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Editorial: Mall evangelist takes advantage of free speech

By Opinions Board
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
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Student response should be to ignore, debate, not yell

Evangelical preacher Jed Smock was back at the UA yesterday, spewing his outdated views on multiculturalism and gender inequality from his now-customary spot: a mini-folding chair in the middle of Alumni Plaza.

"Brother Jed" has spent more than a week garnering scowls from passers-by, earning heated reaction from those that find the time to stay and listen, and drawing a chuckle or two from the few who wander outside to watch his show each afternoon.

Evangelists are nothing new to campus, but somehow the reaction to Smock has been so strong that each day students have filled Heritage Hill, starting its tenure as the unofficial Speakers Corner.

His remarks, however uncomfortable they might be, are a product of Smock using his First Amendment rights to his advantage, and with that there is little wrong.

But many of the students that listen to Smock's babble fail to understand that cursing and damning Smock do nothing but provoke the self-proclaimed "confrontational evangelist," fueling his ideas further. This reaction will do little to shut him up. In fact, they only encourage Smock to try harder.

Do these students think he would come back each day if he had no audience?

Smock has tried to relate to UA students by offering personal stories of debauchery during his own days as an undergraduate before he found his way.

In return, he's often been laughed at when he talks about his prowess as a "real man." Even more frequently, he's scolded every time he says a women's place is in the kitchen, every time he points out that Jews are only good at making bagels and every time he announces that the only thing Mexicans are good for is burritos.

While we cherish the right to free speech, part of the value of this free speech is that the good ideas gain credence while the bad ideas are filtered out, determined outdated by a jury of peers. The fact that students feel the need to verbally respond to statements, such as all UA women are whoremongers, shows that some students don't understand this.

The best way to fight Smock's words is through utilizing the forum he has created as an open discussion, not through intimidation tactics, burning his books or verbally chastising him at the top of one's lungs. Or better yet, by ignoring him.

Who knows what will come of Smock's visit? Perhaps new evangelists will gather in the spot each week. Perhaps other speakers will curse the president, the war or the IRS. Perhaps these views will be equally anachronistic and will draw large crowds of jeerers.

But one thing is certain. If you gather, they will come.

Opinions are determined by the Wildcat opinions board and written by one of its members. They are Evan Caravelli, Brett Fera, Caitlin Hall, Ryan Johnson and Jesse Lewis.

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