Oak Park is no place for speech that gays don't like

Every time a parent complains about a reading list that requires a child to read a book the


Buzz Cafe

parent finds objectionable, there's a hue and cry about censorship. "We should be able to listen to every point of view," free speech advocates say, and indeed they're right. (Although it's a different matter when children are involved.)

Shall we hear the same wailing and tsk-tsking now that Oak Park gays have pressured a cafe store in the western suburb to cancel an appearance by someone they don't like. As reported by the Wednesday Journal:

A book
discussion in Oak Park was canceled Monday after the village's gay
community took offense at the subject matter - that there's a cure for

The Buzz Café, 905 S. Lombard, was scheduled to host Cornelius Williams, a former Oak Parker whose self-published book, Transition: From Homosexual to Preacher,
talks about how he changed from gay to straight through God. In
promotional material for the book, Williams refers to homosexuality and
lesbianism as "spiritual and social vices."

There is no reasonable excuse for this kind of pressure. Adults have a right to say and hear disagreeable speech. Limits on free speech should no more apply in a forum that's the site of frequent debate than in a library.

Not unexpectedly, there's plenty of discussion about it on Blithe Spirit, a blog conducted by Jim Bowman, a long-time  Oak Park resident, freelance writer and author, and religion writer at the Chicago Daily News. Interesting reading, folks.


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  • Reparative therapy isn't worth discussing as the American Psychological Association declared that mental health professionals should not tell gay clients they can become straight through therapy or other treatments.

    This person who purports this is a snake oil salesman who hopes to cash in on people's fear of sex to line his pockets. He doesn't care about whose life he ruins as long as he gets paid. Follow the money, Honey.

  • In reply to MarcFelion:

    The First Amendment also applies to snake oil salesmen.

  • In reply to DennisByrne1:

    And no one from government said he couldn't sell his snake-oil. Consumers decried his appearance, so the shop cancelled it. Its called capitalism and it happens all the time.

    Selling lies is part of the same free speech that not wanting to give the coffee shop money for providing the forum.

  • In reply to DennisByrne1:

    Consumers in no way denied his appearance. People who didn't want to be consumers did that. If you don't want to hear someone's opinion, don't listen to it. If you don't agree, debate him or her. Silencing opinions you don't agree with is censorship--No Matter What.

    That "No Matter What" bit is exactly why we have an ACLU--to defend Constitutionally granted liberties like free speech which are ours to exercise (ahem) freely. I'm queer and I think Williams is misguided, but he and his opinion deserve to be run out of Wright-town on a rail.

  • In reply to MikeDoyle:

    If you went to the same coffee shop everyday, and one day you find out that they started to allow smoking, and then you made the decision to not go back because you would rather not give money to an establishment that allows smoking. Is that you denying a smoker their rights, or you utilizing your rights as a consumer?

  • In reply to theroostarr:

    Congratulations, Roostarr, you get the award for the stretch of the day. The exchange of ideas and healthy debate ranks a little higher on the scale of democratic values than does smoking.

  • In reply to theroostarr:

    Those who remind me that the First Amendment applies to government censorship are quite right. They also are correct that this is a capitalist society (for the time being anyway). Correct, too, is the argument that the decision by the cafe's owner to disinvite a speaker because of customer pressure is a market-based decision.

    But speaking of the marketplace, there is a concept in a democracy marketplace of ideas exists where the good and true can be tested and affirmed and where bad and false ideas can be examined for their error. It is from this cauldron that a better understanding of conflicting ideas and of ourselves emerges.

    John Stuart Mill said: "[T]hough the silenced opinion be an error, it may, and very commonly does, contain a portion of truth; and since the general or prevailing opinion on any subject is rarely or never the whole truth, it is only by the collision of adverse opinions that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied."

    I know that many minds are closed on this subject--on both sides. But let me ask this: Don't you feel just a bit uneasy about shutting off debate, especially in a setting that prides itself on it? Wouldn't you feel just a little bit wronged if the other side successfully shut off debate on, say, gay marriage? To me, it feels too much like bullying.

  • In reply to DennisByrne1:

    Saw you and John Stuart Mill walking up Halsted last night in hot pants. You looked HOT.

  • In reply to GregMorelli:

    Not bad for a 67-year-old, eh? Even more remarkable was J.S. Mill, who looks and smells great for his 203 years.

  • In reply to GregMorelli:

    So I guess everyone agrees that he has the right to spew his idiocy and we have right to stop him. Bets on who is going to win?

  • In reply to GregMorelli:

    Everything from the ACLU to John Stuart Mill to Dennis on Halsted Street may have a place in this little donnybrook of passions, but let me pose this. As a straight man, I'm not at all comfortable discussing gays, their theorized pathology, and proposed salvation in any public cafe as if we were there to decide about gays like Golden Retrievers and Collies in a dog show. Why do we presume we can and/or should gather to discuss "them" in contrast to "us?"? Gays should not be perceived as the objects of our indulgent discussion like witnesses in front of our jury. As human beings we're ALL in the same witness box being EQUALLY tested in the same everyday courtroom of life. The sooner our egos get that straight, the less need there will be for donnybrooks like this in the first place....!

  • In reply to DennisByrne1:

    I, of course, meant, Williams and his opinion DON'T deserve to be run out of town.

  • In reply to DennisByrne1:

    I'm a snake oil salesman who sells adherence to the truth. Cornelius Williams is just another Jerome Corsi. That is, snake oil salesmen who sell 1 Amendment loopholes.

    Willful lying is not free speech. It's the diseased language of Rwanda. There is no cure for gayness. There is no cure for blackness. There might be a cure douchbaggery, but we haven't found it yet.

    I'm a fan of your writing. I've read all your blogs. But I have to ask: do you ever side with a minority, Dennis?

  • In reply to DennisByrne1:

    If you don't like it, don't go. This is crazy that every time the gay community is offended by something we feel the need to do everything possible to appease them. I'm offended when freedom of speech gets taken away and no one seems to care about that.

  • In reply to DennisByrne1:

    Dennis Byrne, you're confused about the First Amendment. That only applies to the government trying to stifle free speech, not anyone else. theroostarr is quite correct to point out that this is "capitalism" pure and simple. I'm surprised that you would be against capitalism.

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