JMU student and Madison Collaborative Advisor (new peer education group), Megan Sibley, sent me the story about the preacher on-campus at JMU in mid-September. I asked her to think about how the Eight Key Questions may apply to this situation and she wrote the following response.
By Megan Sibley, Junior, IDLS – Early Childhood Education
On September 16th and 17th, Reverend Jackson preached against homosexuality outside Carrier Library. His proclamations did not go unnoticed – instead, it instigated a massive retaliation in support of LGBT. JMU students sang hymns and held signs while drowning out the preacher’s words with chants supporting gay equality. This certainly posed an ethical dilemma. The complex perspectives can be seen when applying the 8 key questions to this scenario.
Fairness – Fairness applies to the reasoning behind both the reverend and the students’ decisions. The most objectively fair thing to do would be to allow both sides of the argument to voice their opinions. But from the students’ perspective, fairness was centered on equal human rights. They fought against this man’s opinion in support of a fair society.
Outcomes – The ultimate outcome was the students’ successful reprisal with a message of love and acceptance. It gained media attention, which helped spread the word of equality, as well as giving empowerment to the gay community. If nobody had retaliated against the preacher, gay students who heard his negative talk would not have realized how accepting and supportive our school actually is.
Responsibilities – The students didn’t have an official obligation to stand up against Reverend Jackson. They could have walked right by and not said anything. However, they felt it was their moral responsibility to stand against his negative message. That was a responsibility that many would not have considered their own (i.e. the bystander effect), but these JMU students stepped up. The reverend thought he had a responsibility too – to spread the word of his religion.
Character – When speaking out, the preacher and students expressed their character. The students showed compassionate character when defending the targeted group. The reverend considers being Christian as part of his identity, but he should think about whether his words reflected the person he wants to be.
Empathy – Reverend Jackson did not appear to use empathy when making his decision to preach. He was not thinking about the impact his words had on others’ self-esteem. He also did not try to understand the point of view of the students who were trying to reason with him.
Authority – To the reverend, his authority was God and the Bible. But he interpreted it in such a way, it ended up hurting rather than helping his message.
Liberty and Rights - Liberties and rights were at the core of this situation. Each party exercised their freedom of speech. The students took their right to free assembly to combat the reverend’s message. But possibly the most important innate right was for safety and peace of mind. The gay students at JMU deserve to feel as safe and welcome as the straight students. Removing the preacher from campus created that safe, loving environment for them.