Free Speech Should Not Cost Anything

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Published January 22, 2020
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The Montclarion
Alex Kitchmire | The Montclarion

Last September, three Montclair State University students advocating pro-gun rights on campus had their peaceful demonstration shut down by university police. Earlier this month, a lawsuit against Montclair State was filed by the students, claiming the university restrained their ability to exercise their first amendment right.

No matter your opinion, if you live in the United States, your right to freedom of speech must be protected. It is imperative to the fundamental ideals of this country, as well as to the ongoing progression of its society.

Mena Botros, a Montclair State sophomore and the president of Young Americans for Liberty, led the demonstration alongside two other students. Wearing orange jumpsuits, the three protestors jokingly supported what they believed to be ironic: recently developing gun control efforts, in particular, gun-free zones.

The reason given by the university officer for bringing the demonstration to a halt was that anyone who wishes to hold a political demonstration on campus must obtain permission from the university, who will give them a time and place to do so.

The lawsuit filed by the students claims that the requirement prohibiting them from their public activism puts a restraint on their first amendment rights. Furthermore, they believe the requirement allows for the university to pick and choose which causes and agendas they believe to be important or not.

Following the 2016 presidential election, Montclair State campus saw a multitude of anti-Trump student protests. Students on both sides of the issue were in attendance, all making their voices heard by the other.

These protests were certainly more raucous than the demonstration shut down last September. Despite that difference, the two did share a characteristic in that neither were approved by the administration.

The possibility of Montclair State’s administration choosing which voices should and should not be heard could be problematic. All opinions, including those that may be considered unpopular, should carry the same weight. Anything otherwise directly defies the first amendment and your right as a citizen of the United States.

A common and indisputably important argument countering the idea that there should be no restraints to free speech is whether or not a platform should be given to extremism like white supremacy and other domestically toxic, historically violent and dehumanizing organizations and “activists.”

Of course, anyone who incites violence should not be given a platform to do so and anyone who does do so abuses their right to free speech, as well as turns their back on the American ideals of equality and fellowship.

Moreover, disagreeing with someone because they hold a different opinion than you is not the same as disagreeing with someone because their opinion is inherently dangerous.

In a time where the political spectrum is increasingly polarizing, it is important to have your perspective challenged no matter where you fall on that spectrum.

Being exposed to new ideas and points of view that are unfamiliar is not at all a bad thing, and if you disagree with a philosophy contradictory to your own, so be it.

It is a crucial aspect of what makes a society flourish, that is, each of its members having the ability to safely come together, discuss, decide what they believe individually and go their separate ways without having any philosophies forced upon one another. Additionally, in the event that any specific philosophy is written into law, those who feel wronged reserve the ability to correct it through a democratic process.

Whether you are pro-gun rights or pro-gun control, pro-life or pro-choice, right, left or anywhere in between, your opinion is still your opinion. No matter what that opinion may be, every American deserves to express it absent from any bureaucratic resistance.

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