Hating Viki Knox: A Missed Opportunity in First Amendment Rights

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Viki Knox, a Union Township New Jersey high school teacher, was recently suspended with pay for comments she made on her Facebook wall. In her comments she criticized the lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender history month display at her school. (This display is pictured at the right.)

Although the Facebook comments have been removed a New Jersey LGBT rights group, Garden State Equality (GSE), has posted a PDF copy exchange.1 GSE is active on their Facebook page calling for Knox to be fired from her teaching position. Their petition for the school to act against Knox is titled “No Hate In Our State.”

Ironically enough, no one has shown the Knox hates anyone. Sure, “hate” is a great label used to demonize Knox and her position. May it also be said that those signing this petition are hating Viki Knox? Or is it in love that they want her fired and her Christian views silenced?

Union High School officials missed a great opportunity to teach the students about tolerance and First Amendment rights of those who have differing view points.

The school’s employment policy not withstanding, an opportunity was missed with . I have no idea what employee code of conduct Knox may have agreed to, but she was posting on her personal Facebook account.

The students could have been taught:

  • Tolerance: Instead of calling Knox’ positions “hate” it could have been explained that her positions are that of most Christians (IMO) and tolerance calls that she be treated respectfully while disagreeing with her views.
  • First Amendment: Instead of calling for Knox’ firing they could have been taught that she and others have First Amendment rights to share their views in the same way the protesters have a right to protest.

Once again it seems that those calling for equality and acceptance only want to do so on their terms. A Christian like Knox who expresses her views, however winsomely or poorly, is not allowed a seat at the table. Is this how high school students are taught to engage controversial issues? Call the opponent’s position one of hate and rally against them until they are silenced?

Some have advocated that Knox’ views on LGBT people will lead to bullying and violence. But Knox did not advocate for such actions, but rather challenged such lifestyles on moral grounds from the perspective of a biblical worldview.

This idea that Knox’ views promote bullying could have been another opportunity to teach the students. The lesson could have been that ideas do not necessarily lead to violence anymore than a group of people gathered and chanting against someone holding signs with the word “hate” on them does not promote violence. Sometimes irrational people who really do hate others act out physically against those they hate, but there is no evidence the Knox has called for bullying those with whom she disagrees.

I agree with GSE that there should be no hate in their state including toward Viki Knox and her ideas.
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The above article was posted on October 21, 2011 by Mark Lamprecht.
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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 John Todd October 21, 2011 at 11:47 pm

I wish to disagree with you on several points. Violence against the Lesbian, Gay, Bi and Transgendered community is encouraged when they are marginalized. Viki Knox’s comments sent a message that LGBT people are of lesser value than others. Bullies hear those words and are encouraged to harm those students. It happens more than you have any idea. Her words were also hurtful. We have a horrible problem of teen suicide in the LGBT community. These young people are bullied, sometimes rejected by their families and churches and even placed in conversion facilities that mental health professionals say is dangerous and ineffective.

Now no doubt we disagree also on whether being LGBT is a sin. I am a fifty-eight year old gay man. I have been with my partner Mike for nearly thirty years. We are Christians and we believe God blesses our relationship just as much as any heterosexual marriage. I won’t try to get into all the theological issues in this response but I will say that Jesus never said one word about gays. Not one. And I think taking the other parts of the bible contextually and in the time in which they were written they do not apply anymore than the Levitical code does today.

Finally I would like to discuss this matter of the First Amendment. I’m afraid you do not understand what the First Amendment is. It does not give a person the right to say anything they want anytime they please. Not without consequences. What it does mean is the government cannot prohibit your speech. You cannot be arrested and locked up because the government does not like what you are saying. The First Amendment says Congress shall make no law “abridging the freedom of speech.” No one has told Viki Knox she cannot say whatever she wants. However there may be consequences. If her employer finds that what she says is not conducive to her work as a teacher they may decide to dismiss her. This is not a freedom of speech issue. If someone works in a factory and goes around telling everyone that the products they make are shoddy then the boss may fire them. They still have the freedom of speech. Just not the job. There are consequences. There is no absolute right to free speech without consequences. And I feel Viki Knox stepped over the line as a teacher in performing her duties to treat all children with equal respect and to properly protect them equally.

2 Dan October 22, 2011 at 10:04 am

You know what upsets me the most? There will be no consequences for those calling for Knox to be fired. Sure, they can say anything they want, but should there not also be repercussions for someone trying to destroy what seems to be an honest career? So many inconsistencies in the arguments, including yours, John. There cannot be tolerance unless there is complete tolerance. But there won’t be complete tolerance because people only want their views heard. No way around it. Well written, Mark.

3 Mark October 22, 2011 at 2:33 pm

Hi John Todd,

Thank you for stopping by.

Violence against the Lesbian, Gay, Bi and Transgendered community is encouraged when someone who desire to carry out such acts uses whatever they can as an excuse to act on their evil desires. You write as if Viki Knox’ motive is to encourage a violent revolution against LGBT folks. She is not. Nor is Knox asking for such young people to be rejected by their families and churches.

Yes, we do disagree as to whether or not homosexual activity is a sin. Please forgive the crass analogy, but while not getting into all the theological issues I will say that Jesus never said one word about beastiality. Not one.
I’m afraid you did not understand my article. I never claimed free speech to be without consequences. I wrote that there is a lesson in this situation that has been missed. Although my position is that Knox’s Facebook page falls under free speech protection that should come without the consequence of being fired. It is interesting that those who oppose Knox are free to label her as a hater and such. That is not tolerant in the least and shows bias.

Finally, it is unfair to blame Knox for the violence of others, especially, f you take Knox worldview into consideration. The LGBT folks could easily explain that many Christians feel as Knox does and yet to not advocate violence against others. Just as Knox and other Christians believe the homosexual lifestyle is sinful and immoral they also believe violence against others is sinful and immoral. But it seems many in the LGBT would rather silence and blame those voices instead of being understanding.

4 Mark October 22, 2011 at 2:54 pm

John Todd,

One more thing. To attempt to assign blame for violence to Knox for her position on homosexuality I ask that you consider the assembly of those protesting her along the same line of thought. If Knox publicly vocalizing her beliefs motivates others toward violence, then a group of people chanting against another while holdings signs with the word “hate” on them should also be blamed possibly inciting violence.

5 Some Teacher October 28, 2011 at 12:03 am

I’ve written a relatively long response on my blog. (There are two responses on the page, the response to your article is second).

http://pedanticpoliticalponderings.blogspot.com/2011/10/followup-2-viki-knox-anti-gay-teacher.html

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