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Tonight, Harvard College Faith and Action will host the spoken word and hip-hop artist Jackie Hill-Perry at its weekly large-group gathering, Doxa. Hill-Perry is notable for her identity as a self-proclaimed ex-gay woman who became an active Christian in 2008. Now, she advocates for lesbian and gay people to be saved from their attraction to people of the same sex through conversion therapy. Though we recognize the organization’s right to host the talk with Hill-Perry, we strongly believe that in doing so HCFA gives a platform to homophobia, conversion therapy, and hate.
In a statement released to justify the event, HCFA contends Hill-Perry’s speaking appointment was intended to “discuss broader issues at the intersection of faith and sex” and “foster respectful dialogue about sexual ethics for Christians in the spirit of love and kindness.” Not all students agree, as the event has rightfully sparked significant controversy, with many students planning to attend the event in silent protest of Hill-Perry’s views. We fully support respectful protests of this misguided choice.
We continue to recognize, as we have in the past, that freedom of speech should be upheld on our campus to the full extent to which it is supported by the First Amendment. Everyone has the right to be heard, and Hill-Perry is no different. Of course, that right is guaranteed to both those who protest events as well as those who speak at them. In the case of tonight’s event, the protesters are exercising this right in a far more constructive matter than the speaker.
Hill-Perry’s beliefs represent neither love nor kindness. Her talk extends a harmful narrative targeted at LGBTQ+ students that homosexuality is wrong. In fact, on her website, Hill-Perry claims that she was “saved from a lifestyle of homosexual sin”—hardly creating an inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ members of our campus.
Practices that purport to erase homosexuality, like conversion reparative therapy, drive participants to higher rates of depression, mental health problems, and STDs. Victims of this practice are also more likely to attempt suicide and abuse drugs. To say the least, the promotion of this practice is not a productive use of First Amendment rights.
By inviting Hill-Perry to speak, HCFA is presenting inaccurate, misguided beliefs about conversion therapy to its membership. If the group wanted to have a genuinely substantive conversation, they would have done well to have picked a speaker with beliefs in line with the group’s executive team’s stated purpose to “not condone conversion therapy or homophobia.”
Tonight’s Doxa, and HCFA’s intentions in hosting it, cannot be divorced from Hill-Perry’s overt condemnation of the queer community. It is in moments like these that we must remember to use the power of our own free speech to protest that of others to create a more respectful, informative, and open dialogue on campus.
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.
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