Free speech is not a free pass to verbal cruelty

by Kourtney Husnick

We are granted certain rights which cannot be infringed upon as citizens of the United States of America, but these rights stop the second we use them to infringe upon the rights of others. For this reason, freedom of speech should not and cannot include encouraging violence or suicide.

It should not matter whether or not the recipient of such a message is specifically or individually named. It should only matter that the message is meant to incite a form of physical harm.

Court cases and criminal charges have become much more frequent in response to individuals encouraging suicide. We have seen people sentenced to time in jail and the payment of fines for pushing someone else to end his or her own life. Whether it be through text messages or a poster hung in the halls of our university, the intent is the same and should be condemned the same way.

Struggling with suicidal thoughts is an issue too well known in our generation. Targeting anyone to push these thoughts more aggressively into their minds cannot be a right that we protect.

Free speech is important. It allows us to speak freely and openly about our ideas and beliefs without the fear of being silenced, arrested or killed by our government. It has and has always had limitations.

Free speech is not a free pass to abuse. It is not an excuse for threats or the inciting of violence. Like libel, verbal harassment and perjury, these actions are not protected rights under the First Amendment.

If you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, fine. If you need to talk about your disagreements with someone else’s lifestyle, that is also fine. If you decide to tell a person or a group of people that they should kill themselves through any communication outlet, that is not fine.

Legally speaking, the posters targeting the LGBT+ community were protected speech. As ridiculous as that is, it has been a much larger relief that we did not lose any students to those protected words in order to see this idea challenged.

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