Mark Figley: Effort to silence dissenting speech hits home in Lima


By Mark Figley - Guest Columnist



Following the recent attack on the U.S. Capitol, the cancel culture sprung into action by attacking freedom of speech. This was achieved after Twitter made the decision to initially suspend the president’s account through the remainder of his term, then banned him permanently “due to the risk of further incitement of violence.”

Spurred on by the likes of Michelle Obama and other progressive voices, Twitter climbed aboard by suspending the accounts of numerous Trump supporters. Meanwhile, Apple and Google shut down the conservative site Parler, isolating thousands more from free expression, while Facebook joined the fray as well.

Calls have also risen for U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, to be placed on a federal no-fly list, with expulsion from the U.S. Senate over their efforts to expose presidential election fraud. In addition, publishing firm Simon and Schuster has canceled a book contract with Hawley and Harvard students favor revoking Cruz’ diploma from the university.

These are but a few examples of the ever-expanding efforts on the part of those who once positioned themselves as defenders of free speech to now silence any opinions which they oppose. Seemingly no institution has not been infiltrated by similar thought.

This is exemplified locally by the story of Father Mark Hodges, former priest at St. Stephen the First Martyr Ortodox Church for 20 years, whose life has been especially impacted for simply exercising his right to free speech.

As recently reported in The Lima News, Hodges was suspended on Jan. 12 for three months by Archbishop Paul Gassios for his participation in President Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington D.C. He also faces “possible defrocking.”

Although Hodges did not participate in the so-called “insurrection,” he has been deemed as “guilty by association” with those who did. Since taking action against Hodges, the Diocese of the Midwest Orthodox Church of America has refused additional comment.

Hodges has characterized the Trump rally as “joyful, positive and orderly.” Later, once he and his friend realized that events were spiraling out of control at the Capitol, they left the area for Union Station.

After watching coverage of the riotous situation that evening, Hodges expressed anger at the coverage, stating that Trump incited no violence at a peaceful protest for free and fair elections misrepresented by the mainstream media. He also believes “we have lost our democratic republic.” Obviously, his church begs to disagree.

Throughout history, the Church has always offered sanctuary to those living in troubled times. Yet today, the religious establishment too has joined in the effort to silence dissenting and unpopular speech. Where are those leaders within the church who are willing to speak up for the right to peaceful and free expression; who oppose the autocratic actions of their church, government and societal hierarchies; willing to acknowledge that too much power is consolidated in the hands of a few?

If his account is indeed accurate, Father Mark Hodges is one such leader. A man who deserves our prayers that should be celebrated in standing for an unpopular truth, while opposing the chilling advance of the cancel culture.

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By Mark Figley

Guest Columnist

Mark Figley is a political activist and guest columnist from Elida. His column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the The Lima News editorial board or AIM Media, owner of The Lima News. Reach him a figley@wcoil.com.

Mark Figley is a political activist and guest columnist from Elida. His column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the The Lima News editorial board or AIM Media, owner of The Lima News. Reach him a figley@wcoil.com.

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