To the Editor:

I was present at the Library Board’s meeting Wednesday evening to bear witness to fellow residents’ views on the “Women of Purpose” painting, as well as to consider how to support board members from becoming victims of a threatened litmus test for future board service.

I was initially a bit taken aback by the fervor of some views against the artwork and the limited support voiced for having the painting remain on view. It was not difficult though to accept and even learn some from the passionate and free speech of those who voiced their dire concerns. I ultimately didn’t agree with much of what I heard, but I fully respected those individuals’ rights to voice their opinions and state their demands.

What was wholly unacceptable was the cowardly action, announced to the board by Mr. Herbst, of the individual who defaced the painting. That represented hateful behavior and a criminal act and was not at all free speech. The woman behind me who muttered, “Good!” in reaction to the First Selectman’s report, while reprehensible, still has my acquiescence to freely speak those harsh words when and where she chooses. Free speech is a vital and dynamic right, and those who defile it for selfish and sanctimonious reasons threaten much more than their own personal freedom.

Ralph Balducci