Most of us like the idea of freedom of speech very much.
It’s enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and is the cornerstone of Western democracy.
We like human rights. And we also like Western democracy. They seem to serve us well.
But it appears we are only fierce defenders of freedom of speech under one condition: If that speech happens to perfectly reflect what we think. Then – and only then – is it worth fighting for.
It all began when an 18-year-old woman named Madeline, who was raised Christian, decided to put a Facebook filter on one of her profile pictures. The filter read “It’s OK to vote ‘No'”, regarding the same-sex marriage plebiscite.
Madeline was employed by a woman named Madlin Sims, who runs Canberra-based entertainment company, Capital Kids Parties.
Sims’ brother, a friend of Madeline, alerted the business owner to the filter on Madeline’s Facebook page, and then asked directly if she would take it down.
Madeline refused, and says she calmly explained her ‘no’ vote was consistent with her religious beliefs. Sims, conversely, says Madeline was aggressive and “verbally attacked” her brother. As it stands, there is no evidence for either claim.
Following their disagreement, Sims made the decision to terminate Madeline’s employment with Capital Kids Parties, and informed her via a Facebook message.
After Madeline’s dismissal, Sims posted on Facebook: “Today I fired a staff member who made it public knowledge they feel ‘it’s okay to vote no’. Advertising your desire to vote no for SSM is, in my eyes, hate speech…