How far should free speech be tolerated? Or, where does someone else's right to express themselves become a hate crime against adherents of different beliefs?
A high school student in Janesville, Wis., upset more than a few people last month when he ripped pages from a Bible -- see http://gazettextra.com/news/2007/dec/20/bible-incident-draws-concerns/ -- during a classroom discussion, then verbally insulted believers.
The student was suspended and told to undergo psychological evaluation, according to the Janesville Gazette. A few days later, three students were later told to remove t-shirts proclaiming "Bring back" the youth. The principal said he was concerned about potential distractions, not taking sides for or against the Bible incident.
The student's lawyer says he has the free speech right to damage a Bible as expression of opposition to religion -- but can be disciplined for "negative stereotyping that degrades or flagrantly demeans any individual or group by negatively referrng to religion."
Of course, if the student had damaged a copy of the Koran he'd be on a death list. (If you read the Gazette story comments link you'll see a similar statement. I wrote mine before reading those).
My first thought is that I feel really sorry for this boy. Imagine, if you're a Christian, what horrors are in his future if he dies before his mindset changes, if it ever does.
The second thought is that he, as a growing number of people in their teens and 20s with "alternative" views tend to do, intentionally shocked the class as a way of insisting that he be heard and to insult those who didn't want to be exposed to his views.
A devoted Christian isn't going to stand for a Bible being mutilated. Are believers supposed to stand by quietly while someone publicly insults God in that or any other manner?