Friday, 11 May 2018

Rugby's Collective Versus Free Speech

The Hum of the Hive

"The team is the thing!"  Australian rugby boss, Raelene Castle is caught in a cleft stick over Israel Folau.  She says its the hardest thing she has ever had to deal with.  At least she is making an effort to deal with the Folau's beliefs that unrepentant men and women are bound for Hell.  Here is her account of the fundamental issue:
Castle said she has spoken to Folau again this week, but Rugby Australia has refrained from taking action against Folau despite the reaction from fans, players and sponsors.  "There's no black and white answer," Castle said.  "On the one hand you're dealing with a human rights issue. On the other hand, you're dealing with freedom of speech and someone's right to express their views, whether it be religious or otherwise.

"I think the test continues to be whether that's done in a respectful way, so that's the measure that we'll continue to apply.  It's a very hot topic in the Australian landscape at the moment. The freedom of speech movement is looking for a conversation to be had and that's why - and I keep repeating myself - it's very delicate and we're trying to manage both sides so everyone feels included."  [NZ Herald]
In this quotation, however, Castle seems confused.  She appears to distinguish between "human rights" on the one hand, and "freedom of speech", on the other.  For some reason Castle may have overlooked, or forgotten, that free speech is one of the most fundamental of all human rights.
  The entire "Folau" controversy is a free speech battle.  One side (the pro-homosexual side) believes that Folau's views on homosexuality are not to be tolerated, nor permitted.  His free-speech rights are to be proscribed and curtailed.  His ideological opponents believe their free speech is holy, right, and just so Folau's speech must needs be curtailed.

The proof that this is a matter of free speech rights would become apparent if folk were to stand up and state unambiguously and clearly that whilst they disagree with Folau's Christian beliefs and think him wrong, they utterly and completely defend his right to speak his views.  Of course this is what Castle is referring to, but confuses the matter by implying that the pro-homosexual ideology is not also an issue of free speech.

The rugby fraternity is attempting to showcase itself as an inclusive community.  But the community is failing badly.  It is demonstrating repeatedly that it does not believe in free speech, and therefore is not an inclusive community.  Only some speech and beliefs are sanctioned as acceptable; others are sanctioned as unacceptable, and must be restricted or repressed--kept in the closet, so to speak.  And so we have former rugby great, George Gregan arguing that Folau should keep his beliefs private: "That's my concern with this. Let's talk football. These beliefs that you talk about, keep them to yourself."

Imagine the following scenario: rugby referee, Nigel Owens makes no secret of his homosexuality.  According to Gregan, he should keep his beliefs to himself.  Well, no.  Owens gets a free pass, as it were, because homosexuality is believed to be a human right and ought to be respected and defended because speech must be free.  But Folau must keep his beliefs private, and out of the public square.  They must be kept to himself.  Why?  Because Owens enjoys the privileges of free speech.  But Folau does not.  His views are condemned as unacceptable.

Herein lies the problem.  And until Australian (and New Zealand) rugby face up to their respective intolerance of free speech for Folau's opposing view, it will continue to be full of bias, disrespect, discrimination and oppression.  When it comes to free speech, the team (the collective) is very decidedly not the thing. The individual is the thing--otherwise we do not have any right of free speech at all, only a false human  "right" of collective speech, the hum of the hive, the Borg.

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