Healthy debate is the hallmark of our democracy. Yelling “fire” in a crowded theater is not. It is meant to cause harm. Mr. Williams, with his hateful and harmful views (which have been widely condemned by professionals), does not offer a discussion, but a condemnation of a segment of America. [With gay community abuzz, event cancelled, News, Aug. 12] That is not a “conversation”… that is an attack. That is not democracy.

Alan Amato
Oak Park
Submitted to WednesdayJournalOnline.com

I am ashamed of the individuals responsible for the cancellation of Cornelius Williams’ appearance, at the Buzz Café. Mr. Williams should have had a platform to discuss his book, Transition: From Homosexual to Preacher. Last time I checked, there was a law in the Constitution that guarantees freedom of speech.

The People’s Republic of Oak Park takes pride in its diversity, open-mindedness and tolerance. However, that philosophy is only upheld when you are marching in lockstep, with the rulers of the People’s Republic (as evidenced at the Buzz Café). The issue here is not about the subject (homosexuality), but rather an individual’s right to have an opinion contrary to another individual. Where does this type of censorship stop?

Ernest Hemingway said it best years ago, “Oak Park, a place with wide lawns and narrow minds.” Old Ernie knew what he was talking about.

Daniel R. Hefner
Oak Park

If the event had been promoted as supposedly intended (i.e., to debunk Cornelius Williams and his book), then there would have been no protest at all from the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community. But that was not the case.

Free speech and open debate should assume rational viewpoints based on facts, where there are legitimate grounds for differing views. Religious conviction is inherently irrational and oblivious to scientific facts and inquiry. So why would anyone grant such an individual a forum for promoting a book that espouses irrationality and perpetuates the damage that such views continue to inflict?

Bruce Broerman
Oak Park
Submitted to WednesdayJournalOnline.com

I applaud Laura for rethinking this event. When I heard about it, I did e-mail the Buzz in an attempt to understand the purpose of the event and how it was going to be structured. (For the record, I did not threaten any sort of boycott.)

The event was promoted as a panel discussion led by Mr. Williams. I never did get an answer to my questions around who else was going to be on the panel and how it would be led. So my concern – beyond being offended by how Mr. Williams characterizes his life as a homosexual as one filled with “rape, anger, bitterness, mental breakdowns, alcohol, suicidal tendencies and a serious sex addiction” – were that this would be a one-sided presentation of inaccurate and hate-filled opinions.

Greg Raub
Oak Park
Submitted to WednesdayJournalOnline.com

The whole business deals a harsh setback to the gay-rights movement in Oak Park, which has hitherto enjoyed wide support.

Jim Bowman
Oak Park
Submitted to WednesdayJournalOnline.com

I guess there is no “free speech” in Oak Park unless you are on the right (or I guess it’s the extreme left in Oak Park) side of the issues, huh? Shame on the Buzz Café for caving to the one-sided views of this “tolerant” town, and not allowing Mr. Williams to speak.

Would there have been such a reaction if a gay person was speaking? I think not. Talk about bigotry!

Dave Gooch
Oak Park

Hold up, everyone! This article, although journalistically thorough, characterized the meeting held last week as a protest and attack of the Buzz and Laura Maychruk. That was not the agenda of attendees, or what transpired. Laura told the group that she canceled because the last e-mail she received accused her of supporting Williams’ reparative ministry. She was distraught that anyone would think that, and that’s why Williams’ discussion was cancelled.

As to preventing free speech or stamping out the event, this was not the position of either the folks gathered or the subsequent tone of the meeting. In fact, we went there to honor Laura’s decision and explain the reaction she experienced. I, personally, was surprised (albeit happy) to get Laura’s e-mail canceling the program. My personal explanation for feeling impassioned about the invitation extended to Williams was that it was offensive to bring that kind of misinformed, self-righteous book promoting into a community priding itself on acceptance of the LGBT community. It was naive to think this would promote dialogue. It would be one side against another. Deadlock. Confrontation.

First Amendment rights are for the people, yes, but in public venues. We don’t allow offensive, hateful or objectionable behavior displayed in our homes, small businesses or schools. In each case, people have a right to choose. Nor is there a responsibility to the First Amendment in those cases.

Where the intent of this program was innocent, envisioning a lively debate consistent with the Buzz’s commitment to open forum, it was clear the vision did not consider how the LGBT community would feel. When Nazis wanted to march in Skokie, they were given a permit to do so on the streets. Jewish synagogues were not criticized, nor expected to invite them in for a spirited discussion of their differences.

I think the dialogue we all had with Laura that night was informative and an opportunity to better know each other. That was more constructive and meaningful than a so-called panel discussion. By the way, there were as many self-identified “straight” supporters as gay supporters in attendance.

Too bad Mr. Murphy did not bring his passion to the Buzz that night to experience, first hand, what actually took place!

Cheryl Haugh
Oak Park
Submitted to WednesdayJournalOnline.com

The quote from Mr. Williams in this article, “I don’t buy the facts. What I agree with and relate to is the scripture,” makes it clear why this reading should never have been scheduled. Once someone takes the position that the facts don’t matter, there is no legitimate discussion or debate to be had.

Steve Maxey
Oak Park
Submitted to WednesdayJournalOnline.com

We should become increasingly concerned about a group that protests someone’s right to free speech or an opinion while demanding open-mindedness and tolerance, whether it be something they agree with or not. What happened to this community? I couldn’t think of a better example of something more un-American and hypocritical. And to take it to the level of threatening a local business with protest – a place that has brought more than food and chairs but a place to share and be neighbors. It’s a detriment to Oak Park’s meaning of community for being so close-minded and unwelcoming. I think Laura is owed an apology and a cup of coffee.

Howard Cook
Oak Park
Submitted to WednesdayJournalOnline.com

The Buzz Café was profoundly insensitive and deserves the response it got. No one said Cornelius Williams didn’t have a right to free speech, no matter how repugnant his views are. But the community also has a right to be outraged that a local business chose to give this hateful nonsense credibility by sponsoring a public forum for it.

Further, I think a public has every right to draw a line between appropriate public discourse and public discussion, which has as its intent the victimization of minority groups. There is no scientific basis for anything Williams has to say or any credible public-policy interest inherent in it. The American Psychological Association stated clearly recently, after a multi-year study, that ex-gay therapy is ineffective. People such as Williams cite discredited or distorted research to support their contention that gays and lesbians can and should go through therapy to change their sexual orientation.

Worse, their underlying assumption, that there is something intrinsically disordered about gays and lesbians, contributes to the continuing oppression of gays and lesbians, such as the murderous attack on gay teenagers in Israel within the last two weeks. The heterosexuals proclaiming free speech rights in their comments here ought to consider how they’d feel if someone held public forums questioning their right to be who they are. I am quite sure they wouldn’t be quite so sanguine about it.

David Rappoport
Oak Park
Submitted to WednesdayJournalOnline.com

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