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When it's not free

Confessions of a realistic pollyanna

Many people talk about free speech. People should have the right to say whatever they feel. It is part of living in a western democracy. People should have the right to say what they want.

But that is not true is it. There are limits to free speech. If I say something which incites hatred or causes pain to another person or group of people, then I am at least spreading bigotry or using hate speech. Hate speech is defined as abusive or threatening speech or writing that expresses prejudice against a particular group, especially on the basis of race, religion, or sexual orientation. One might have feelings of hatred or fear about one group, but when one expresses this publicly in speech or in writing, one can be accused of spreading hate speech.

As someone who preaches for a living, I am always careful about what I say. I do not want to cause pain to others. My role is to lift others up out of pain rather than inflict it. My role is to comfort and challenge. My role is not to condemn.

As someone who writes a small but public blog, again I am not to vilify or condemn. My writing should not cause pain to others. My writing should not inspire others to cause pain and hurt to others. Israel Folau, the Australian Rugby star has 30,000 followers on his twitter feed. Last year he was warned by the Rugby leagues to stop publishing tweets where he condemned people he considered to be living sinful lives. This week he again published such comments saying gays and lesbians and other immoral people were going to hell. Although I disagree with him vehemently, I understand that Mr. Folau and others may feel that. It is sad but permissible for him to hold these views. But Mr. Folau crosses a line when he shares these views with his 30,000 twitter followers. By saying that he feels that gays and lesbians are going to hell, he is telling his 30,000 twitter fans that is ok to hate gays and lesbians. He is not merely expressing his opinion. He is inciting hate. And for that it is right that he is facing punishment (especially since this was not a first time offence).

We all have our own unique opinions. No one is saying that you can't think the way you want. But in this age of instant communication, we must be careful on how we share those opinions. Not every opinion has to be shared with others. Blessings

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