Is telling a person that they “need Jesus” hate speech? A Christian student leader at Kent State University is demanding an apology after a poster was distributed by the university asking if stating “You need Jesus” could qualify as hate speech.
The university’s Center for Student Involvement created and circulated the poster on Twitter last week. It was designed to draw attention to an event on free speech issues as a part of Kent State’s KENTTalks program. KENTTalks is meant to “provide a safe place for discussions and transformational experiences for our student body” and promote “civil discourse.”
On the poster are silhouetted activists holding signs with messages like: “No More Gays,” “Women Need To Serve Their Man” and “Build a Wall.” Included on these signs is one that expresses the central principle of the Christian faith: “You Need Jesus.”
In the center of the poster are the words: “Free speech or hate speech?”
The president of the student organization Campus Ministry International, Jared Small, said that the poster was inappropriate.
“The university should apologize because it appears to be targeted toward one political and religious side,” he wrote in an email. Small continued saying, “They could have included hate speech against president Trump or hate speech against Christians as examples. In my opinion, free speech protects hate speech to an extent. However, the university appears to show a bias against Christians and conservatives.”
Prof. Amy Reynolds, the dean of Kent State’s College of Communication and Information, was moderating the KENTTalks event on free speech. But she said in an email that she had no involvement in creating the poster for the event. Reynolds wrote: “The Center for Student Involvement created all of the promotional materials … I’m not sure what the process is/was.”
No one from the Center for Student Involvement has responded to questions about the poster.
The president of the Catholic Student Association, Jacob Brown, said that the posters were probably referring to “hellfire preachers” who visit the campus “twice or so each year.” Brown said, “Do I think it constitutes hate speech? No. Should the university apologize? No.”
“Nobody wants to be told ‘You’re going to hell,’” Brown said. “As a leader of a religious student organization, I put my face in my palm every time I see this [religious] protest.” He said that the preachers are trying to echo the “zealousness” of Jesus when he challenged the money changers in the temple, but it comes across as “tasteless and without empathy.”
But Brown urged the students to understand the intentions of the “hellfire” preachers. “They share this with you because they believe it is in your best interest,” he said. “I feel few students stop to consider this perspective.”
Brown continued, “Sharing your ideas with those who agree with you isn’t testing validity, it’s just increasing popularity. … Embrace the trial by fire.”
An interesting irony in this story is what the poster did not include. In 2011, an associate professor of history, Julio Cesar Pino, drew condemnation from Camus leaders, students, and faculty when he shouted “Death to Israel” at a Muslim Israeli diplomat, Ismael Khalid, who was speaking on campus.
So what are your thoughts on this story? Could the words “You need Jesus” be hate speech?
Credit: The College Fix