According to Kent State University in Ohio, telling someone they need Jesus is hateful. The school put up a poster featuring several silhouetted figures holding a variety of protest signs and an invitation to a civil discussion “of the right to express any opinion without censorship or restraint.” The placards read: “No more gays,” “Women need to serve their men,” “Build a wall,” and “You need Jesus.” The message is clear; all of these things are equally vile examples of hate speech.
To Christians, Jesus represents love and forgiveness; hope and faith. Telling someone they need Jesus in their life could be construed as saying they’re on the wrong path, a sinner, or even evil (I suppose); however, usually, the message is sent to offer someone hope.
According to the College Fix, Jared Small, president of the Campus Ministry International student organization, said that the poster was inappropriate and that the university should offer an apology:
“They could have included hate speech against President Trump or hate speech against Christians as examples. In my opinion, free speech protects hate speech to an extent. However, the university appears to show a bias against Christians and conservatives.”
Jacob Brown, president of the Catholic Student Association, told the College Fix he thought students were getting the wrong message from the “hellfire preachers” that visit campus a couple of times a year, and that the poster was a reflection of this.
“They share this with you because they believe it is in your best interest,” Brown said of the Jesus remark. “I feel few students stop to consider this perspective.”
Brown said he didn’t think the message on the poster constituted hate speech, and he didn’t feel the college should apologize:
“Nobody wants to be told ‘You’re going to hell,’” Brown said. “As a leader of a religious student organization, I put my face in my palm every time I see this [religious] protest,” which echoes the “zealousness” of Jesus in challenging the money changers in the temple but also comes across as “tasteless and without empathy.”
The classification of hate speech is radically changing. The established definition is “speech that is intended to insult, offend, or intimidate a person because of some trait (as race, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, or disability).”
“No more gays” is obviously hate speech. It singles out people based on their sexual orientation and suggests getting rid of them.
“Women need to serve their men.” This isn’t necessarily hate speech, but it is demeaning. Yes, it can be insulting, and women around the world can take offense to it, but then people can claim offense at anything, if they wanted to.
“Build a wall” is only offensive now because it represents closing our borders off to illegal immigrants, which many believe is racist. By the way, since when did protecting our borders and citizens become racists anyway? But that’s a whole other can of worms.
Saying “you need Jesus” is like telling someone “you need a life.” But because the former has a religious connotation, people will misconstrue it as offensive.
If Kent University wanted to declare some religious statement hate speech, then it should have dug a little deeper for really offensive material. Telling someone they need hope and love in their life might be the least hateful thing you can say.