Dale Knight

The Rev. Bailey Pickens’ April 5 guest column, “University of Arizona is betraying free speech and the broader community,” concerning the charges against students who disrupted the Border Patrol’s presentation to a group of criminal justice students, contains assertions that must be challenged.

Her hyperbolic representation, “this turn to the dystopian,” of misdemeanor charges do nothing to further the dialog concerning free speech, immigration and the role of the Border Patrol.

She is guilty of the thing with which she charges UA President Robert Robbins, “misrepresent(ing) the nature of free speech.” She presents a limited and convenient definition of disruptive speech as “speech that the powerful do not care for.”

One can only wonder if she would claim the same definition if her Sunday morning sermons were consistently subjected to disruptive speech by those with whom she disagrees politically.

One wonders if her church would be a “city on the hill” to all the conservatives who live nearby who would apply her definition of disruption to their actions.

Rev. Pickens further asserts that “Customs and Border Protection officers present a material threat to the well-being of the student body.”

Sadly, she presents not a shred of evidence or facts that any student at the university was harmed in any way by the presence of the officers to support her assertion. This baseless claim is intellectually insulting.

She also states that fealty to law and order is “soulless” and “grows out of fear of the others.” One must wonder if she applies that to all law and order or just the laws with which she disagrees.

One wonders if she considers the tax laws concerning exemptions for religious organizations as soulless and based in fear. How about trespass laws, laws concerning illegal weapons possession, laws concerning abortion rights, laws concerning theft of church property? Are these based in fear?

Free speech is a constitutional right that we all enjoy, but are we able to enjoy that right as listeners if there is a free-for-all of disruption? Is my right to hear subservient to the rights of others to interrupt? Are the rights of students who speak in favor of the criminal justice system somehow less that the rights of those who speak against it?

Since Rev. Pickens likes to quote the Bible as authoritative, perhaps she will extend the same courtesy to me. The Apostle Paul in Romans 12:17-8 says, “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Perhaps she could expostulate on that scripture.

Dale Knight is a software quality assurance analyst in Tucson.