Controversial Religious Topics in Public School Event: Mills’ Thoughts?

December 1, 2011

Political Theory


Tuesday, October 11 was National Coming Out Day.  It was a big day for many people in the LGBT community (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender).  To become aware, the student council in my residence hall decided to designate one of its twice per month dialogue sessions to this topic.  Specifically, they would discuss the effectiveness of the “It Gets Better” campaign and whether it is actually helpful.  The main purpose of this campaign is to communicate to the young LGBT community that while their lives may seem awful, that it gets better and to never consider suicide or self-harm as an option.   As a member of the council, I was required to be in attendance and I was actually interested to hear what people had to say and to develop a general consensus of my hall’s feelings toward the issue.  Two members of the council developed a presentation for the listeners and the event began.

Following the explanation of the “It Gets Better” campaign, a video was shown with a woman displaying her feelings toward the campaign and whether she agreed with it.  This woman made some fair statements and seemed to have thought a lot about her words, being careful not to offend anyone.  Approximately halfway into the video however, she made a testimony about the perceived relationship Jesus would have with the LGBT community.

            The woman reasoned that “God made all of us, so God made [her], therefore, in [her] mind, God is cool with like, being gay.” Whether you agree with this statement or not it can be considered a rational one to make because one of the beliefs of the Catholic Church is that God creating everything.  It was her next thought that shocked me for a particular reason.  She said from the viewpoint of the LGBT community that “if Jesus was alive, he would chill with us because everybody else hates us.”

            To provide some background, there seem to me two types of Christians that are separated by this issue.  Some of them follow the belief that everyone should be accepted and the other feels that it is against the Bible to be gay and the church should reject these people.  As far as I am concerned, neither of these views are necessarily wrong although I might consider the rejection one immoral. Regardless, it all comes down to how one person interprets the Bible.

            It is very possible that what this woman said could offend a lot of Catholics either in the room or across campus.  So, I wanted to bring John Stuart Mill and his ideals into the middle of this situation.  Mill argued basically that whenever there is an opposing view it is wrong to suppress it for many reasons.  It could be the right view, it strengthens the truth, etc.  I am confident that Mill would allow this woman to speak her mind in this way.  However, I am not sure that Mill’s beliefs travel this far to the complicated mess we live in today, but was it okay for the student council to show this clip and then stand by it as though they supported it?

            Perhaps they did not support it although it appeared that they did.  Nevertheless, it could be considered offensive to many people on campus.  In terms of Mill, everyone should always speak their mind because it is always for the best of mankind.  In the current day, there is a lot of turmoil over this issue in public schools because of religious differences such as the inability for public schools to have a Christmas tree.  This issue appears to be different because it regards the possible misinterpretation of the Bible and not a problem of conflicting religions.  What I propose could be wrong is the fact that the council stood by the woman’s words saying that God supports the LGBT community.  My reaction would be that Mill would support this action because he would like everyone to speak his or her minds.  However, maybe Mill never highlighted in his work what he thought about specifically agreeing with someone else that was speaking his or her mind. In terms of Mill, is there a difference between someone standing by someone that has said something and directly speaking your mind? If Mill did not directly state this, how do you think he would feel about this? How do you feel about this act of the council supporting a possibly controversial statement in the world of Catholicism? 

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About Jack

A student at the University of Michigan.

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One Comment on “Controversial Religious Topics in Public School Event: Mills’ Thoughts?”

  1. dcmiller93 Says:

    John Stuart Mill’s main point about free expression was that it would edify the community – making the truth more easily attainable by the discussion of various ideas. The conflict between the homosexual community and the church is certainly a contentious issue in our day, one that should be discussed openly and with civility between people of every viewpoint. I think it’s clear that Mill would applaud the courage and civility displayed by the woman you cited in your post, and he would encourage someone of the opposite idea to come forward to engage in dialogue so that in this way they might settle on some middle-ground that is closer to the truth.

    I’m not “catholic,” but I do think what the woman said was completely correct. Anyone who has ever actually read the Bible knows that Jesus associated not with the pious religious leaders, but with the most contemptible members of Jewish society – those who violated every convention the “religious” revered. That’s not to say Jesus necessarily condoned the behavior of the thieves and the adulterers and the tax collectors, but their hangups weren’t reason enough for him to ostracize them them.

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