling passersby as “whores,” “sinners” and “sluts,” they victimize students as well as assault their ears. At the very least, these ear-splitting preachers should be charged with disturbing the peace.
These verbal confrontations do not incite others to change; they only create animosity toward the preacher as well as the organization they claim to represent. Freedom of speech was created to foster innovative ideas, not violence and discrimination. If regulations to Free Speech Plaza were imposed, not only would innocent ears be spared, but those proclaiming their beliefs might gather further support by not sounding insane.
For starters, the writer is wrong on the law. Here’s what Hayride contributor and attorney Owen Courreges had to say about the law.
Important thing on that — he’s wrong on the law. A street preacher calling people “sinners” and “sluts” might be disturbing the peace (as he notes) but it wouldn’t be defamation. Defamation only includes making false statements, and insults that express opinions — not facts — cannot be false
There is also another foolproof way to avoid these preachers, avoid Free Speech Plaza. According to a comment posted on the article, there are ways to avoid the plaza and get across campus without taking up additional time.
LSU is already awful on free speech issues. The group Foundation for Individual Rights in Education awards LSU a red meaning that LSU already has policies that threaten free speech on campus. Adding more restrictions on speech is not the answer.
Instead of restricting speech, some people need to toughen up and learn to shrug off offensive comments.