Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Hate Speech

Should people be prohibited from saying things because they might offend others? Sometimes workplace discourage or even proscribe talking about politics or religion, because of the offense it might cause to some workers. But in the public square generally, can we realistically restrict speech?

Voltaire once said "I do not agree with what you say, but I defend to the death your right to say it." But how far does this go? Is it a small step between yelling "queer" at someone you think is gay, to beating up a gay person?

On the other hand, if we make a hate speech law, where does it end? Does one have the right to say that homosexuality is a sin, that Islam is a false religion, or even that Jesus is the only way to be saved and that everyone else is going to hell, without fearing civil retribution? A preacher in Britain was arrested merely for asserting that homosexuality is a sin, and the link on the post's title leads to a discussion of this case.

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

As much as homosexuals like to portray themselves as victims, they were the ones that led the persecution and dismantling of Christian organizations on the college I went to in the 1990's. As much as they want all to see them as passive victims, they were responsible for the destruction of my Anglican Church through their insistence that they were the true Christians and those who believed in sexual morality were filled with hate.

We don't hate them as they suppose, but they sure seem to seek the demise of Christianity.

Francis J. Beckwith said...

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. "Hate" is the least of our problems.

Matthew G said...

Thanks to homosexual activists, we can now discriminate against any religion we want.

mattghg said...

IMO, the limit to free speech is where that speech amounts to incitement to commit a crime. It's puzzling for 'incitement to hatred' to be a crime when hatred isn't a crime.

Many people who say they believe in free speech don't - by 'free' they often mean 'consistent with secular liberalism'.

I've blogged about this before.

B. Prokop said...

As in so many matters, this issue is one of drawing fine lines. But isn't that what Law is all about? for instance, I may make this claim when advertising a product, but not that one. I may drive 55 mph down this road, but not 65.

Any law prohibiting a person from expressing his honest opinion would be, in my view, unconstitutional. Here the line should be between statements and exhortations. So a person should have a legal right to say (for instance), "The world would be better off if there were no Catholics," or "Catholicism is evil." But saying something like, "Go out there and kill all the Catholics" should clearly be criminal speech. Where it gets complicated (and here's why we have lawyers and legislators) is a statement like, "I believe all Catholics should be killed."

Now THAT would be a good question for people here to weigh in on. Should that last statement be legal, or criminalized?

In my opinion, it should be criminalized, because it steps over the line from statement to exhortation (to a criminal act).

Papalinton said...

Bob
"In my opinion, it should be criminalized, because it steps over the line from statement to exhortation (to a criminal act."

I'm with you there.

One Brow said...

Anonymous,

The Christian organizaitons at your college had as much right to exist as the chess club. If you still care, I suggest you have the current stu8dent contact the ACLU, who regularly defend such organizations. Assuming your version of what happened is accurate, of course.

Francis,

I'm very sure societies don't go to hell in any religion. What's good for a society is not necessarily what the members prefer personally.

Matthew G,

The only discriminaiton religions face is the inability to force their doctrine onto others. YOu are no more required to approve of homosexual marriages than racists are required to approve of inerracial marriages. You just can't force your disapproval on others.

mattghg,

I skimmed your link. Do you belong to one of those Christian churches that teaches all men are totally sinful and completely not worthy of salvation? If so, on what basis do you decide who is so more totally sinful they can't work in the church?

But that's just ordinary hypocrisy. As your examples pointed out, what counts is the ability to do the job. What you didnt point out is how a lifestyle outside the job interfered with an ability to do a job.

One Brow said...

B. Prokop said...
Where it gets complicated (and here's why we have lawyers and legislators) is a statement like, "I believe all Catholics should be killed."

Now THAT would be a good question for people here to weigh in on. Should that last statement be legal, or criminalized?


I am on the side of legal. People should be free to suggest even the most vile ideas in seeking their political goals. My opinion is the same for those who would say "all atheists should be killed". It's not an exhortation until you suggest/instruct specific people to do something.

Lizard said...

Well, that's an easy one. No. There should not be laws against "hate speech", which is defined as "any speech anyone, anywhere, might find offensive".

There exist laws against harassment. Against threats. Against violence. There are content-neutral "time, place, and manner" restrictions. There are well-defined and proper boundaries that allow authorities to act against "imminent lawless action". The distinction between "incitement" and "advocacy" is clear to the hypothetical "reasonable man".

The expression of an IDEA, no matter how vile, unsound, or offensive, cannot and must not be a crime if we make any pretense of being a free society.

To B. Prokop - your question was answered, in the United States at least, in Brandenburg v. Ohio (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brandenburg_v._Ohio) . It is criminal to say "Let's get Father O'Malley and string him up, right now!" (And it SHOULD be criminal, let me be clear on that.) It is not criminal (and it shouldn't be) to write an essay entitled "Why Catholic Priests Should Be Hung". It is PROBABLY, but not CERTAINLY, illegal to write an essay entitled "Why Father O'Malley Should Be Hung", depending on the context, audience, if Father O'Malley is a public figure (for example, writing an essay about "Why the Pope should be hung" is probably legal, barring some unusual conditions), if the author would reasonably believe people would act directly on his words (he is in a position of authority and has followers who are inclined to act out his thoughts), etc.

mattghg said...

Monobrow,

I did say this:

To be able to work for a church properly, you have to commit yourself to that church’s vision. If that church’s vision includes (as it should) a commitment to strive for holiness, defined as adherence to God’s moral law as revealed in Scripture, then someone unapologetically living a life in contravention of that law is not cut out to work there.

I think that answers both of your questions.

B. Prokop said...

Lizard,

While it may not be illegal to publish an essay entitled "Why Father O'Malley Should be Hung", it is most certainly ungrammatical. The correct word is "hanged".

Payton said...

Anonymous,

"We don't hate them as they suppose, but they sure seem to seek the demise of Christianity."

See, that's ridiculous. How can you say that homosexuals seek the demise of the entire Christian religion? You might as well say the same thing of Calvinists. I certainly wouldn't.

People who seek to redeem Christianity, for the sake of Christianity, are not seeking to destroy Christianity, but merely to return it to its Christian roots.

Matthew G,

"Thanks to homosexual activists, we can now discriminate against any religion we want."

Can you give me an example of some legislation that was promoted by gay activists that allows for discrimination against people on basis of religion? As far as I know, there is no law on the books that allows you to deny someone a job, prevent someone from gaining office, seize someone's property, fire someone, or anything like that on the basis of their religious beliefs.

Here's my point: You're not using "discriminate" correctly. What you mean to say is "socially reject" or "criticize". Discrimination refers to politics and the workplace, not whether or not people like you.

Lizard said...

@Prokop -- you are correct, sir (or madam). My apologies.

One Brow said...

mattghg said...
Monobrow,

How Christian of you to ignore even the basic courtesies when some says things you don't like.

I did say this:

You said it, but did not answer either question with it, hence why I asked.

Why is it necessary to commit to a church's vision in order to be a good secretary, or preach a convincing sermon? We have seen many examples to the contrary.

What is your basis for deciding who is so sinful they can not serve, if you believe that all people are totally sinful?

Lizard said...

Onebrow: That's rather a good point. According to most Christian denominations, all sin is equal in the eyes of God... there are no circles of hell or levels of damnation. There's sin and not-sin. Someone who gossips, or has an affair, or cheats on their taxes, or gets angry at their neighbor, is sinning to EXACTLY the same extent as someone who is a practicing homosexual... yet a church will obsess over the latter and treat the former as merely evidence that we needs God's grace because we're so sinful. Can you imagine if a church kicked out every gossip? Or everyone who was having an affair, or who had or was engaging in extramarital heterosexual activity? Do most churches quiz their heterosexual, single, members on their virginity or celibacy? If a church found a single, 20-something churchmember was having consensual, heterosexual, sex with someone they weren't married to, would they demand he/she go to "special counseling" to "cure" this sinful urge? By the Bible, it is JUST as wrong... yet, while it might be condemned by rote, I daresay few churches would dare to treat any people having heterosexual sex outside of marriage precisely the same way they'd treat those engaging in homosexual sex. (Also, the same part of the Bible that tells us gay sex is bad tells us that if a man rapes a virgin, he has to marry her. How many churches preach THAT? I really, really, want to hear Pat Robertson say "I support a law that mandates rapists can avoid prison if they agree to marry their victims... and their victim has no say in this." Frankly, if you claim to believe God condemns homosexuality because of Leviticus, and claim that, somehow, all the OTHER parts of Leviticus "don't count" (dietary laws were explicitly lifted, but I don't recall God ever saying "Oh, we're changing how you punish rape, but you gays are still bad."), you're something worse than a mere hypocrite.)

Mike Darus said...

One of the pressure points I am aware of is a growing link of saying, (1) "homosexual behavior is sin" means (2)"go beat up homosexuals." There are two troubling avenues for this link. First, is where someone interprets (1)as licese to do (2); or worse, instructions to do (2). Fortunately, I believe this is rare (but tragic and explosive when it does occur.) The second avenue is a more general assumption that anyone who says (1) really means (2)and should be held liable if (2) happens. This is becoming more comonplace. It seems to be the motivation for (1) be labeled as "hate speach." It should not be criminal to be misinterpreted, misunderstood, or vilified by implication. Statement (1) can be a political stance or a religious conviction. Neither of these merit vilification.

Papalinton said...

Lizard

Some trivia:
Your, "... to the hypothetical "reasonable man" "is known in British legal jurisprudence as, "the man on the Clapham omnibus' test.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_man_on_the_Clapham_omnibus

Papalinton said...

matghg
"To be able to work for a church properly, you have to commit yourself to that church’s vision. If that church’s vision includes (as it should) a commitment to strive for holiness, defined as adherence to God’s moral law as revealed in Scripture, then someone unapologetically living a life in contravention of that law is not cut out to work there."

BUT, on matters of unreasonable expedient discrimination, whether on a religious basis, regardless, civil law trumps church wishes, just as it rightly should.

Mike Darus said...

Papa said: "civil law trumps church wishes"

Acts 5:29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings!

or visa versa...

Ilíon said...

MattGHG: "... It's puzzling for 'incitement to hatred' to be a crime when hatred isn't a crime.

Many people who say they believe in free speech don't - by 'free' they often mean 'consistent with secular liberalism'.
"

Are you coming around to my view? As I recall, last time you and I directly discussed this matter, you were tending to solidarity with the "liberal" position (which is to say, illiberal) on the question.

So, if you've reconsidered, that is great to know.

Jesse Parrish said...

Sometimes workplace discourage or even proscribe talking about politics or religion, because of the offense it might cause to some workers. But in the public square generally, can we realistically restrict speech?

When it becomes an issue of workplace intimidation which impedes work and/or the right to work, that constitutes a violation of civil liberties. However, there should be no state-sponsored `prior restraint', even if we allow certain time/place/manner restrictions.

If the details of the case you link are accurately presented - and I have little doubt they are - then the arrest was an infringement of liberal principles, and I am glad to hear the charges have been dropped.

I'm generally happy with the ACLU on such matters: free speech, even for Westboro Baptist Church and racists. Hitchens does his best on this issue.

mattghg said...

Does the 'One Brow' of your name refer to something other than an eyebrow? If so, my mistake, of course.

Why is it necessary to commit to a church's vision in order to be a good secretary, or preach a convincing sermon?

You're kidding, right? You can't, with integrity, preach a sermon in keeping with the church's vision if you yourself aren't committed to that vision. I can't believe I have to point this out.

What is your basis for deciding who is so sinful they can not serve, if you believe that all people are totally sinful?

Once again, I said this:

"To be able to work for a church properly, you have to commit yourself to that church’s vision. If that church’s vision includes (as it should) a commitment to strive for holiness, defined as adherence to God’s moral law as revealed in Scripture, then someone unapologetically living a life in contravention of that law is not cut out to work there."

The issue is not sinfulness so much as repentence: if you're unapologetic about your sin then you haven't recognised that it is sin and hence a fortiori aren't committed to strive to eliminate it from your life. I really think this is clear enough in my original post; certainly the round of comments on it testfies to that.

mattghg said...

Ilíon,

As I recall, our disagreement wasn't about hate speech but rather about unjustly discriminatory hiring practices and other employment law. They're separate issues, I think.

On the hate speech side of things, I don't think that 'incitement to x' should be a crime when x itself isn't a crime.

mattghg said...

Papalinton,

BUT, on matters of unreasonable expedient discrimination, whether on a religious basis, regardless, civil law trumps church wishes, just as it rightly should.

Then we don't really have freedom of religion, or, for that matter, freedom of association. Just one example of how apparently liberal premises can produce profoundly illiberal results.

mattghg said...

Deleted my last comment as it referred to a comment which has itself been deleted.

B. Prokop said...

Speaking of restrictions on workplace speech, I might recall (with some amusement) some measures I myself took when I was the Director of a fair-sized government entity some years back.

In our headquarters office, we had a coffee fund. And I enforced a "No Political Arguments" rule by fining anyone who used certain words in the office a trivial sum, which went into the fund. Often the offending terms were only temporary. For instance, during the Clinton impeachment bru-ha-ha, "impeachment" cost you a quarter, "Kenneth Starr" was 50 cents, and "Monica Lewinsky" set you back a buck. "Abortion" was the always costliest item - you paid in ten dollars for using that word.

But there were always those who went right ahead anyway. One particular person in the office walked in one day with shopping bags full of snack items that were always stocked in the fund, and loudly proclaimed that he was "paid up for the duration", and no one could respond to his rantings without similarly paying up!

Ah, but I sometimes miss that office!!!

B. Prokop said...

By the way, my scheme was an abject failure at preventing work-stopping arguments in the office, but we always had a well-stocked coffee fund!!! (And everyone supported the system - especially those enjoying the high-end coffee blends we could thereby afford.)

One Brow said...

mattghg said...
Does the 'One Brow' of your name refer to something other than an eyebrow? If so, my mistake, of course.

Originally, sure. But I have adopted it as a nickname, and many people are particular about their names. Forgiven, forgotten.

You're kidding, right? You can't, with integrity, preach a sermon in keeping with the church's vision if you yourself aren't committed to that vision. I can't believe I have to point this out.

So, you're suggesting the employer needs to judge the level of internal integrity the employee displays? If an employee is an outspoken opponent of the church or it's teaching, I can understand that. If not, I wonder again how the church says any one given failure to live up to a certain ideal is less than any other failure.

I would be very interested in reading your thoughts on Lizard's post.

To be able to work for a church properly, you have to commit yourself to that church’s vision. If that church’s vision includes (as it should) a commitment to strive for holiness, defined as adherence to God’s moral law as revealed in Scripture, then someone unapologetically living a life in contravention of that law is not cut out to work there.

So, if you engage in homosexual sex, but are striving for holiness and are apologetic about it, that would mean you are an acceptable church employee?

Lizard said...

@Matt

Taken to its logical conclusion, your position holds that a law prohibiting human sacrifice means we do not have freedom of religion.

Ultimately, I think "Freedom of religion" is a poor concept, because "religion" isn't some kind of special class of thing. Freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, both subject to content-neutral and narrowly-defined limits to enable a civil society to function, cover just about all aspects of "religion" I can think of. By allowing someone to act in a way others can not so long as they use "religion" as an excuse, you create a class of ideas that is getting undeserved special treatment. (For example, some regulations on hair length or facial hair in food services are waived if someone belongs to a religion which prohibits haircuts or shaving. It seems to me that if the health risk is so small you can waive the regulation if someone says "God doesn't want me to shave!", then, the regulation is unnecessary and shouldn't apply to ANYONE -- and if the health risks are so great the regulation can't be repealed (dubious), then claiming the invisible magic man in the sky will be mad at you should no more get you out of them than claiming the sun will not rise if you don't cut the heart out of a virgin on the solstice should excuse you from murder charges.)

Any law or policy that treats a "religious" idea as distinct from any other kind of idea (for example, allowing people to proselytize their faith in airports, but not their political party, social agenda, or business) is, in my opinion, a bad law, but it's not likely to change any time soon, at least in America.

I am interested in counterpoints: What sorts of actions require a "freedom of religion" distinct from freedom of speech and assembly? Can anyone justify allowing some people to escape some regulations or requirements merely because of their religion, without then calling into question why we need that particular regulation at all? (In other words, can you justify "Law X is necessary, but it's still OK for group Y to not have to abide by it"?)

Lizard said...

PS: On the issue of the proper intersection of civil law and religion....

"Whether ye rise for the sake of a creed,
Or riot in hope of spoil,
Equally will I punish the deed,
Equally check the broil;
Nowise permitting injustice at all
From whatever doctrine it springs--
But--whether ye follow Priapus or Paul,
I care for none of these things!"
(http://www.poetryloverspage.com/poets/kipling/gallios_song.html)

Let's face it -- if you want something said, Kipling's probably already said it. :)

mattghg said...

One Brow,

So, you're suggesting the employer needs to judge the level of internal integrity the employee displays?

In a church, yes. Absolutely.

I wonder again how the church says any one given failure to live up to a certain ideal is less than any other failure.

There's a difference between a failure to live up to an ideal and a failure to even believe in the ideal in the first place.

So, if you engage in homosexual sex, but are striving for holiness and are apologetic about it, that would mean you are an acceptable church employee?

The case is parallel to other sins. A whole load of factors need to be taken into account such as how recently and often it has happened, how obviously serious repentence is and what steps have been taken to prevent it from happening again (and also what job it is we're talking about: it's right that pastors be held to a particularly high standard because in a way they represent the whole church they're pastoring).

Certainly I don't think that homosexual sex need be treated any differently to any other sex outside of marriage.

mattghg said...

Lizard,

Taken to its logical conclusion, your position holds that a law prohibiting human sacrifice means we do not have freedom of religion.

I don't accept this. I said we wouldn't have freedom of religion in response to this (by Papalinton):

BUT, on matters of unreasonable expedient discrimination, whether on a religious basis, regardless, civil law trumps church wishes, just as it rightly should.

IMO 'unreasonable expedient discrimination' doesn't cover just any activity, especially not murder. I understood it as referring to what Papalinton thinks about churches approving or disapproving of certain people for certain roles on bases that he considers unreasonable.

Otherwise I mostly agree with you. It's interesting that in the UN Declaration on Human Rights of 1948 freedom of religion is bundled in the same article as freedom of conscience.

I'll have a think about your request for counterexamples. Bear in mind that the post of mine from which the quotation that One Brow and I have been discussing was taken is a discussion of two specific cases in the UK: one involving freedom of (religion and) speech and the other involving freedom of (religion and) association.

Anonymous said...

"civil law trumps church wishes, just as it rightly should."

LOL. "Civil" law being here a code word for secular laws. Preferably decided upon by atheists like Pappy, no doubt.

In other words, a power-grab masquerading as reasoning.

Lizard said...

It's not a code word, it's a synonym.

And of course it's a "power grab". Over centuries, at least in the West, power has been "grabbed" from absolute monarchs and theocrats, and given instead to civilian legislators whose powers are limited and bound by the law. While we could debate eternally over how limited and how bound, and what is too much power and what is too little, and how to best constitute a legislature, etc, it's difficult for me to imagine anyone sane saying that the very principle of secular, as opposed to religious, government is incorrect or that we'd be better off under some sort of theocracy.

Papalinton said...

Lizard
"It's not a code word [re civil/secular], it's a synonym."

Hooray! Reason prevails.

Yes Lizard, Anonymous has little grasp of issues outside the dogbox of theology, and carries on commenting, oblivious to the litany of uninformed idiocy.

B. Prokop said...

I wouldn't worry about whether "anonymous" has a good grasp of the issues. If they're not willing to identify themselves (even with a fake name like "Lizard"), they're not worth paying attention to.

Ilíon said...

MattGHG: "Ilíon, As I recall, our disagreement wasn't about hate speech but rather about unjustly discriminatory hiring practices and other employment law. They're separate issues, I think."

Really? What is "hate speech theory", at base? Is it not just the leftist demand to criminalize other people's thoughts and attitudes? Is it not built on the leftist attempt to elide the distinction between actively and intentionally harming another and merely failing to benefit the other?

"Then [if indeed it is true that "civil law trumps church wishes, just as it rightly should"] we don't really have freedom of religion, or, for that matter, freedom of association. Just one example of how apparently liberal premises can produce profoundly illiberal results."

And here I am (and was) thinking that we were talking about "freedom of association" (and also "freedom of conscience") -- that even when we are talking about "unjustly discriminatory hiring practices and other employment law", we are, in fact, talking about "freedom of association" (and also "freedom of conscience"). You may recall that I even said so back then, certainly with respect to "freedom of association".