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Grossly offensive

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Dec 05, 2003

The Georgetown Voice, a weekly publication of greater Washington's Jesuit university, keeps us up-to-date on the implementation of Ex Corde Ecclesiae. It seems that some students not affiliated with Georgetown recently entered Red Square (the campus's "designated free speech zone" -- named by persons clearly impervious to irony) and distributed flyers protesting the Supreme Court's Lawrence vs. Texas decision: the notorious Sodomy Case. The flyers were published by a group called the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family, and Property, and declared that TFP works "untiringly to create a moral climate whereby homosexuality is rejected." The Voice reports that the "authors of the brochure acknowledge that those who are simply attracted to members of the same sex, but resist intercourse, are not sinful, 'just as no one who resists the inclination to steal or lie can be called a thief or a liar.'" Pretty tame stuff.

Leafletting of this kind hardly throwns a spanner into the academic turbines of the university, but the students were obviously going out of their way to provoke a response. And they succeeded.

The student passing out the brochures was a member of TFP Student Action. After learning of the student's presence, Interim Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson instructed the Department of Public Safety to escort him off campus. He complied without incident, according to Interim Associate Director of the Department of Public Service Doris Bey.

Red Square is a designated "free speech zone," according to the Student Handbook. The handbook, however, does deny protection to certain types of speech."Expression that is indecent or is grossly obscene or grossly offensive on matters such as race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual orientation is inappropriate in a university community," it states.

Olson cited this exception in his decision to have the student removed. "The individuals removed from campus were spreading a message that was grossly offensive, and I view the removal as entirely appropriate," he said.

In a broadcast e-mail sent on Nov. 25, Olson alerted students of the action. He specifically reaffirmed the University's commitment to the LGBT community. "I would like to take this opportunity to emphasize that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender members of our community enjoy the right to study, work, and live in a campus environment of respect and protection," he said. "Intolerance and invective have no place at Georgetown."

Yes, Georgetown welcomed Larry Flynt as a campus speaker; yes, Georgetown hosted Eve Ensler's "V Monologues" -- and defended both on grounds of academic freedom. No one looks to academics -- or to Jesuits, for that matter -- for principled institutional conduct. We expected Bill Clinton to be hosanna'd and Cardinal Arinze to get raw-prawned. But one thing has never been satisfactorily explained to me. At bottom, do these academic executives who succeed in pulling off the scam take themselves seriously, or do they see the joke? Jesuit or lay, do they look on those they have defeated with pity or with amusement?

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