02 February 2009

Freedom isn’t Free

And I was worried about attacks on my pro-life club! If you remember, I blogged (here and here) about the controversy at the University of Calgary when their pro-life club decided to hold a GAP (Genocide Awareness Project). Well, today 3 members of the club were served with summons to appear in court to speak to the charge of trespass.

That's right; the U of C has formally charged 3 of their students with the crime of trespass. 3 others are expecting to be charged. Read the story here or here. I have a few questions, so here they are in no particular order.

  1. How can students who've paid their tuition and been invited to attend the university be trespassing? (Oh right, because they don't like their opinion)

  2. Why do all of the headlines on this story use anti-choice instead of pro-life (especially when the club is called prolife)? (Oh wait, I know because we've all bought the semantic arguments)

  3. Where does a public institution, funded with tax dollars, get off claiming that the University is not a public institution? (Seriously, study some 1st year Constitutional Law people)

  4. Why did the U of C take 2 months to lay charges? (I have no snarky comment to make here- I would genuinely like to know)

  5. Is the U of C charging them because they truly believed they trespassed illegally or because they don't like the message- would they charge Falun Gong protestors? (I think we all know the answer to that one)

I spent all day following this story and reading people's responses to it. The negative responses all seem to argue one of the following things:

  1. They assume the club is religiously based and criticize the club for "pushing their beliefs on others"- This is a silly argument and demonstrates a lack of knowledge on the part of the person arguing. They are assuming that because the club members are pro-life, they are also religious. While the members might be religious, it does not change the scientific and intellectual nature of their arguments. Calling them religious and dismissing them is an ad hominum (personal) attack and ignores the merits of their arguments.

  2. They take exception to comparing abortion to the Holocaust or Rwanda- again, they misunderstand the point of the protest. Abortion is compared to genocide because it IS genocide. Pro-lifers believe that life begins at conception. That means that every abortion is a murder, and that systematic, government funded abortion is genocide.

  3. They complain about the graphic nature of the images- Yes, the images are graphic. I hate seeing them, and almost inevitably cry after seeing a number of them. But that reaction doesn't mean showing the pictures is wrong. Historically, disturbing graphic images are almost always the impetus that drives change. For example, it was the diagram showing how crammed into the hold of a ship slaves were that drove the first abolitionists to act. It was images of black people being shot with high pressure fire hoses, and the pictures of Emmett Till's beaten and broken body that gave Rosa Parks and other civil rights activists the courage to act. It was the pictures of thin, emaciated Jews in concentration camps after liberation by Allies that made people truly believe genocide had occurred. At the time all these pictures were shown they were called graphic, and denounced in the same way that GAP is denounced. That doesn't make it wrong, it makes it important. Especially today, we live in a very visual culture. Pictures can change hearts and minds. After all, a "picture is worth a thousand words."

  4. They also argue that all the students had to do was turn the signs inward and the U of C would have allowed them to be displayed- This argument ignores the fact that the request by the university amounts to discrimination. The U of C Pro-life club is a club like every other club, and yet no other club is forced to turn their displays inward. Why should the U of C club submit to discrimination?

  5. The other argument is that the students were warned they would be charged with trespass- That cannot be denied. But the students aren't complaining that they were charged; they are complaining that people are trying to censor them. Censorship is wrong. The students knew exactly what they were getting themselves into and they did it anyway because they knew what they were doing was right. Instead of condemning them, we should be congratulating them for their courage. People who stand up for liberty against tyranny should be hailed as heroes. Where would we be if the suffragettes had refused to speak out? If the abolitionists had been cowed by slave owner's threats? If civil rights activists had agreed jail was too high a price to pay? The world would be a much different place.

The U of C students were not violent; they merely put up some signs outside. Those pictures showed graphic images- of that there can be no doubt, but these students deserve our praise. Not only have they brought attention to abortion (which people try to ignore if they can) but they have brought attention to lack of tolerance at Canadian Universities. Freedom isn't free people. It comes at a cost, as these young Canadians are showing us all. God Bless them.

They will all be in my prayers; and I hope in yours too. But beyond prayers, please take a minute to right a polite, respectful letter to the U of C. Contact information is below. Send a copy of your letter to the two Calgary papers- the Sun and the Herald.

Dr. Harvey P. Weingarten, President
Administration Building, Room 100
University of Calgary
2500 University Drive NW
Calgary, AB T2N 1N4
Phone: (403) 220-5460
Fax: (403) 289-6800
Email: president@ucalgary.ca

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