Conform or Desist: the Bozeman School Controversy

In an article I posted yesterday, I laid out the reason why a club (a group of people who join together to promote a specific agenda) must, by its very nature, be exclusive. A club can’t admit nor tolerate those who advocate for competing ideologies. If it does, then it has lost its focus and become something different than it was. This is true no matter the type of club or what it stands for.

Specifically, I addressed the situation in Bozeman, MT, in which certain high school students had “challenged” the FCA, a school-recognized Christian athletic club because the club was not “inclusive”. I argued that the club had every right to maintain its position because everyone has the absolute right of association (disassociation). If people must associate with others they don’t want to, then people with power and backing can force viewpoints on others who might disagree with them.

There is, however, also the very distinct possibility that the students who are making the complaint really don’t want to join the club. It is entirely plausible that this whole brouhaha is designed to literally quash the message that is “offensive” to them. In fact, I’d lay odds on that the real intention here is not to persuade the club to accept members who have variant lifestyles, but to force it to change its base message or to drive it out of existence entirely.

This is a common tactic used to stifle opposing viewpoints. It can be summed up like this.

“You have said something which I don’t like and find objectionable. I do not want to consider what you said and refuse to make any personal changes if I find your statement valid in any way. Because I find it objectionable and refuse to consider it, I am left with only two choices: withdraw from the conversation and disassociate myself from you and/or attempt to use force to shut you up so that I don’t have to hear what you are saying.”

It is not my intention here to make any moral judgments about the issue of homosexuality, sex outside of marriage, or what constitutes a marriage. Although I do have strongly held beliefs about these issues, I don’t consider them to be the issue at stake, instead they are the narrative used to avoid addressing the core of the issue, which is the liberty to speak what you wish and to associate with whomever you want. This is the point which has triggered the complaining students.

From reading numerous news articles about this controversy, it appears that the students could join the group if they wanted to, even if they disagreed with its message. It appears that they did not make the effort, instead went to the school authorities to effect a desired outcome. It appears that they have been successful, winning a ruling that the club must either drop the offending language and become “inclusive” or lose official status if they keep it. However, if a lawsuit is brought against the school over this issue, it will probably be forced to recognize the club as legitimate—regardless of the club’s policy.

I will say it again. Freedom of association and the freedom to speak one’s mind are probably the two most important rights we have. In that order, I might add. We should be able to choose who we associate with (disassociate from) and we should be able to say what we think without having to be afraid that someone is going to use force against us because they don’t approve. Unfortunately, the Bozeman students who started this ruckus don’t understand what that means.

Ironically, the students may have shot themselves in the foot, since there has been considerable interest shown in the club after this controversy began. From the Chronicle:

“Statewide FCA has about 350 student members in college, high schools and middle schools. After the controversy broke in Bozeman, he said, about 48 kids showed up at the FCA meeting, a huge increase.”

Be careful what you wish for. You might get it.

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