Hate groups and free speech

While H.O.M.E. does not advocate violence, the Southern Poverty Law Center labels them a "hate group"


lance lagoni

H.O.M.E. settled near Jobe Lounge with their "little known facts about homosexual activity" sign that has come to categorize the group.

Arturo Chuatz, Staff Writer

On Tuesday, March 19, 2019, and Wednesday, March 20, 2019, Heterosexuals Organized for a Moral Environment, the organization otherwise known as H.O.M.E., set up a table in the Free Speech Zone near the cafeteria and continued casting their views against members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Although Elgin Community College has released statements regarding their disagreement with H.O.M.E., under the First Amendment, they are obliged to permit all forms of protected free speech, including bigoted or offensive speech.

For those unaware, H.O.M.E. is an anti-LGBTQ+ organization. The organization centers its views around the belief that homosexual individuals bring moral costs to society.

The organization did not release an official statement when approached, however, they did urge The Observer to read their online website.

In their website, one can find the many reasons they use to rationalize their beliefs. Most notably is their repeated sense of morality, which serves as the focal grounding point for their beliefs. “Because morality is the glue that holds societies together, we need to be concerned about moral issues. Homosexual issues are moral issues,” H.O. M.E. said on their website. 

The organization’s repeated claims against members of the LGBTQ+ community haven’t gone unnoticed. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which is known for its civil rights activism, has gone as far as deeming the organization a hate group in the state of Illinois.

While multiple emails to the SPLC have gone unanswered, their website defines what constitutes a hate group, which is “an organization that – based on its official statements or principles, the statements of its leaders, or its activities – has beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.”

Having this label and standing behind the beliefs that they do sets up the student body for immediate disapproval of the group. However, by claiming that they do not support the invitation of violence, as the First Amendment demands, the group’s speech falls under the protected category of free speech.

“It should go without saying that we at H.O.M.E. condemn violence against homosexuals and their supporters,” H.O.M.E. said on their website. “We believe in educating them about the lifestyle, just as we believe smokers, for example, should be educated about their unhealthy lifestyle.”

ECC students understand the concept of free speech and recognize that H.O.M.E’s claims, though damaging, fall under the protective arena of free speech.

Nonetheless, their presence on campus still churns their edges. For example, Omar Leon, a second-year student at ECC, finds their comments overtly hurtful to the ECC community.

“Having them on campus probably does more harm than good,” Leon said. “A lot of good people who have endured a lot to become the confident person that they deserve to be, the person that is able to look in the mirror and say ‘this is who I am’, [and they] may now feel vulnerable with these people on campus.”

Many more students shared Leon’s sentiments and on the two days that H.O.M.E was on campus, several ECC student clubs gathered in the Jobe Lounge to show their support for ECC’s LGBTQ+ community.

A handful of the members behind SWANS, which is a club that advocates for LGBTQ+ rights on campus and focuses on educating the student body as well improving the conversations surrounding gender and sexuality agree that H.O.M.E’s attendance on campus is, besides obviously un-welcomed, also disingenuous.

Seth Harmon, the vice president of the club, believes H.O.M.E’s continued presence on college campuses is to reap the benefits that a lawsuit could invite if the college were to deny them their free speech.

“The reason that they do [what they do] is [because] if the school makes some sort of mistake and accidentally inhibits their free speech, they can sue the school and make money off of it,” Harmon said. “The sole reason that they do [this] is so that they can sue schools that don’t allow them to do this kind of thing.”

Despite H.O.M.E.’s continued presence on campus, SWANS secretary, Jocelyn Godinez, views their appearances on campus as opportunities to collectively organize and express themselves.

“We plan events to show our protest, too,” Godinez said. “Just like they show who they want to be, we show who we [are].”