Standing by the First Amendment

by Cecile Sandwen

The Carlisle Mosquito prides itself in being a forum to promote community discussion. All letters to the editor are run when space allows, with few exceptions. Those exceptions include letters that are deemed “obscene, libelous or in poor taste” according to the paper’s guideline (see below). This leaves some room for controversy, and recently the Mosquito stepped into it by running a letter from a promulgator of education to “cure” homosexuals. 

Of course this is not an opinion the paper endorses, but the Mosquito does not necessarily censor wrong speech. It does, however, censor hate speech. Was this hate speech? The tone of the letter was polite and regretful. The writer did not advocate violence, hatred or discrimination. Her letter certainly was condescending to gay people, and may have masked other emotions, but on the surface it was civil. 

Certainly the letter made many uncomfortable, but discomfort cannot be the only measure when deciding what is disallowed. The Mosquito has been accused (we hope unjustly) of presenting a sanitized version of Carlisle. If the paper runs only opinions with which the majority of our readers will be comfortable, it runs the risk of presenting that sanitized Carlisle which is not the reality.

Many wrote in to the Mosquito, not to disagree with the author, but with the Mosquito’s judgment in running the letter. The irony is that several years ago the paper ran letters on a similar theme without sparking such a reaction. Of course, not so long ago, medical textbooks listed homosexuality as an illness. But there are times when a position becomes so repulsive it is no longer suitable for discussion, and perhaps advocacy of homosexuality as a sickness has migrated into that territory.

The Mosquito staff believes it is of supreme importance to be sensitive to the concerns of marginalized populations. We also know that discussion, when conducted politely, can perhaps be an antidote to the rancor and division the country has recently experienced. Many are disputing whether political correctness has gone too far when discourse that is unpopular but not hate-filled is banned from college campuses. So where do we draw the line? 

Our editors will be reviewing Mosquito policies in the near future. We invite the public to weigh in by continuing to write to the paper.  ∆