Widgets Magazine


Countering hateful speech

This Wednesday, the Federalist Society chapter at Stanford Law School will welcome Professor Hadley Arkes of Amherst College to campus to speak about his natural law theory. Widely respected and cited for that theory, it will not be the only thing Professor Arkes brings to Stanford.

Professor Arkes’s record of aggressive antigay rhetoric comes with him. The two are inseparable. His comparisons of LGBTQ people to pedophiles, necrophiles, zoophiles, rapists and criminals have influenced other “academics,” church leaders and politicians in the United States and abroad. His work has also buoyed advocates of gay conversion therapy. These views represent the most extreme of my Christian church, and the worst of my Republican Party. Their distance from my own views makes me wish I could deny even the affiliation. But I am a Christian. I am a Republican. I am a member of the Federalist Society. I, and others like me, must recognize the affiliation. We must also confront it; and we must dispel it.

This is not to say that he should be uninvited or prevented from speaking. Rather, it is to counter speech with speech: He does not speak for my party. He does not speak for my faith. These are not my values.

Neither are they Stanford’s.

I hope, and pray, that Professor Arkes’s visit will present an opportunity to dispel ignorance, to confront hate and to foster love. I fear it may not, especially should the conversation become only about his right to speak or his freedom of speech. Professor Arkes is free to speak as he wishes. The students hosting him may do the same. But as they provide him a platform — and what’s more, compensation from their national umbrella organization — for his views, we must ask about the priorities of such a group, the wisdom of such a choice.

The choice to welcome him and the priorities it represents alienate and antagonize the group’s own LGBTQ members, like myself. They do the same to LGBTQ people and their allies who might be otherwise interested in the group or the events it holds. Promoting debate over legitimate ideas and promoting homophobia are two very different things, only one of which has value and has a place in our community.

Here’s the rub of so many conversations about speech on campuses and in our broader public discourse. Americans must remain free to spew specious calumny, but other Americans need not legitimize it. We need not amplify it. And we need not support it.

Professor Arkes will leave campus this week with an honorarium, the prestige of speaking at Stanford Law School, and the free publicity his inflammatory rhetoric will generate. But he should not leave thinking for one moment that he has spoken for all conservatives or for all Christians on this campus.

-Chuck Roberts JD ’18


Contact Chuck Roberts at cetr ‘at’ stanford.edu.