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Free speech costs

Free speech is a tenuous thing. Many folks seem to believe in their right to free speech, but sometimes seek to quash it in others, especially when a disagreement arises.

This push and pull over who has the right to speak about whom is creating wrinkles in the fabric of our community. Evidence of this rests in a couple of events that occurred last week.

The pastor of Elkdale Baptist Church invited Allan McConnell, a cult specialist, to come speak to his congregation about cults and about Mark Duke’s doctrine. Duke is the founder of The Freedom Foundation, a diverse group of volunteers made up of people from Colorado and other places, including Selma. The stated aim of the foundation is to better the community.

But a recorded series of Bible studies and talks by Duke and other members of the foundation made their way into McConnell’s hands. He and others in our community — even some pastors of both races — have taken issue with where Duke stands on certain issues of theology.

On Thursday before McConnell was to speak, Duke had members of the Freedom Foundation deliver a letter to each of the pastors listed in an article written for The Selma Baptist Association as supporting the Elkdale meeting. In the letter, Duke made his case for opposing the meeting. Then, he said, “This isn’t an issue of freedom of speech. It is an issue of unGoldly (sic) and oppressive behavior.”

Duke and others attended a unity service at another church. Yet, some foundation volunteers attended the Elkdale service. They spoke on cell phones and text messaged throughout the service in a manner deemed disrespectful of the speaker by some in attendance.

Free speech is what it is — free, but with the onus of responsibility for what comes out of one’s mouth. If we are to live in a society that is peaceful, we must be as willing to listen, as we are to speak. In Selma, a lot of lips are moving, but not many ears are open to listening.

It is impossible for us to see things as themselves because we come to the table with many perceptions brought from our experiences and our environments. If someone is wrong in doctrine, then let that person be an idiot. If someone wants to counter belief, then allow that person to speak without fear or intimidation.

No, Rev. Duke, you are wrong. This occurrence is the very basis of free speech. To attempt to stop it or to prevent people from hearing it is oppressive.