When Free speech becomes Hate speech

"As a Canadian, you are entitled to your opinion and position. As a follower of Jesus, you are responsible for communicating and defending it with grace and love."
Photo via Global News

The growing normalization of threatened violence towards public figures as an acceptable expression of free speech must come to an end.

Last week, a ‘candlelight vigil’ to mark the 75th Anniversary of the trial of Nazi scientists who conducted human experiments on Jewish prisoners was held at the BC Legislature.  It became a platform to hang BC Premier John Horgan and two senior Cabinet ministers in effigy as a symbolic protest against COVID restrictions and limitations.  Pretending that the government response to COVID 19 is the same as what happened in the Holocaust is both repulsive and reprehensible. The two are not the same and to pretend they are is to ignore the suffering of the Jews at the hands of malicious leaders who sought their destruction.

I believe in free speech, and I believe in the value of legitimate and appropriate protest, but there’s a difference between free speech and hate speech.  Free speech is rooted in the concept that it’s acceptable to voice your disagreement/displeasure over an idea or policy—hate speech targets people. When the target of your speech is a person, you’ve crossed a line.  What happened at the BC Legislature may have started as free speech, but it became hate speech in the truest sense.
I believe in a better Canada than what I’m seeing right now.  More importantly, I believe that people of faith are called to bridge the growing gaps in our society and culture.  The challenge is that some of my spiritual brothers and sisters were likely at the event.  More challenging is that they, and many who share their views, drive the angry narrative that culminates in moments like Thursday afternoon. The behaviour is counter to the higher calling of Jesus, who calls us to be peacemakers and bridgebuilders.
As a Canadian, you are entitled to your opinion and position. As a follower of Jesus, you are responsible for communicating and defending it with grace and love.  Holding signs with scripture verses at an event where leaders hang in effigy doesn’t fit that grid.
Faith leaders, I know you have a lot on your plate right now.  But we need your leadership and influence on this critical issue.  Addressing this isn’t very easy, but your wise counsel and input pointing people to the love-focused way of Jesus will produce better outcomes than what we have right now.
We must be better.

— Tim Schindel
National Director
Leading Influence