The Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club made plans to shift the activities to another venue yet these efforts were put to naught as well. “Given that no other location has been willing to intercede, we will no longer be sponsoring this black mass,” the group said.
Now the posse has promised that it won’t be holding the travesty of faith any longer. In the beginning when the satanic black mass proposal was made, the university had not made any objections.
However, the president was against the idea. Most of the arrangements were almost finalized. But soon pressure from those opposing the sacrilegious act built up till it was overwhelming.
Over 60,000 individuals signed a petition against the blasphemous black mass. The President Drew Faust spoke of how freedom of expression included the right to oppose anything someone found repulsive or morally degrading.
“Vigorous and open discussion and debate are essential to the pursuit of knowledge, and we must uphold these values even in the face of controversy,” Faust said yesterday.
“Freedom of expression, as Justice Holmes famously said long ago, protects not only free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.”
It seems freedom does have its limits after all. Even such a liberal and secular institution as Harvard has its breaking point. At some stage, freedom becomes excessive and tips over into perversion.
That is when things go from a squeeze to a pinch. It gets painful. Harvard may tolerate a lot of things but black mass isn’t one of them. Then there are other voices in the wilderness which say that such intolerance for opinions and practices other than one’s own is a bad sign.
“What do we really think that religious freedom and free speech demands of us?” Christopher Robichaud, a lecturer in ethics and public policy who will be speaking at the event. “Does religious tolerance demand only tolerance of rituals that aren’t offensive?”
“If this had been a re-enactment of a Nazi rally or a lynching, the university would have stepped in quickly and stopped it,” said Francis Clooney, a Roman Catholic priest and a professor in Harvard Divinity School, in a telephone interview. “I’d be concerned that the university is saying, we just allow student groups to do what they want.”
They furthermore spoke of how freedom means the freedom to offend. The black mass was a celebration of pagan and alternative religions. But then one has to think of how Harvard would have reacted to an act of racism or a genocidal speech in order to see the point of view of the religious authorities.
A kneejerk reaction would have occurred for obvious reasons of human dignity and racial justice. Similarly, Harvard University ought not to allow an “anything goes” approach among its students.