Ethics: March 2005 Archives

Immoral Free Speech

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Why is it then whenever these cable news talk shows bring someone on to defend Ward Churchill for his immoral statements, all they say is that he has a right to say what he wants, because free speech is what the university community is about. If he's going to say that anyone who carries out any sort of bureaucratic job is a Nazi, then he's just wrong, both factually and morally. To say that he has a right to say it given the right to free speech misses the point. His detractors aren't saying he has no right to say it, though some say he shouldn't be using taxpayer money to do it. His detractors are saying the claims themselves are immoral. To defend him, you need to defend those claims, and you have to argue that he's morally right to say such things.

You can have a legal right to do something that's immoral. It may even be that you can have a moral right to do something immoral in the sense that I have no right to stop you from doing some immoral things, but they're immoral nonetheless. The most extreme immoral things are a different matter, but no one has a right to stop people from saying hurtful things to other people. It's clearly immoral, but they have a right to do that kind of wrong thing. The same goes for Churchill. He may well have a right to say what he's been saying, but don't say the reason you're defending him is because he has a right to say it. That's irrelevant to whether he's right to say these things.



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