Letter to the editor: All ideas are protected by First Amendment, even those of campus preachers

You have no right not to be offended.

The recent articles in the Daily Wildcat regarding campus preachers and the free speech debate concerned me deeply. Frankly, I was astounded to see the number of people who would restrict First Amendment rights in the name of “protecting mental health and safety.” Now, don’t get me wrong, I am sometimes disgusted by the things that come out of these “preachers’” mouths in the name of religion. But, I can in no way condone their removal or the idea of free-speech zones. Just as a reminder—since it didn’t appear in any of the previous articles in the Daily Wildcat—here’s the actual text of the First Amendment:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” 

Read it again. However many times you need to. Nowhere in that text is there a caveat: “Unless it offends you or somehow infringes upon your fragile mental health.”

All ideas, even ones you don’t like, should be allowed a place in society. Restricting them on university campuses creates a monochromatic learning environment that allows students to waltz through their college years blissfully ignorant of any thought or idea that contradicts their own. This is terribly detrimental to students’ ability to form their own intellectually. The campus promotes diversity of race, sexual and gender orientation, but students want to restrict ideological diversity? Shouldn’t campuses be places where ideas collide and are debated and improved upon, instead of places where those ideas deemed “offensive” are forced out in order to “protect” students? That sounds less like protection and more like brainwashing to me. 

Doing this is a disservice to students who, when faced with the real world after graduation, will find that no one cares about their mental health and safety. No one is going to walk on eggshells and put forth trigger warnings about content or ideas that may be offensive. Grow up, that’s freedom of speech. 

But the beauty of this sometimes harsh situation is that freedom of speech goes both ways—or at least it should. Disagree with me? Awesome. Exercise your right to disagree with me. Let’s engage in a discussion. But if you have that right, then all must, including the campus preachers. 

Remember, if free speech can be restricted for some, it can be restricted for all. Don’t let those in power coerce you into thinking there is only one ideology that is correct or safe for campus. All viewpoints, even those you disagree with, have a right to be expressed. And beyond graduation, there are no safe spaces. 

So, I say again, you have no right not to be offended. You have a right to express your beliefs and others have a right to theirs. Don’t take those rights away from them. Because in essence, it’s taking rights away from yourself. 


Taylor Burleson is a sophomore at the UA studying Middle Eastern and North African studies



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