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Op-Ed: When Is Free Speech Hate Speech?

By Johnny Simpson     May 22, 2008 in Politics
Cynthia Dixon, Associate VP of Human Resources for the University of Toledo and a devout Christian, was fired for comments she made in an OpEd about a domestic partner program at UT. Her case is only the tip of a much larger iceberg.
Here's the whole story:
On April 8th, Toledo Free Press Editor-In-Chief Michael S. Miller wrote an OpEd entitled 'Gay Rights and Wrongs'.
Here are some key excerpts:
Because I have such intense love and respect for the people in my life who are gay, it never makes sense to me when I hear someone preaching anti-gay rights propaganda. I can never understand why they care.
And do not tell me you are “tolerant” or “tolerate” gay people. Stop for a moment and think about how condescending and evil that attitude is.
The frequent denial of health care benefits leads to horror stories. According to the panelists, UT has offered domestic partner benefits since then-president Dan Johnson signed them into effect. The Medical University of Ohio did not offer those benefits.
Here are some of the 'offensive' comments Ms. Dixon made to the Toledo Free Press in response to Mr. Miller entitled 'Gay Rights and Wrongs: Another Perspective' which explain why she no longer has a job at the University of Toledo:
I read with great interest Michael Miller's April 6 column, "Gay Rights and Wrongs."
I respectfully submit a different perspective for Miller and Toledo Free Press readers to consider.
First, human beings, regardless of their choices in life, are of ultimate value to God and should be viewed the same by others. At the same time, one's personal choices lead to outcomes either positive or negative.
As a Black woman who happens to be an alumnus of the University of Toledo's Graduate School, an employee and business owner, I take great umbrage at the notion that those choosing the homosexual lifestyle are "civil rights victims."
Here's why. I cannot wake up tomorrow and not be a Black woman. I am genetically and biologically a Black woman and very pleased to be so as my Creator intended.
The reference to the alleged benefits disparity at the University of Toledo was rather misleading. When the University of Toledo and former Medical University of Ohio merged, both entities had multiple contracts for different benefit plans at substantially different employee cost sharing levels.
To suggest that homosexual employees on one campus are being denied benefits avoids the fact that ALL employees across the two campuses regardless of their sexual orientation, have different benefit plans. The university is working diligently to address this issue in a reasonable and cost-efficient manner, for all employees, not just one segment.
My final and most important point. There is a divine order. God created human kind male and female (Genesis 1:27). God created humans with an inalienable right to choose. There are consequences for each of our choices, including those who violate God's divine order.
It is base human nature to revolt and become indignant when the world or even God Himself, disagrees with our choice that violates His divine order. Jesus Christ loves the sinner but hates the sin (John 8:1-11.)
Before I continue on, notice two key attitude differences. Mr. Miller believes it is not enough for people to just tolerate or be tolerant of homosexuals.
We must love them, or we are evil and condescending.
Ms. Dixon's Christian opinion it that we are all sinners God loves, but that he hates the sin.
Who's really being hateful here?
Mr. Miller, who brands all those who don't worship at the altar of gay rights as evil and condescending, or Ms. Dixon, who expressed her opposing Christian sentiments in very civil terms?
According to the University of Toledo, it was Ms. Dixon.
President Dr. Lloyd Jacobs dashed off a letter summarily firing Mrs. Dixon from her $134,383 a year job as associate vice president for employee resources.
A letter to Ms. Dixon informing her of her termination, stated "The public position you have taken in the Toledo Free Press is in direct contradiction to university policies and procedures as well as the core values of the strategic plan which is mission critical."
It went on to say her position calls into question her ability to continue in her role as an administrator in charge of personnel actions and decisions and that "the result is a loss of confidence in you as an administrator."
Michelle Steckler, interim Executive Director of EquailyToledo, piled on:
(Ms. Stecker) said she believes it's such a charged issue because Ms. Dixon wrote what she did while working in human resources at a public institution that promotes diversity.
"She's the one who made that choice to use this type of inflammatory language against the LGBT community," Ms. Stecker said. "If she was an administrator of the chemistry department, we wouldn't be having this conversation."
Ms. Stecker also said she's glad Dr. Jacobs had the courage to take decisive action to support diversity at UT.
Ms. Dixon responded:
At her press conference May 14, Ms. Dixon responded that she had “hired and recommended for hiring both homosexuals and heterosexuals.”
“At my pre-disciplinary meeting May 5, President Jacobs did not display a single policy or procedure I had violated,” she said.
“We have the privilege of expressing views about our faith in public,” Dixon said. She said Vice Provost Carol Bresnahan was never sanctioned for her December 2007 column in The Blade, in which Bresnahan criticized the “religious bigotry” of those who opposed Toledo's domestic partner law.
“It is not lost on me that [Bresnahan is a] white female and that I, a black female who happens to be a Christian, am being treated completely differently,” said Dixon in a letter she gave Jacobs at her pre-disciplinary hearing.
The Thomas More Law Center has taken up her case, accusing the University of Toledo of violating Ms. Dixon's First Amendment rights.
Amazingly, so has the Ohio ACLU:
Chris Link, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, said the focus should be on Ms. Dixon's job performance, and not what she said with her First Amendment right to speech.
"It would seem perfectly fair and logical for the university to say if this is what you believe, we have to look at your job performance," she said, later adding, "look at their actions, not their words. People should be punished for their actions."
This one will play out in the courts. But the larger issue is this:
When is free speech hate speech?
It all seems to be totally subjective and dependent on which side of the political aisle you're on.
Mr. Miller of the TFP can call those who disagree with or even only tolerate homosexuality as condescending and evil.
Other UT employees can call Christians religious bigots and hateful zealots all they want without consequence, yet do they not stereotype and show intolerance toward an entire group they accuse as intolerant?
In this DJ's humble opinion, as well as that of the TMLC and the Ohio ACLU, Ms. Dixon expressed her views as a Christian and a private citizen in a civil and reasonable manner, totally consistent with her free speech rights under the First Amendment.
The Supreme Court has also staked out this position in precedent rulings.
But this issue goes way beyond the University of Toledo.
Does anyone notice that hate speech accusations are mainly directed at white Christian and secular Americans who oppose on personal, moral or legal grounds illegal immigration, radical Islam, minority preferences and even militant 'black theology' like Reverend Wright's?
Republicans take Michelle Obama to task for comments about not being proud of her country despite her privileged upbringing and adult life, which is in most peoples' opinions a valid political point. As the wife a POTUS candidate, that is her lot.
Yet Republicans have been accused of racism and hate speech, and have even been portrayed by Daily KOS as Klansmen branding and lynching Michelle Obama.
Here is a typical response on the Boston Herald blog entry on the same subject, "Is Michelle Obama an Asset or a Liability?"
Even if you are not a racist (and I am not accusing you) there are plenty of Republicans who are of the KKK persuasion who object to Obama exclusively because of the color of his skin and their innate fear and/or loathing of black people.
The Republicans have to be careful because this same KKK element nearly took over their party during the “Illegal Immigrant” controversy. Should this group ever characterize the Republicans in 2008 I can assure you that the Republican party will suffer tremendous political damage.
In one fell swoop, Republicans who oppose Michelle Obama and illegal immigration on political grounds are the KKK.
Like Glenn Beck is portrayed in the photo above, for example.
This stuff is all over the 'net, and dominates many of the conversations at popular blogs like HuffPo,, The Democratic Underground and KOS.
Who is really guilty of hate speech here?
Those who try to engage in civil discourse on important political subjects, or those who denounce their political opponents with stale epithets, and slander whole racial and political groups as ignorant, racist and hateful?
Popular radio talk show host Glenn Beck, or the PhotoShopper who put him in a Klan outfit burning a cross?
Can we not oppose illegal immigration without being bigots and racists?
Can we not point out the rampant anti-Semitism, brutality, religious extremism and misogyny in the Muslim world without being Islamophobes?
Can we not speak out against radical racist 'black theology' without being racist ourselves?
Can we not disagree with gays on any issue without being homophobes, no matter how tolerant or respectful of gay rights on purely humanitarian grounds we may be?
As Ms. Dixon appears to have been in her job at the University of Toledo, regardless of her personal convictions?
Can we not agree to disagree on ANY political subject without being accused of Nazism, fascism, racism, sexism, homophobia or Islamophobia?
This is how low the political atmosphere in America has sunk.
It is killing all reasonable political discourse in this country.
And it has to stop.
Permissible diversity of thought cannot be strictly the province of liberals, minorities, gays, atheists, pacifists, Muslims and illegal aliens, or 'diversity of thought' is just another Orwellian maxim like 'all diverse thoughts are equal, but some diverse thoughts are more equal than others.'
Either all of us are free to speak our minds in civil terms on key political subjects regardless of who is offended by our political positions, or we are not.
There is no way on this earth you can speak your mind freely, even in the most civil terms, without offending someone.
I'm sure I've offended plenty here, and will no doubt be accused in similar fashion.
But where in my words is the hate?
I dare you to find it.
I'm not trying to demean, silence or oppress anyone. Just the opposite.
It is because of those who would suppress my own and others' rights to freedom of political expression that I'm even writing this article.
Like Crystal Dixon's, for example.
As for hate speech itself, who doesn't know it when we hear it for real?
I've heard plenty of it from Fred Phelps, David Duke, Jeremiah Wright, Al Sharpton and Louis Farrakhan.
I didn't hear it from Crystal Dixon.
Did you?
And if so, why is it so offensive she should lose her livelihood over it?
More about Crystal dixon, Gay rights, Discrimination