Bad Press

Last week, the Springfield, Missouri newspaper News-Reader published an editorial describing events that took place during an anti-abortion rally and subsequent anti-anti-abortion rally, ostensibly orchestrated by the local chapter of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Because this is not true, and because News-Leader neglected to do any fact-checking, I am going to post the editorial in full, and the response-editorial by Springfield’s CoFSM Captain as well, for clarification.

Attack on pro-life display reveals intolerance
by Bradley Fisher

On Oct. 1-2 a walk to Blair-Shannon Dining Hall had a different kind of scenery. Hundreds of miniature crosses lined the front lawn of the building. Members of Bears For Life, a pro-life student organization, stood with signs, while others continued to add grave markers to the sobering “child cemetery.” A poster reads: “50,000,000 dead since Roe v. Wade.” It was an uncommon scene, to be sure, but is sadly, far from the most disturbing spectacle of the day.

A few feet away, at the Bear Paw, the BIGALA (Bisexual Gay and Lesbian Association) was having its own event. Several members left their own meeting to go stomp down the tiny tombstones across the street. One young man threw himself on the ground, rolling over the memorial. The leader of the association, who apparently did not endorse this unfortunate display, chided the miscreants, but the damage was done.

That afternoon members of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, a group of atheists on campus, came out in full force, armed with coat hangers and signs offering “free abortions.” Pushing the envelope as usual, the group did their worst to upstage Bears For Life, who had, by the way, reserved the lawn in advance to peacefully protest. This is not free speech. This is despicable.

When did free speech stop being free expression and start being a sideshow for the impudent and obscene? Why must one fight for the floor, rail against shameless intimidation tactics, and compete with such disgusting outbursts from the opposition, just to have one’s voice heard? Bears For Life did not challenge the Spaghetti Monsters to a debate, nor were they antagonizing the BIGALA rally nearby. They wanted only to publicly gather and peacefully protest.

It seems to me The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and groups like them, who tout their ideology of tolerance and diversity, have deteriorated into the very close-minded bigots they propose to fight. Hardly champions of free speech, they cannot wait to shut up the other side, rushing to every Christian demonstration and conservative protest to make sure they are the ones that scream loudest. And I always thought silencing the opposition was just for fascists. Then again, maybe it is.

My question is, what are these people so afraid of? Why go to such vulgar and demeaning ends (self-respect and credibility are obviously nonissues among these circles) to keep someone else from making their point? Is your argument really so thin and your convictions so unfounded that the proclamations of pro-life demonstrators, should you allow them to speak, would expose you to be a mindless chattel of the far-left agenda?

People from the pro-choice side who are educated enough to know both sides and are able to defend their position without making a complete spectacle of themselves, must be horrified. This kind of tasteless misbehavior only discredits those who respect free speech no matter one’s political persuasion.

Perhaps it is that these anti-God, anti-faith groups really have nothing to say for their own positions. Beyond shocking the public, and intimidating other points of view with their offensive poster board idioms and tired mock-church routine, their purpose appears only to be a sideshow affront to the faith community and a hindrance to free speech.

I am not arguing that these organizations at fault be censored.

Rather I ask that when it comes to political discourse, they behave more like logical adults and less like insolent toddlers, refusing to take turns. After all, as Chomsky said, “If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.”

Here is the counter-editorial which was published a few days later:

Group not involved in counter-protest
by Ryan Culbertson-Faegre

This is in response to Bradley Fisher’s editorial in (Wednesday’s) issue of the News-Leader. My name is Ryan Culbertson-Faegre, and I’m the official captain of the Missouri State University Chapter of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I’d just like to clear up a few points that seem to have escaped Bradley Fisher.

First, let me emphasize that the FSM is not an atheist organization. We are Christians, Muslims, Jews, Catholics, Protestants, agnostics, atheists, humanists, deists, pagans and Wiccans. We are not against anyone’s god in any way. We are simply against hatred and dogmatism. We protest people who come to our campus and try to push their religions on other people. When campus evangelicals visit MSU, we take it upon ourselves to ensure that they do not harass passers-by and make them cry, as preachers like “Brother” Jed Smock have been known to do. If we cannot distract them with honest debate, and they shout over us, we occasionally resort to (often Dadaist) performance art in order to stop their verbal assault.

It’s also important to understand that the FSM did not stage a counter-protest on Wednesday. While some of our members, myself included, protested the Bears For Life’s display, we did so of our own volition. It was in no way an FSM event, nor was there any reason to believe that it was. I wish that Mr. Fisher had had the foresight to verify his facts before he published them.

Let’s move on and talk about what the Bears For Life were doing last Wednesday. They hung up blatantly and scientifically wrong signs next to their macabre little cemetery in an attempt to guilt, shame and scare young women. It was inappropriate and classless. However, they had the right to do it, and the protesters very poignantly avoided impeding their event in any way. We respect their right to express their views. This is America. However, in turn, we demand the right to speak our own minds. I believe that most of us were speaking out against the event because we believe that scaring women with false statistics and attempting to take their rights away is despicable.

Finally, let’s talk about the “Free Abortions” signs and the coat hangers. There was only one “Free Abortions” sign, and it was mine. However, Mr. Fisher neglected to mention the context. A friend of mine was holding a sign next to me that said “Overturn Roe V. Wade?” The sign was more than an attempt to crudely shock onlookers. As I explained to the Bears For Life and anyone else who cared to speak to me, I was demonstrating that the number of abortions in America would not go down if the procedure were illegalized. Instead, there would just be an increase in fatalities, as we see in other countries that have banned abortion. Since he took it out of context, however, I understand how Mr. Fisher could have mistaken the intent of the sign; I will try not to hold it against him. I only hope that the next time Bradley Fisher wishes to express his views about our organization, he takes the time to learn the facts.