Tolerance and freedom of speech

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 Dr Natasha Moore, Research Fellow at the Centre for Public Christianity. 

 

Some say millennials are the most tolerant generation ever. However, student culture around the world is becoming more and more intolerant of people expressing 'unacceptable' views. Does freedom of speech matter? And if so, how does it contribute to a more tolerant society? Is it possible to fiercely disagree with someone yet love them at the same time? These issues were the focus of this week's Senior College Breakfast. 

Dr Natasha Moore, Research Fellow at the Centre for Public Christianity was the guest speaker. In attendance were 150 students from Years 9-12, including visitors from James Ruse High School, Turramurra High School, Knox and Roseville College. The address was followed by thoughtful and searching questions from the audience; a reflection of the relevance and importance of this topic to our students.

 

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Being presented were two compelling reasons why free speech is important. Firstly, the ability to express opinions is vital in case we are wrong! Recognising that none of us are right all the time is not only honest but helpful; if we are wrong, the opportunity to be corrected has value. On the other hand, the silencing of discussion is akin to an assumption of infallibility. Dr Moore drew attention to the fact that the more one knows about a topic, the more one is aware of the complexities of the topic. Those who know a little about an issue are often those who seek to silence others, where holding an opinion with humility and a degree of tentativeness may be more appropriate.

 

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 L-R: Vice Head Prefect, Service Sarah Flint, Dr Natasha Moore, Headmistress Megan Krimmer and Head Prefect Jocelyn Abbott. 

 

Secondly, she said free speech is important in case we are right! Strongly held opinions become more robust when we hear and engage with opposing views. Very often strongly held opinions have not been challenged. The person who knows only his or her own side of the case, knows little of the issue. 

Referencing the Bible, Dr Moore pointed out that God is profoundly non-coercive. God invites people but refuses to force them, and therefore those who identify as Christians have every reason to reflect the liberty that God gives people in their own relationships with others.

 

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