Freedom of Speech Does NOT Mean Freedom from Criticism

My friend Cambridge saw a sign somebody had put up at her school.  It said “Without Christ there would be no Christmas.”  Cambridge decided to augment the sign.


Immediately somebody tore the sign down.  Cambridge watched him tear it down and asked him why.  She was told that it was because its message was offensive.

If it’s untrue, rebut it.  If it’s true, change your mind.  But don’t claim offense as either a way to shut down the conversation.  Offense to facts and a contrary argument is lame.

Here’s Cambridge’s take.

“Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are people who want crops without ploughing the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, or it may be both. But it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”  ~ Frederick Douglass

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Chana Messinger

    Regardless of the cleverness, she shouldn’t have written on someone else’s sign. Don’t we call that vandalism?

    • Andora

      She mentions in the video that she probably shouldn’t have done it.

    • Cambridge

      Someone else at school had brought that up with me and, yes, I do agree that I should have done it differently and left the original sign alone.

    • Jeremy Shaffer

      From the video it sounds like the sign was placed on a public message board so vandalism might not be an issue, at least not a big one. However, as she said herself, it might have been better to make a sign of her own to place next to it instead.

    • Hibernia86

      In any case, that was a lot of writing only to have it torn down.

  • Richard

    I disagree. When someone lies, and you’re called on it with facts and logic, isn’t that called getting pwned?

    In all seriousness, yes, I’m in favor of creative vandalism in the pursuit of truth.

  • Katherine Lorraine, Chaton de la Mort

    I’m offended cause she misspelled emperor :p

    And the guy ripped it down not cause of her response, but for the initial poster.

  • Dan L.

    I think it was offensive for the original person to put the sign up in the first place. But Christians never care about offending other people, they only ever care when they’re offended. So cry me a freakin’ river about vandalism. I get this religion crap rubbed in my face on advertising billboards, on the subway, on TV, and even in politics and somehow none of that crap counts as “vandalism”.

    If religious folk are going to assault me with their nonsense for my 16 waking hours of every day then they should get over being offended when I tell them what I think.

    I’ll worry about vandalism of public displays of piety just as soon as Christians start asking themselves whether they’re imposing their nonsense on other people. I’m not holding my breath though.

  • Katie Tims

    Props to Cambridge! I love hearing about people like this- we need more like them.

  • fastlane

    In this case, vandalism is akin to civil disobedience, so I wouldn’t condemn it too strongly.

    I would be curious to know if that message board is considered a public forum by that school. =)

    • Pandy

      It’s not, really. It’s our grades board but every once in a while someone will post something funny. Thankfully, this is the first and only time I’ve ever seen anything bigoted posted.

  • bcoppola

    I don’t think that writing on an inkjet-printed sheet of paper thumbtacked to a board counts as “vandalism”.

  • beezlebubby

    I work at a college, and I agree with those who say that writing on the poster was in bad form, and the same thing could be (and should be) accomplished by writing the exact same message on a separate poster and posting it next to the original one. I will add that, in the case of my institution, posters placed by religious groups tend to be left unmolested, even the ones placed by the Muslim Student Association. However, LGBTQ, Socialist, and Skeptic group posters tend to get ripped down almost as soon as they are placed (sometimes by staff, and once I saw a faculty member doing it…and promptly shamed him on the spot for doing so). People are tolerant of other religions, it seems, but not with things that apparently counter religious views.