Just outside of Halifax in Nova Scotia, Canada, a young man wore a t-shirt to his high school that resulted in his being suspended from the school. William Swinimer, 19, wore a t-shirt that said “Life is Wasted Without Jesus”. Many students were offended by the shirt (no brainer) and it has sparked really interesting legal debates on the role of religion within someone’s private life as it relates to their freedom of expression. Ed Morgan, a Canadian legal expert published a great article outlining some of this in the Globe & Mail (May 9, 2012)
In my opinion, there is no question that I am offended anyone would think I wasted my life because Jesus is not my saviour. But that’s about as far as it goes. As a Jew, I can think of things that are displayed publicly all the time that are far worse attacks on my heritage and my personal choice. There is no question that Swinimer lacks sensitivity and judgment in choosing this shirt but I don’t think it crosses legal lines. I’m more concerned with living in such a politically correct world that we are never allowed to express ourselves in any unique way because we will most certainly be offending someone.
On the one hand we want to control all forms of personal expression that someone else might be hurt by and on the other hand we worry that we’re raising a generation of self-entitled professionals who expect the world to cater to them and look for any and every reason to complain about life being unfair. Maybe if some of these professionals had to navigate a somewhat less sterile environment of expression earlier in their lives they would have a more realistic expectation of the world.
I don’t condone people insulting and offending each other all the time (I wouldn’t recognize Canada in such a world) but every now and then it’s good to shake things up and do a double check on our freedoms.