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Limiting Free Speech Is The Opposite Of 'Truth, Justice, And The American Way'

Daniel Lewin |
February 21, 2013 | 10:22 a.m. PST

Contributor

DC Comics has chosen Orson Scott Card to write the next Superman anthology. (Jason Csizmadi, Creative Commons)
DC Comics has chosen Orson Scott Card to write the next Superman anthology. (Jason Csizmadi, Creative Commons)
DC Comics ignited a firestorm of controversy last week when it announced that it had hired Orson Scott Card, famous for authoring the beloved Ender’s Game series (movie version set to be released this fall), to work on the new Adventures of Superman anthology (set to be released this summer). The controversy was not due to Card’s work on Ender’s Game, however. It was due to his very public opposition to gay marriage. But even though his views are bigoted, they should not be used to deny him employment.

Card, a member of the Jesus Christ Church of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) and of the board of directors of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), has not been shy about his deeply reactive and discriminatory views on the issue of gay rights. Although Orson Scott Card does not, as many homophobes do, refuse to recognize homosexuals as equals (he once said, “I cannot see individual homosexuals, in or out of my books, as anything other than human beings with as complex a combination of good and evil in them as I find within myself”), Card is a practicing Mormon, and homosexuality is seen as sinful by his church. As such, he opposes it in all forms, and supports any attempts to suppress it and society's increasing acceptance of it. His public comments on the matter have been fairly disturbing; he has gone so far as to conflate homosexuality with rape and sexual abuse. While he is beyond politically incorrect in his views, Card’s identity as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints makes his position far from surprising, given its outspoken opposition to homosexuality.

Gay rights groups vehemently protested DC’s decision to hire Card. All-Out.org, an LGBT advocacy website, collected over 11,000 signatures on a petition demanding that DC drop Card from the project. The petition argues that Superman, given his association with “truth, justice and the American way,” should not be drawn by someone with such bigoted and backward views. Prominent comic book shops promised not to carry the series upon its release, and fans threatened to boycott. DC has thus far refused to cave to public pressure, stating, “As content creators we steadfastly support freedom of expression. However, the personal views of individuals associated with DC Comics are just that — personal views — and not those of the company itself.”

Homophobic views such as those held by Card and the LDS Church are outdated and absurd. We should work to marginalize and eventually eliminate them. The battle for tolerance and acceptance of gays is one that is slowly tilting toward progress, and there is little doubt that Card and his cohorts at NOM are on the wrong side of history. Despite this, Card should still be allowed to write for the Superman series and any other series to which DC chooses to assign him. The way to further the gay rights struggle is not to silence opposing views by blacklisting those who hold them. That is a violation of the core principles of our society and our nation. It is not an emotionally easy position to take, and it is not pleasant to come out in “support,” albeit indirectly, of a hateful bigot like Orson Scott Card — quite the opposite. But in this case, we must.

Card’s bigoted and backward views are disgusting to many people, myself included. The time has long passed when we can just pretend that these kinds of homophobic viewpoints have any merit — they are abhorrent and misguided through and through. But my views on homosexuality and how I or anyone else feels about people with opposing views should not be, and is not relevant when discussing who is allowed to be on Superman’s comic book writing team. Equality is a fundamental American right, but freedom of expression is as well, and blacklisting Card from working on comic books is the wrong path to take to advance the gay right’s movement.

The freedom of expression, specifically the freedom of speech that we profess to cherish so dearly in this country, was made to be invoked precisely for situations like this one, in which unpopular opinions come under fire. It is easy to have free speech when someone’s opinions match yours and are in line with the prevailing attitudes of modern society; it is far more difficult when they do not. But that is precisely why we have free speech protections in our Bill of Rights.

The fact that the comic in question is Superman, the most prominent superhero and one whose moral idealism is supposed to represent the best in us all, only seems to complicate the issue for many, but it shouldn’t. If Card worked his homophobic views into the comic and DC allowed him to publish the comic anyway, it would be a much different situation. But until that happens, and, frankly, it isn’t going to, the specific comic he writes is not pertinent to the discussion.

The kind of intimidation on the basis of a person'’s views represented by the backlash to DC's choice of Card makes me extremely nervous. On this issue I do find Card’s position to be abhorrent, but he should nevertheless be allowed to hold it. His position should not be used as a reason to deny him employment. To imply that one’s political views should affect one’s employment possibilities sets a scary precedent indeed. Protecting the right to hold an unpopular minority opinion should not be compromised simply because we dislike someone’s reactive views. The general principles of free speech must take precedence. The protection of minority opinions is vital to keeping our nation a free one, even if that means we have to put up with views we sometimes find repulsive.

 

Reach Contributor Daniel Lewin here.



 

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Comments

KC (not verified) on February 22, 2013 9:39 AM

I love Orson Scott Cards writings. Who cares what his viewpoints are on the gay community? Everyone's entitled to there opinions and viewpoints on anything. He writes great stories. People are doing the same thing they are accusing him of doing by being intolerant to his beliefs. So what if you boycott anything Orson Scott Card? Good for you that's your right. I guarantee you he'll still be writing for D.C comics and the Ender's Game movie will still do well at the box office. Not everyone in the world will ever think or feel the same on any given topic. It's not that big of a deal.

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Lauren Madow (not verified) on February 21, 2013 9:49 PM

Excellent piece. It never ceases to amaze me that people get so confused about the subtleties (although they don't seem all that subtle, frankly) of free speech. Sometime around 1980 or '81, Noam Chomsky defended the right to free speech of a holocaust denier named Robert Faurisson and to this day Chomsky himself is accused of sharing these views, simply for saying Faurisson should not be censored. People get easily confused around this issue.

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Chuck Anziulewicz (not verified) on February 24, 2013 2:30 PM

DEAR LAUREN:

Trust me, no group in American society better knows how precious our freedom of speech is than the Gay community. Otherwise, we would NEVER make any progress. And no one is threatening Orson Scott Card's freedom to spew his garbage at people who are Gay. All we want to do is draw attention to it.

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bug (not verified) on February 21, 2013 12:36 PM

hey chuck, i'm just as repulsed by card's views as you are...which is exactly why i think it's important that his right to free speech protection be upheld. if it isn't, a precedent would be set that could create a culture i'd be thoroughly uncomfortable with--a culture in which people in power bending to pressure can freely censor those they don't agree with. and what would the implications of that be for people like you, and i, (and danny!) who are committed to equality and social justice? what if our views ever offended the powers that be, and we were silenced and marginalized?

by all means, don't throw a scrap of money or time at him! sounds good to me. but don't take away his constitutional rights and in the process endanger yours.

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dlewin on February 21, 2013 11:32 AM

NOM is not the KKK and equating the two is disrespectful to those who actually suffered at the hands of the KKK. NOM is an organization that shares Card's bigoted views and works to promote them - I find it hardly surprising or earth-shattering that he affiliates with and supports them. Of course he is going to promote his views. Is your argument that he is allowed to have free speech as long as he doesn't actually try to influence policy/society towards his views? Doesn't that defeat the purpose of free speech protections?

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Chuck Anziulewicz (not verified) on February 21, 2013 10:49 AM

The first time I ever heard of Orson Scott Card was by way of a short story, "A Thousand Deaths," which was published in the now-defunct Omni magazine. More recently I read and enjoyed the first four of his "Ender Wiggin" novels, and I slogged through all five books in his "Homecoming" sci-fi saga (though becoming somewhat puzzled by the Mormon imagery in the last book).

It was only LATER that I found out what a strident homophobe Orson Scott Card was. And trust me, I did my research into some of the horribly vitriolic things he has written about Gay people. And now I feel sorry that I spent so much time and money on his books. It's like finding out that an artist whose work you admire is secretly a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

And this isn't just about Mr. Card expressing his opinion. It's one thing to say you support "traditional marriage." After all, who DOESN'T? I have lots of Straight (i.e. heterosexual) friends, some married and some single, and if any of the singles finds a compatible person of the opposite sex to marry and make a solemn commitment to, no one will be happier than me.

But it is quite another thing to sit on the board of directors of the National Organization for Marriage, a group that works specifically to deny law-abiding, taxpaying Gay couples the same legal benefits and protections that Straight couples have always taken for granted.

So NO, I'm not going to throw any more time and money at him. And like millions of other LGBT sci-fi fans and our supporters, I won't be seeing the upcoming big-screen adaptation of "Ender's Game."

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