What’s Wrong with the World

The men signed of the cross of Christ go gaily in the dark.

About

What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

Civil Disobedience--Test Case

Well, another day, another tyrannical arrest by the thought police. Another street preacher has been arrested in England for saying (gasp) that homosexual behavior is a sin. The police allege that he said it loudly enough to be overheard. Well, that settles that. Take him away, boys.

This raises a couple of interesting questions in my mind. I've often wondered about when civil disobedience is justifiable. It seems to me that civil disobedience isn't automatically justified by the existence of an unjust or ridiculous or even tyrannical law. If my state passed a law against eating broccoli on Tuesdays, it would be disturbing to see something that Big Brotherish going on, but the matter would be trivial enough that civil disobedience would (probably) not be justified. Civil disobedience obviously is justified when the law requires you to do something wrong yourself.

But in between, there are cases like this, where I am inclined to say that civil disobedience is justified, because the matter is very grave. That is to say, it is important that Christians be able to speak out against sin in order to be a light in the world. While God doesn't directly order this or that Christian to speak out at some particular time against a particular sin, the general proscription of preaching against some given sin is a very serious matter indeed and must be challenged.

I therefore support widespread civil disobedience in the case of this British law. The only question is how it should be done. Question to those more knowledgeable: Does the law proscribe only speech on public streets, or does it also include pastors' sermons? (I understand that it proscribes "abusive or insulting" language that causes "harassment, alarm, or distress.") If the latter, then I think pastors and priests in Britain should mount a widespread campaign to preach on a particular Sunday in defiance of this law. If the former, Christians in Britain should mount a campaign of saying (loudly enough to be heard by passersby) on the streets that homosexuality is a sin. It would be interesting to see just how far the British police would go, just how many people they would arrest, in a crackdown on a really large campaign of this sort.

My own strategy advice would be that the civil disobedience campaign not involve large numbers of people bunching together, or the police will treat them as rioters, cage them, and even rough them up, as they have been doing to EDL protesters lately. In my opinion (with which others may differ) the best strategy would be a coordinated campaign on a particular day involving large numbers of people spread out in small groups in various British cities and towns passing out leaflets with the proscribed statements, wearing them on T-shirts, and saying them loudly enough to be overheard.

This tyranny against Christian moral teaching must be challenged, and Christian leaders should do what leaders are supposed to do: Lead.

Comments (44)

If the British people are willing to accept this, I don't think they will have a Problem with curbing the Free Speech of a street preacher:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/8529595.stm

Also see the BBC biases in this article.

I've just seen Jeff Culbreath's new post, what I've just posted probably would have been better suited there.

Lydia,

(by the way, what is EDL? I seem to have missed something)

I agree with you here. I've long thought it was time for pastors and priests in Canada, UK and the EU to coordinate efforts in a sermon protest day. Sadly, this is also why I have asked for my name to be removed from the MD. In that document they pay lip service to the possibility of civil disobedience but during the judicial murder of Terri Schiavo, not a single one of the original signers got arrested, and only one or two of them even bothered to show up at the protests/vigils. (I haven't been able to confirm this last part for sure) There was one man who did get arrested for civil disobedience - but you will find his name no where on the MD.

Kamilla

Kamilla, the EDL is the English Defense League. Sorry for not putting in a link. Pamela Geller has been covering it. They keep holding protests of Islamization of Britain and getting treated pretty badly.

PB, do feel free to post that in Jeff's thread as well. What's creepier than anything in there is that the bill clearly is coercive even as amended but the homosexual activist groups say it isn't coercive _enough_. According to officials, the Catholic schools _must_ teach about contraception (including telling the students how to access it) and _must_ teach about same-sex relationships at particular ages but are _allowed_ (whoo, whoo) to teach their own traditions' moral evaluations of these things. But that isn't enough for the activists, who apparently think the schools shouldn't be permitted to teach the Christian moral view of these things. It isn't enough for them that the schools are being told when and how to teach sexualized content.

How many years are our intrepid cousins across the pond ahead of us? 5? 10? Coming soon to a church near you.

Lydia,

I'm not sure I'd go so far as the EDL does (just checked their website). They want to ban halal slaughter in the UK and I think that would mean they'd have to ban Kosher food as well, wouldn't they? I know it's different, but do you really think it should be treated differently as a legal matter? And they also want to ban home-based Islamic learning centers - and you kno they are *already* going after Christinan home-schoolers - such a ban would only make conditions worse.

Kamilla

"I think pastors and priests in Britain should mount a widespread campaign to preach on a particular Sunday in defiance of this law. If the former, Christians in Britain should mount a campaign of saying (loudly enough to be heard by passersby) on the streets that homosexuality is a sin."

Lydia, when things reach this pass here in the U.S. (and I think it's about 50/50 that they will, within my lifetime) you can count on me to roam the streets of Kansas City "saying [indeed, shouting] that homosexuality is a sin" - and just daring them to persecute me for it.

It disgusts me to the very core that there is apparently not a single gay man in Britain today with the guts and the dedication to freedom of speech to do the same.

Kamilla, I haven't even checked their web site. My point concerned the way they've been treated by the police and therefore the probabl un-wisdom of "bunching" for protest purposes, not an endorsement of their whole agenda.

Steve, it's a funny thing, ain't it? And wouldn't it be an interesting event if there were such arrests... But I think what we're seeing is that a commitment to free speech per se just won't sustain a society. I don't know whether to say that for most who affirmed such a commitment it was always a complete sham and a trick. Perhaps that's too cynical. But certainly it has come to the point that we as conservatives _cannot_ rely on freedom of speech in itself as a bulwark of our freedoms. We have to say that these things are, qua content, the sort of content that is worth protecting. Or so I've come to believe.

Lydia,

Sorry, I misread you.

On the threat of civil disobedience, I have no hope many Christians will really get out and do anything that will result in their arrest. Even in Britain, this preacher is unusual because he is, well, unusual. We'll sleepwalk into our intellectual straightjackets and then wonder why we forgot what Neimoller wished us to remember. Honestly, if we were a civilly disobedient bunch, we'd be putting our toes across the imaginary boundary outside of abortuaries and we'd be picketing SCOTUS every day they're in session . . .and so much more.

If we can't gin up the courage to be civilly disobedient when human life is at stake, do we really think we're going to do it because we can no longer say out loud, "Buggery is bad for you"?

Kamilla

Where can I even start on how hilariously wrong your suggestion is?

1. While a good proportion of Britons define themselves as "Christian," the church-going population is tiny and mostly elderly. For most, being a "Christian" is part of tradition and doesn't involve any actual beliefs. In fact, some Church of England vicars are openly atheist.

2. Those who are actually believing Christians, on the whole, don't believe that being gay is a sin. There are even - gasp - gay believing Christians.

3. The way British culture works is that anyone who goes around stating controversial beliefs for passers-by to hear is considered not just strange, but ultimately embarrassing. Strike that, not just controversial beliefs: nobody here wants to hear anyone else saying anything at all. It's simply impolite to walk around talking to strangers in the street.

Conclusion: Therefore, the number of Christians in this society (who are rare enough to start with), who would also (i.) believe being gay is a sin AND (ii.) be willing shake off the incredibly strong social norm of not imposing on others would be in such tiny, tiny numbers as to make your campaign for civil disobedience irrelevant. It would, in fact, lead to the occasional guy getting arrested for being obnoxious, as in the Daily Fail story you linked. The idea that there would ever be enough to be called a "riot" is actually hilarious and did make me laugh out loud in real life. Well done.

Postscript: The EDL are a bunch of racist thugs. Do by all means align yourselves publicly with them--it helps casual readers understand where you sit on the spectrum of belief.

What the Christians should do is form an alliance with local Muslims to make their demonstration. Chances of arrest would drop precipitously; more importantly, chances of being lectured by smug British readers on blogs might also drop.

What the Christians should do is form an alliance with local Muslims to make their demonstration. Chances of arrest would drop precipitously; more importantly, chances of being lectured by smug British readers on blogs might also drop.

Absolutely!

If muslim mob can freely, without fear of arrest, stage a hateful demonstration against British troops returning from Afghanistan calling them "child murderers", or stage a demonstration with banners like "islam will dominate the world", "behead those who insult islam", or "Jews prepare for the real holocaust" then they have nothing to fear when softly chanting "homosexuality is sin".
Britain may indeed be on its way to become "dead island", but it will always be able to muster enough energy required to lick the boots of the muslim invader.

I don't know if your suggestion is serious, Paul. It would probably _work_, but...

As a serious suggestion, I'm uncomfortable with it. For one thing, in my ideal civil disobedience campaign, the literature involved would include contact info. for Christian exit organizations--a kind of "there is hope to leave the gay lifestyle" message. More importantly, I tend to think social con Christians make a mistake if they think they can make useful long-term alliances with Muslims to their mutual benefit. The Muslims also, for example, want Christian street preachers arrested or drive off with threats of violence for talking about Jesus and passing out Christian tracts in Muslim no-go areas--which has happened in Britain, I might add, and also in Dearborn, Michigan.

Ironically, under Sharia law this preaching is permissible. Perhaps the Christian gentleman in question can appeal to the Archbishop of Canterbury on the grounds that he is merely trying to elucidate the beliefs of our immigrant friends who want to feel welcome and not marginalized.

In fact, better yet, ask the Archbishop if it's okay for Elton John to advocate sodomy while wearing a burqua. (We can call it burqua buggery)

There's nothing more fun that creating political correctness coherency problems.

The way British culture works is that anyone who goes around stating controversial beliefs for passers-by to hear is considered not just strange, but ultimately embarrassing.

It's viewed much the same in America, by myself as much as anyone. Even so, while people don't want to hear preaching in the mall, actively supporting the arrest of preachers in the mall for preaching is another thing altogether.

Whether Britain has enough people with enough life left in them to make any difference, I can't say.

Postscript: The EDL are a bunch of racist thugs.

Well ok, but guilt by association? Bleh.

I want again to emphasize that it's not clear (to me) that this law applies only to "street preachers." Does the fact that it's a "public order" act mean that it does _not_ apply to preachers in churches? I don't know. Moreover, the mere fact that something was said loudly enough _to be overheard_ was considered grounds for arrest. So this obviously goes beyond standing around shouting or preaching loudly to all around.

I want also to note that in a case in Scotland, which I previously blogged about, the street preacher in question did _not_ say anything about homosexuality as part of his general preaching but was asked about it in a set-up conversation afterwards with passersby who asked him questions designed to elicit "illegal" responses. This makes it very clear that this could apply to _any_ conversation on a street (at least) in which one is speaking above a whisper.

British reader: a quick survey of the EDL home page and wikipedia's article on them turns up no serious evidence to substantiate your description of them as "a bunch of racist thugs." Could you point me in the direction of something that does?

"Lydia, when things reach this pass here in the U.S. (and I think it's about 50/50 that they will, within my lifetime) you can count on me to roam the streets of Kansas City "saying [indeed, shouting] that homosexuality is a sin" - and just daring them to persecute me for it."

"How many years are our intrepid cousins across the pond ahead of us? 5? 10? Coming soon to a church near you."

Based on what?

"Perhaps that's too cynical. But certainly it has come to the point that we as conservatives _cannot_ rely on freedom of speech in itself as a bulwark of our freedoms. We have to say that these things are, qua content, the sort of content that is worth protecting. Or so I've come to believe."

Content is precisely where we don't want to go and where we can't go anyway under our Constitution. As with Tony's and Steve's predictions, it would be an useful exercise to ponder how we get from here to there. It your case, try to write a constitutional amendment that protects specific content that doesn't do violence to other sections of the Constitution.

"Does the fact that it's a "public order" act mean that it does _not_ apply to preachers in churches?"

Doesn't look good but I didn't go into any case law.

"Public Order Act 1986 (c. 64)

5. Harassment, alarm or distress.
— (1) A person is guilty of an offence if he—
(a)
uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or
(b)
displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting,
within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.
(2) An offence under this section may be committed in a public or a private place, except that no offence is committed where the words or behaviour are used, or the writing, sign or other visible representation is displayed, by a person inside a dwelling and the other person is also inside that or another dwelling.
(3) It is a defence for the accused to prove—
(a)
that he had no reason to believe that there was any person within hearing or sight who was likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress, or
(b)
that he was inside a dwelling and had no reason to believe that the words or behaviour used, or the writing, sign or other visible representation displayed, would be heard or seen by a person outside that or any other dwelling, or
(c)
that his conduct was reasonable.
(4) A constable may arrest a person without warrant if—
(a)
he engages in offensive conduct which [F1 a] constable warns him to stop, and
(b)
he engages in further offensive conduct immediately or shortly after the warning.
(5) In subsection (4) “offensive conduct” means conduct the constable reasonably suspects to constitute an offence under this section, and the conduct mentioned in paragraph (a) and the further conduct need not be of the same nature.
(6) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.

and,

"(4) A person is guilty of an offence under section 5 only if he intends his words or behaviour, or the writing, sign or other visible representation, to be threatening, abusive or insulting, or is aware that it may be threatening, abusive or insulting or (as the case may be) he intends his behaviour to be or is aware that it may be disorderly."

finally,

"8.
Interpretation.
In this Part—
“dwelling” means any structure or part of a structure occupied as a person’s home or as other living accommodation (whether the occupation is separate or shared with others) but does not include any part not so occupied, and for this purpose “structure” includes a tent, caravan, vehicle, vessel or other temporary or movable structure;"

Well, Al, we had content limits on speech in the U.S. for many-a year that were upheld under the First Amendment--obscenity laws and the like, decency standards for the media. Yes, that's all _now_ been disassembled under further case law, but the point is that it was not _originally_ thought to be in conflict with the First Amendment. But at the same time, of course there were no laws against saying that homosexual acts are a sin!

Thanks for the full text of the law. Looks like it _would_ apply to a church, especially if activists deliberately showed up in an obvious manner so that the preacher could not say that he believed no one within hearing would be offended. If there were a campaign to preach such sermons, activists _would_ show up to overhear them. So I think this is very sweeping, and people who think, "Oh, this just applies to weirdos who stand around yelling on street corner, so I don't need to think twice about it" are being naive.

This tyranny against Christian moral teaching must be challenged, and Christian leaders should do what leaders are supposed to do: Lead.

I think Great Britain is a fascinating case study of how quickly a nation can slide into barbarism ... though I suppose it has been a long time coming.

Civil disobedience is great for young people, especially college students. For mature people with jobs, marriages, children and responsibilities, not so much. Ask yourself a question: if protesting at an abortuary could save one baby, but would take you away from your own family for many months or years (because you would be in jail), would you do it? Would you recommend that your husband do it? It's not at all a slam-dunk. And the problem is exacerbated by the fact that few are willing even to suffer economic hardship - fines, loss of employment, etc. - for the sake of things they believe in these days.

So, as you have indicated, there has to be a large-scale coordinated mobilization, under the leadership of respected authority, together with the realization that we are fighting a just and necessary war with stakes that are much higher than any individual interests. Otherwise it's just every individual's cost-benefit analysis.

I associate myself with those comments, Jeff.

[The rest of this comment was converted into a new post:

http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2010/05/cobbett_agitator_for_all_seaso.html ]

It looks like in this case the penalties are not anything like as high as, for example, under the FACE act in America. The law appears to be something like our disorderly conduct laws, leading to arrest, a night in jail, and a fine. It's essentially a form of harassment to intimidate and shut people up. But I agree that a) there is safety in numbers, hence this should be organized on a bigger level, b) respected leaders should be involved, and c) young people should be the foot soldiers.

Moreover, I think that pastors and priests have a special duty here. They are the shepherds. If sin cannot be named as sin, the sheep cannot be properly fed. What makes me particularly angry is that I hear nothing of any denominations qua denominations speaking out against this and, in a sense, simply going on their way and doing their business of teaching against this sin, in a sense daring the authorities to do anything about it. That is what bishops ought to be doing. That is what vicars ought to be doing. That is what pastors ought to be doing.

So, Jesus would be arrested, again. Thus has it been; thus will it always be.

The Chicken

If sin cannot be named as sin, the sheep cannot be properly fed.

If pastors put duct tape on their mouths and walked around that way, they could protest the law without uttering a word. The idea is not to tell people their sins, but to get them to tell their sins to themselves. I think meta-statements could be very effective.

The Chicken

MC,

We already have far too many pastors putting metaphorical duct tape on their mouths. Too many of them are like the otherwise articulate Tim Keller who stammers his way through a non-response every time questions like abortion and homosexuality come up in public fora.

Some folks have so seared their conscience that nothing but constant reminders will bring them back to a recognition of their own sin.

Kamilla

I wasn't aware that Tim Keller had trouble defending these positions. Where are you seeing that?

Nah, I think the duct tape over the mouth thing is way overdone. I think it looks like a sort of "victim statement"--You should pay attention to me because I'm a victim, I'm being silenced. That's not the point here. The point is really to speak the truth. And meta-statements aren't speaking the truth in themselves. The churches should go on doing their jobs, against the wishes of the government if necessary.

I did not mean that pastors should not speak out.

In any case, who cares what the government thinks. The will of the people? Look at lemmings.

If I must be arrested for doing a good deed (for admonishing sinners is a spiritual work of mercy), St. Peter has the perfect response [1Pe 3:12 -19]:

For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those that do evil." Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is right?

But even if you do suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence; and keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are abused, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

For it is better to suffer for doing right, if that should be God's will, than for doing wrong.

For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit; in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison...

Do we really believe this when put to the test?

The Chicken

on Keller, here's one example. It comes at just past 51 minutes into the session:

http://vimeo.com/9166506


Kamilla

al: given the history of the court's "interpretation" of the commerce clause and the invention of the "right to privacy," among other things, I think it's purest wishful thinking to believe there's *anywhere* we can't go "under our constitution."

On what do I base my guess that we're as likely as not to follow the U.K. down this path?

On a lifetime's experience of American "liberals." Please bear in mind that I was an undergrad at Berkeley, a grad student at Michigan, a post-doc fellow at the University of Chicago, an intern in Zeke Emanuel's bioethics department at the N.I.H., and so on. So I know "liberals."

When the time comes, half of them will be totally on board with criminalizing the public expression of traditional Christian views on sexual morality, by whatever jurisprudential contortions necessary.

And the other half will keep silent.

When the time comes, half of them will be totally on board with criminalizing the public expression of traditional Christian views on sexual morality, by whatever jurisprudential contortions necessary.

And the other half will keep silent.

No doubt about that, none whatsoever.

I am sure that there will be a negligible, insignificant remnant of old fashioned civil libertarians, widely indulged but totally ignored, who speak out against what they see as a violation of the absolutist doctrine of freedom they have always espoused, not buying the argument that Christian "hate speech" must be suppressed for the sake of liberty, equality, democracy, justice, the constitutiuon, human rights, diversity, tolerance, the flag, apple pie, and everything else America stands for - but it will make no difference.

"Moreover, I think that pastors and priests have a special duty here. They are the shepherds. If sin cannot be named as sin, the sheep cannot be properly fed."

Which is an internal problem and irrelevant when challenging public policy. The reason that these laws are impossible in the U.S. is that we have developed an indifference to content once the "fire in the crowded theatre" threshold is avoided. Here, the ACLU would be on this in an instant even though it it quite likely that not one member of that organization would agree with the sentiments expressed.

What would be most useful in the UK would be thousands of folks engaging in all sorts of offensive speech and thousands of others complaining on an ongoing basis. Perhaps they could wear Guy Fawkes masks.

Steve, Jeff, I need a chain of reasoning; just making things up isn't enough. an impressive CV is, well, as impressive (mazel tov) as it is irrelevant and unresponsive. Give me a theory of how you limit free speech using the commerce clause; how do we go from enhancing "privacy" to overturning generations of precedents on speech and religion; since the ACLU has intervened on behalf of Nazis, Communists, Rush Limbaugh, those fighting campus speech codes, etc., on what evidence do you base your assertions? This is from the current ACLU position on "hate speech",

"That's the wrong response, well-meaning or not. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects speech no matter how offensive its content. Speech codes adopted by government-financed state colleges and universities amount to government censorship, in violation of the Constitution. And the ACLU believes that all campuses should adhere to First Amendment principles because academic freedom is a bedrock of education in a free society."

Jeff, there a huge problem with current U.S. conservatism. Some conservative comes up with utter nonsense, no basis in this universe at all and other conservatives start with the amens. What makes you all so gullible? Nude dancing is protected, corporations can't be limited on political speech, Nazis can march. Based on what real evidence, a plausible theory with real steps, something that doesn't fall back on the liberals are mean and we are paranoid kind of assertions, real evidence.

Since any such law would wind up in court, here is a research tool. Find one decision that would back up your claim. Read Goodnews, Lamb's Chapel and Rosenburger among others. Please try again.

http colon slash slash www dot law dot cornell dot edu/supct/topiclist dot html

Now, can we talk? One of the things we lefties note with amusement is the problem of projection in our current political environment. In this case at least one of you all and likely more would be quite comfortable with and even advocate statutory limits on communication content that would fall far below the current strict scrutiny standards. Assuming that because you would do it others MUST want to do the same thing is just projection. Your fear of content limits in the U.S. says much about you all and nothing about "liberals".

And here is an interesting post from an Economist blog by way of Sullivan.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2010/05/health-care_reform

"ONE OF the problems with discussing how to keep Americans from believing political falsehoods (see, for example, the "epistemic closure" debate) is that the people having the discussion must first agree on what's false. But in an ideologically polarised environment, that kind of agreement on the underlying facts is becoming harder and harder to achieve. For example: the new health-care-reform law passed in March is an entirely private-insurer, free-market-based reform. If someone were to refer to it as a "government takeover of the health-care sector", that person would hold a factually incorrect ideological belief. But at this point a huge number of Republicans hold this factually incorrect ideological belief, making it hard for Democrats to engage in a conversation with them on the meta-issue of how to get people to stop embracing factually incorrect ideological beliefs."


Which is an internal problem and irrelevant when challenging public policy.

Huh? I don't even know what that means. I'm talking about who, in the UK, bears a special duty _to_ challenge public policy, and I'm talking about why, in my opinion, they have that duty.

al writes: "I need a chain of reasoning; just making things up isn't enough..."

Oh, really? If only your fellow "lefties" had been so scrupulous when they came up with the "interpretive" travesties that I have previously mentioned.

Al is free not to address the actual substance of what I have said on the subject of Free Speech; but he is not free to act as if his non sequiturs and pop psychologizing constitute an address.

How magnanimous a ruler (by the one, the few or the many) is toward the opposition and the dissenters will depend on the ultimately character of the ruler. Were Al the ruler, we have already seen how his temper inclines him. The execution of the entire Southern officer corps, folks, remember?

I want to write Jihad-sedition laws; Al is seeking stronger medicine.


"Which is an internal problem and irrelevant when challenging public policy.

Huh? I don't even know what that means. I'm talking about who, in the UK, bears a special duty _to_ challenge public policy, and I'm talking about why, in my opinion, they have that duty."

Lydia, you wrote,

"Moreover, I think that pastors and priests have a special duty here. They are the shepherds. If sin cannot be named as sin, the sheep cannot be properly fed."

My point is that your sentiment above is a matter internal to your private religious views and is unlikely to be useful in the formation of a broadly based free speech movement which the UK clearly needs. It is obviously irrelevant to matters in a secular society.

It should be sufficient to people sensitive to the importance of freedom of expression that an otherwise law abiding person can be cited for the mere expression of controversial ideas. Everyone in UK who enjoys the sweet air of freedom should be concerned and should act. The current law is one of the disadvantages of having an unwritten constitution.

Where I think we differ is that I see this in a content free manner while you would be content so long as only "wrong" content is proscribed. I hope I am wrong.

"Oh, really? If only your fellow "lefties" had been so scrupulous when they came up with the "interpretive" travesties that I have previously mentioned."

In other words you don't have a case.

"But I find that the fact of the matter is that, when push comes to shove, most people really are not inclined to tolerate free speech for what the[y?] hate and fear; and, some things being hateful and potent enough to be feared, this inclination is not always and everywhere wrong."

If this passage is that to which you refer and it is indicative of your position (apologies for the assumed correction if I assumed wrongly), I would disagree once we have passed the threshold of criminal conspiracy. I find the speech referenced in Lydia's post to be loathsome and ridiculous. That a person publicly expressing such notions can be arrested is far worse. Assuming a person is conducting himself in a peaceable manner, he should be free to express what he will. That i may hate it is a personal problem; fear and hate usually denotes some personal weaknesses driven by unclear thinking. A strong society can let a hundred flowers bloom.

"but he is not free to act as if his non sequiturs and pop psychologizing constitute an address."

When a disposition or temperament (something more linked to individual internal wiring than anything else) is used as the basis for a political and social "movement", ideology will likely be the result. Being detached from the actual conditions surrounding it is what separates ideology from mere faction. That contemporary American conservatism has gone off the rails is beyond dispute. Projection is obviously part of the problem. Discernment is clearly another (e.g. Betsy McCaughey was known to lie from her performance in the early nineties, yet conservatives uncritically fell into line when she lied yet again last year). Fox and talk radio also.

"The execution of the entire Southern officer corps, folks, remember?

No, I think failing to try the officers of the Confederate government including the Congress AND the officer corps for treason was a mistake. Being at heart a gentle soul, I do waver on this and I do debate internally things like the inclusion of the governors and legislators of the several states who signed the various secession documents and the exclusion of military officers below the rank of colonel. There is nothing novel in my assigning treason to those involved in the formation and persistence of the Confederacy as a perusal of contemporary sources will easily demonstrate. The procedures for dealing with treason are laid out in the Constitution; I don't understand what following them has to do with the "rule of one" meme.

Our friend Steve posted a link recently in which it was pointed out that our views on the rebellion have been influenced mightily by its treatment in the years following because of the number of historians who were in the tank for the South.

"I want to write Jihad-sedition laws; Al is seeking stronger medicine."

We already have laws concerning sedition. Paul has yet to explain how writing Jihad specific additions meets unfilled needs.

If a law banning certain kinds of speech were ever passed, whether it would or wouldn't be upheld by the SC depends more on the current makeup of the SC rather than some 'logical progression' from past law. After all, Roe v Wade and Brown v BOE, to name two, did not logically follow from anything that came before. Roe was so egregious in this regard that hardly anyone actually defends the argument laid out in the decision. Brown actually contradicted past law. As always, what matters is where the rulers want to go and how far they're willing to stretch or ignore the law to get there.

That said, we will probably never have laws like the one in the UK that allowed this arrest. Aside from the libertine interpretation of the first amendment that everyone seems to hold; America has possibly the most robust PC orthodoxy in the first world today. You don't need to lock anyone up for saying the wrong things when you can shut them up in other ways. Stephanie Grace is the latest to find out how if you're going to rely on the hundred flowers blooming theory; you'd better find out exactly what those hundred flowers contain and don't step a foot outside of it.

unlikely to be useful in the formation of a broadly based free speech movement which the UK clearly needs.

Sociologically, I don't think the secularists in the UK care beans about the free speech of Christian "homophobes," so I'd be content if I could rouse the Christians, Al.

Assuming a person is conducting himself in a peaceable manner, he should be free to express what he will. That i may hate it is a personal problem; fear and hate usually denotes some personal weaknesses driven by unclear thinking. A strong society can let a hundred flowers bloom.

Dear me you can be dense. That assumption may apply to the street preacher of Lydia's post, but in the context of sedition we would perforce throw it out. A seditionist is something more pressing politically than a street preacher. He made be personally peaceable, but his purposes are anything but. The seditionist is not merely making an abstract statement about the desirability of the USG being overthrown; he is conspiring or inspiring attempts at its overthrow. Thus the imam who inspires the conspiracy may be charged too. We nailed the blind sheikh for seditious conspiracy.

In other words, a "content free manner" of analysis of speech is idle sophistry at best, dreary contradiction at worst. It is the content precisely (along with the context) that gives us what you called the "threshold of criminal conspiracy."

There is nothing novel in my assigning treason to those involved in the formation and persistence of the Confederacy as a perusal of contemporary sources will easily demonstrate.

Indeed. So long as you are prepared to regard Communism with equal seriousness as organized treason, or at least sedition toward treason, then we're in agreement.

the number of historians who were in the tank for the South . . .

Look, my historians are Shelby Foote and Bruce Catton and McPherson, man. Why the constant mau-mauing on this?

Al, your standards of what constitutes treason and sedition are confusing to me. You once implied that even talking about secession was treasonous. What, then, do you make of this 2007 rally at UCLA? -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGqPo5ofk0s

Jeff, there a huge problem with current U.S. conservatism.

Agreed. The main problem with conservatism, in the United States, is that our political and economic traditions - that which conservatives would conserve - are liberal. Conservatism is an impossible posture to maintain in this country without glaring inconsistencies. The other problem is the intense pressure from those infected with liberalism to turn "conservatism" into a comprehensive, self-contained ideology with all the answers. Talk about projection. Liberalism is just such an ideology; therefore liberals seem surprised when conservatism doesn't behave in the same way.

Conservatism, as a political philosophy, relies upon long-standing "custom, convention, and prescription" - as transmitted by the traditions of a settled community - to inform its policies and to assimilate necessary change. Simply put, a conservative program is one which makes the world a friendly place for such things. So there is no conservative "program" in the sense of "we believe this because it's conservative". A conservative believes what he believes because a) it has been handed down to him, and b) it is worth believing according to the matrix by which his tradition evaluates all things.

In the United States we increasingly lack a cohesive settled community. To the extent that we have a political community at all, there is little historical memory or agreement with respect to the content of our tradition. Liberalism, with its comprehensive answers and apparent internal consistency, fills the void.

In this case at least one of you all and likely more would be quite comfortable with and even advocate statutory limits on communication content that would fall far below the current strict scrutiny standards. Assuming that because you would do it others MUST want to do the same thing is just projection.

Oh, please. All one needs to do is look at what liberals actually do in places where they have the upper hand - the universities, government agencies, corporations. Providing more examples for you is just tiresome, and anyway you dismiss them all as "just-so stories".

If you are referring to me as the contributor who is, conceptually, the most comfortable with the idea of censorship, you are probably right - although Paul Cella could give me a run for my money. But that should frighten no one. We will have censorship; we have always had censorship; and it is always "content based" so far as true motives are concerned. So let's be done with the myth, please, that absolute "free speech" exists anywhere, or that "yelling fire in a crowded theater" represents some kind of line in the sand beyond the specific content of the message.

The question is whether we will have dishonest, stupid, Orwellian censorship of the truth in the name of "freedom", or honest censorship of that which does serious and lasting harm. Saturating the internet with pornography is far more destructive of the common good than a thousand metaphorical theater stampedes: that the former is permitted and the latter forbidden is a sign of our collective insanity.

...fear and hate usually denotes [sic] some personal weaknesses driven by unclear thinking. A strong society can let a hundred flowers bloom.

Would pornography be one of those flowers? I hate it. Am I thinking unclearly?

I think most people realize that true free speech absolutism--which would include plotting to blow up the White House, sex in public (as "expressive behavior," you know), direct threats, and the like--is untenable. The problem is that we used to have a pretty reasonable public consensus according to which the things I have just listed and also pornography and true sedition (narrowly defined) are proscribable but, _of course_, saying that homosexuality is a sin is not. In fact, we were able to proscribe those things while still priding ourselves, and justly, on freedom of speech and dissent in America.

What has happened is that the mind of the people has been horribly, horribly corrupted to the point that public indecency is regarded as a holy expression of freedom while, in Britain, public expression of Christian moral teaching is regarded as tantamount to vile pornography and hence proscribable. It's so bad that there are activists in Britain who want Christian schools _forced_ to teach the secular view of sexual morality. So, in essence, sexualized content that would have been thought pornographic in another time is now regarded as _required_ for children and young people while public condemnation of homosexual acts should be proscribed. It's that bad and that backwards.

http://www.scotusblog.com/2010/03/court-to-rule-on-funeral-pickets/

I think most Americans find the Westboro Baptist road show slanderous and misguided, yet attempts to legally penalize and proscribe their speech have proven difficult.

Post a comment


Bold Italic Underline Quote

Note: In order to limit duplicate comments, please submit a comment only once. A comment may take a few minutes to appear beneath the article.

Although this site does not actively hold comments for moderation, some comments are automatically held by the blog system. For best results, limit the number of links (including links in your signature line to your own website) to under 3 per comment as all comments with a large number of links will be automatically held. If your comment is held for any reason, please be patient and an author or administrator will approve it. Do not resubmit the same comment as subsequent submissions of the same comment will be held as well.