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Our View: Starkville, MSU bring the First Amendment into focus




In Starkville, the First Amendment, particularly as it relates to free speech, has moved from theoretical discussion to practical reality over the past couple of weeks. 


Two lightning rod issues, gay rights and abortion, have served to bring the discussion of what constitutes free speech into sharper focus. The Starkville Board of Aldermen's decision to deny a parade permit for the LGBT group "Starkville Pride," along with an invitation from Mississippi State University to an abortion doctor who argues the "pro-choice" position from a Christian perspective to speak at the university Thursday, has stirred emotions in the community. 


There is nothing wrong with that, of course. That has been the story of our country since its inception. 


What progress we have made as a nation has relied on the First Amendment, which ensures the right of people to express their views, to make their cases in the marketplace of ideas, without restraint from the government. Put simply, in America, the government can not deny the people to right to say what they believe.  


That freedom ensures practically all of the other freedoms we enjoy as a nation. 


In Starkville, we have witnessed both a rejection of that idea and an affirmation of it. 


The Starkville Board of Aldermen, through its action, has denied the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment to a group of its citizens. 


Mississippi State, through its actions, has supported that right. 


Public opinion may differ on the question of LGBT rights and abortion, but the right for advocates on either side of either debate to freely and peacefully express their views should never be denied by our government or its representatives. 


We believe that our ability to hear and express different views makes us a better people and a better nation. 


That is especially true on our college campuses. The business of education is conducted with the capital of ideas, and the best universities offer their students opportunities to be exposed to new ideas and challenge their own ideas through a variety of ways, including the speakers the university brings to campus. 


We commend Mississippi State, its students and those who gathered both in support and opposition of Thursday's speaker for what was, with only a few exceptions, an orderly, civil and fair exchange of ideas. 


Beyond all else, Thursday was a victory for the First Amendment.



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