The State Hornet has received criticism for running an advertisement in our March 16 issue for the Sacramento Central Church that publicizes Coming Out Ministries — a group that preaches that prayer will result in “freedom from homosexuality.”
We found the ad to be reprehensible and passionately debated whether or not we should run it. But we did come to a consensus: as a student newspaper, we have an unwavering responsibility to uphold the First Amendment.
As editors, we felt that declining to run an advertisement based on religious beliefs would be imposing an ideological purity test — something we could not defend.
In researching our options, we were advised that the idea of student newspapers at a public university rejecting ads based on content is a legal gray area.
We considered whether the ad could be interpreted as misleading or false, but as the Seventh-day Adventists actually do believe in the message conveyed, it would be considered religious expression, and therefore protected.
We believe that our responsibility as a First Amendment publication confers upon us a duty to keep the newspaper open to differing — and sometimes controversial — viewpoints, regardless of our personal feelings or the stance of the editorial board on any given subject.
We believe in the spirit of free expression. We believe that a newspaper should be a platform for dissenting opinions — and that rational people will reject prejudiced or unfounded views.
Censorship of speech puts the authority of deciding what is allowed and what is too offensive into the hands of the powerful — power that as we saw in this last election can shift suddenly. Anyone, at any time, could find themselves on the losing side.
The content allowed to be published in The State Hornet should not be at the mercy of the personal opinions of whomever is currently in charge.
It was the First Amendment that allowed people to have a free and open debate and, ultimately, for most people to reject bigotry.
As Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis noted, “sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.”
If you take issue with a “pray the gay away” ministry, the proper response is not censorship, but debate:
How, exactly, can someone argue that homosexuality can be changed when scientific evidence suggests it is immutable? Why do some, in spite of the testimony of countless gay people and a plethora of committed and loving relationships, consider romantic love between two people of the same sex harmful and dangerous when love between people of opposite sexes is near universally considered beautiful and admirable?
Of course we refute the message. But the answer to hurtful speech is never censorship. The answer is more speech.
In the meantime, The State Hornet will always uphold everyone’s First Amendment freedoms — whether our editors agree with you or not.
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