Arizona campus preacher walks line between freedom of speech and hate speech

‘Brother Dean’ may have right to speak, but that doesn’t mean we should listen

Freedom of speech must always be protected.

Newspapers may just hold onto that right more than anyone. But when that speech is simply unproductive, backwards, anti-woman rhetoric and borderline hate speech – telling women they deserve rape – there’s no place for it.

Dean Saxton, or “Brother Dean” as he is known on campus, is a resident campus preacher at the University of Arizona, who for years has protested holding signs and voicing among other things that women deserve rape and are to blame for rape because of the way they dress. His antics resurfaced in the news cycle again last week after a student began a petition asking the university to no longer allow Saxton to protest on campus.

University of Arizona officials and police have their hands tied – despite some other students’ wishes, Saxton is protected under the first amendment and has every right to voice his beliefs.

While we too believe it is Saxton’s right to voice his opinions under the first amendment, his behavior does raise questions. Where does free speech simply cross the line into hate speech?

Saxton may simply be trying to get a rouse out of her people and gain attention for himself. He’s accomplished that.

But that doesn’t take away from the fact there are female Arizona students, some of whom may have been raped, that have to see his signs and listen to his speech over a megaphone. They have to see and listen to this speech on their own campus while making their way to class or their dorm.

They have to listen to someone tell them it was their fault they were raped.

While Saxton has a right to state his beliefs in a public forum on campus, this type of language and one-sided monologue is harmful.

Saxton’s speeches have come at a time when the country is focused on ways to limit sexual assaults on college campuses. More than 100 schools across the nation are under investigation for Title IX violations. The topic is becoming less taboo and more openly talked about, from the news stations to the campus library.

Saxton’s shaming on women seems backwards to the effort among the government, college administrators and students to end sexual assault. Shifting the blame to the female victims is not progress.

Saxton’s speech only adds to the problem. His signs and speech could discourage a woman from coming forward about her sexual assault.

Saxton will be allowed to continue his speech. It is his right to do so, although he has abused that right by not facilitating discussion with his speech, but rather simply spewing hate speech.

Saxton may claim he is trying to educate people or start a conversation, but his beliefs are so apparently soaked in hate, that it seems as if there is no “discussion.”

Though he has a right to speak his beliefs, we can only hope the University of Arizona campus sees through Saxton’s hate and backwardness. That they don’t let it discourage them from coming forward about sexual assault. That they respect his right to free speech, but simply walk past him without paying any attention.

He may have a right to talk, but that doesn’t mean anyone has to listen.

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