Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Friday, August 08, 2008

When Free Speech Becomes Hate Speech


The Rev. Chris Buice, minister of the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, spoke to reporters on Wednesday. He reflected upon the shooting at his congregation last week.



He asks the question we all ask. Why? What made the shooter, Jim Adkisson, do such a thing? This is from the news article:










He is curious to know whether any clues might be gleaned from the words of right-wing radio talkshow host Michael Savage and Fox News personalities Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity, whose books later were seized as evidence from Adkisson’s residence by police.

He is curious whether the authors prayerfully consider their words.

“The words you choose may be the difference between war and peace,” Buice said. “Every diplomat knows that.”

He noted that, in the run-up to the Rwandan genocide of 1994, during which hundreds of thousands of ethnic minority Tutsis and political moderates died, the country’s Hutu-majority-controlled radio broadcast hate-fueled propaganda encouraging listeners to exterminate the “cockroaches.”

“I believe in rigorous debate,” Buice said, speaking to his belief in the danger of dehumanizing language that can label and categorize one person from another. “But what’s the difference between a political opponent and a cockroach? You stomp a cockroach. You debate a political opponent. I believe, if you truly listen to your opponent, it will make you better.”

Language that dehumanizes other groups of people because of their ethnicity, gender, religion, political views, sexual orientation or whatever, can result in actual violence against particular groups of people. It is called hate speech. I am becoming convinced that a culture of hate speech, which is what we have today, will lead to increased violence.

I was thinking about this in light of Dr. Robert Jensen's article the other day: Few of us are guilty, but all are responsible. We all are responsible for the language that we use and the language we accept as normative.

There is a line between free speech (rigorous debate, humor, satire) and hate speech that demonizes or dehumanizes others. Perhaps that line is not always easy to define and recognize. Those of us who cross it are the last to realize and to admit it.

As citizens, we all have a responsibility to work together to define that line and to call ourselves and others to account when it is crossed. Those who are in a position of public speech whether it be on the radio or from the pulpit are especially responsible for the words we use. That line is not a matter simply of style. It is crossed most perniciously with sophisticated, academic, and even holy sounding words.

We watched a film recently at our church, Theologians Under Hitler. The film featured prominent theologians such as Gerhard Kittel who was a Nazi to his death. He supported the Nazi policies against Jews and others for theological reasons. His language wasn't vulgar, but it was hate speech nonetheless. The clergy of the German Christian movement bore serious responsibility for the policies of the Nazis because from their pulpits they claimed that Jews were outside God's covenant.

Once you can convince people that a certain group is outside of God's will for humanity or is somehow a danger or threat to society, you set these people up as a target for violence and oppression. No matter how holy or flowery the actual words used may be, it is hate speech. It dehumanizes and demonizes.

One of the most significant actions of the recent Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly was to remove a 1978 statement regarding the place of gay people in the church. It would be a mistake to think this is only about internal church politics or ordination questions. This is an official statement of a major church body in our country. It has effects far beyond the denomination.

That statement includes such proclamations as:


…homosexuality is not God’s wish for humanity.

...Even where the homosexual orientation has not been consciously sought or chosen, it is neither a gift from God nor a state nor a condition like race; it is a result of our living in a fallen world.

...we find that homosexuality is a contradiction of God’s wise and beautiful pattern for human sexual relationships...

…the New Testament declares that all homosexual practice is incompatible with Christian faith and life.

...On the basis of our understanding that the practice of homosexuality is sin, we are concerned that homosexual believers and the observing world should not be left in doubt about the church’s mind on this issue during any further period of study.

Obviously, those who drafted that statement, the commissioners who originally passed it, and those who wish to bring it back, are not hateful people nor do they wish violence upon gay people. They are convinced they are doing the will of God. The statement sounds reasoned and calm. It is theological and claims to base its views on authorities such as the Bible.

Nevertheless, in my view, this statement qualifies as hate speech. Why? Because no matter how carefully it is nuanced, its effect is to classify an entire group of human beings as outside the will of God. Once the church declares that a group of people are outside the will of God, then silencing, denying equal rights, and even exterminating these people becomes, for some, the will of God.

Jim Adkisson had something against gay people. Where did he get the idea that gay people and those who advocate for them deserve death? Who knows in his case. But each and every Sunday all over this land preachers declare from their pulpits that gay people deserve God's condemnation. Sadly, too many people take that to heart and far too many people sit in silence when these false and hateful claims are made.

We are responsible. We are responsible for discussing and debating sexual ethics. We are responsible that those debates do not turn into condemnation, especially holy condemnation, of real people. Unfortunately, that is exactly what it has become.

The miracle of Resurrection is that good can come from evil. Perhaps this tragedy in Knoxville will open a few eyes to how hateful speech can lead to violent action. Perhaps more of us will take responsibility for it.


53 comments:

  1. Michael Savage is a vile hatemonger who often screams out vitriole against gays, Muslims, liberals, and others.

    The shooting in that church was not merely a hate crime, in my view; it was an act of domestic, right wing terrorism. It was politically motivated violence, and the man who committed the acts was stirred up by right wing hatemongers like Michael Savage and others of his ilk.

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  2. Imagine an America where the Corporate whores didn't rule and we had objective journalism, instead of the hate-filled, biased news outlets such as Faux news, CNN,etc.

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  3. To understand the truth about why our mainstream media is so deceptive and misleading, and basically directing public opinion, you must watch The Men Behind the Iron Curtain and learn about the Conspiracy to create a One World Gonvernment based on tyrannical corporate rule. Just watch it and do your own research. What prevents a conspiracy theory from being true anyways? I think there is plenty of evidence out now that supports these conspiracy theories.

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  4. John,
    A question. You write first of the Coalition statement, "those who drafted that statement, the commissioners who originally passed it, and those who wish to bring it back, are not hateful people nor do they wish violence upon gay people. They are convinced they are doing the will of God."

    But then you call it hate speech. In Canada citizens are heavily fined for what is termed hate speech, including the kind of statements the Coalition has made. Do you believe that Christians who believe the act of gay sex is sin and say so or quote the Bible on the issue should be punished even though they are not advocating any kind of violence?

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  5. Interesting question, Viola. You might be interested in this video from someone who agrees with you.

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  6. Rachel,
    I have been watching the videos you pointed to. The second part mentions McFadden who supposedly was killed because he told the truth about the conspiracy. The quote is from someone called Pelley and he mentions "the encroaching Judah as a part of the problem. This is who Pelley actually is: William Dudley Pelley :A Life in Right-Wing Extremism and the Occult He was one of the first Facists in the United States.

    Also they mention something that Henry Ford wrote. Are you aware that Henry Ford published The International Jew in the Dearborn Press. It was just a redone, "Protocols of the Elders of Zion."
    The two commentators are not giving facts they are just throwing around a lot of un-proven conspiracy theories. They are just pushing garbage. Wash your hands and forget about it.

    See also http://www.jrbooksonline.com/HTML-docs/dupes%20of%20judah.htm.

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  7. John that is just ridiculous. And you didn’t answer my question.

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  8. Yikes Rachel,
    I didn't realize that the last web address I gave you was "for" Pelley and against the Jews. Sorry about that but you see what I am talking about conspiracy theories almost always lead people back to those who hate the Jews. Its just not a good thing to be involved in.

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  9. Whatever makes you comfortable, Viola...but I know too many people who don't hate jews and I can point you to Rabbi's themselves on the internet who know and denounce the 'inner, unseen' corporate elite that is running/ruining the world. Viola, I am going to challenge you to watch this movie, called the Zeitgeist and visit my blog and tell me what you think of it once I get a post up on it.

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  10. "The two commentators are not giving facts they are just throwing around a lot of un-proven conspiracy theories. "

    Viola, just to get something straight. You can never prove a theory in science or history or whatever; you can only provide evidence that supports your chosen theory. The theory is always open to contradictory evidence.

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  11. Mr. Phelps, while colorful and straightforward, is making the argument that Canada's hate speech laws prevent Bible-believing Christians from preaching the gospel.

    That is the point you are making, even as you make it in the form of a question.

    I thought you would appreciate having an ally in Mr. Phelps.

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  12. John,
    That is not the point I was making at all. I really wanted an answer to a question I was asking of you. But I guess you are unable to answer.

    Rachel,
    My point was that the information those two people on the video are giving is based on documentation that is not factual and is also connected to anti-Semitism.

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  13. Viola, what makes something factual?
    Does authority make something factual? If that is the case, then you are right, the documentaries are not based on facts.

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  14. If publically claiming that homosexuality is a sin is considered a hate crime by you, how about claiming that pedophilia or pre-marital sex is a sin? Can anyone claim anything is a sin? Who will draw the line? Should public claims that slavery is a sin have been considered a hate crime against slave owners? How about claiming that prostitution is a sin? Is this advocating hate crimes against prostitutes and their customers? If not, why not? What is the distinction? How about claims that drunkenness is a sin? Is this advocating hate crimes against alcoholics? Yet there is some biological/medical evidence that some people are born with this proclivity, while there is no such evidence in regards to homosexuality.

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  15. Viola, Adel and Others,

    I guess it is a question of values and what we value. I don't live in Canada and their situation is different than in the U.S. What I think the people of Canada decided was that it was a value to have a society in which lgbtq people do not face discrimination and violence and are able to live freely and without fear. In order to make a safer place for people, they needed to restrict the speech of those who worked against those values.

    We do that kind of thing in the U.S. as well for race, religion, ethnicity and so forth (it is just that we are slower in learning that lgbtq folks deserve the same respect).

    For those who are interested, as far as my work in the U.S. is concerned, I work to include "sexual orientation and gender identity" to existing hate crime statutes and to employment non-discrimination policies. I work so that lgbtq have freedom to marry, adopt and so forth.

    I am a member of PFLAG which offers support, advocacy, and education for lgbtq people and their straight allies and family members.

    There are many organizations that work to change laws to make the U.S. a safer place for all people.

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  16. That's great, John. I am sure you are doing God's work. Keep it up.

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  17. I asked my friend Marshall, why do you think that the English ended slavery with no bloodshed and the U.S. ended slavery with one of the bloodiest wars the world has seen? He replied that it was the firey rhetoric of William Lloyd Garrison. A quick Internet search found this:

    ...John Stuart Mill and John Bright called Garrison the preeminent agitator of the century... [1]

    Other famous agitators would certainly include Samuel Adams whose "polemics helped to bring about the Boston Massacre." [2]

    Did these agitators use "hate speech"? Probably government officials at the time thought so and would gladly have silenced them.

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  18. I'm usually right with you John, but I have to say, just the phrase "hate speech" makes me shudder. While I fully support hate crimes legislation, I have absolutely no interest in supporting hate speech legislation.

    I understand the argument you're making here. Folks like Bill O'Reilly, Hannity, and that disgusting closet-case Michael Savage are indeed responsible for their words, and they should be judged by them. But in the end, they didn't pull the trigger. Now if they had any sense at all, they'd have the decency to at least act ashamed or embarrassed that their words not only seem to attract nutjobs like moths to a flame, but that they apparently inspire these nuts to go out and shoot people. But then I suppose if they had any decency at all, they'd never say such things in the first place.

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  19. Alan,

    Point well taken. Perhaps a more appropriate phrase is needed for this phenomenon. I am open to that.

    In writing this post, I wasn't thinking about accountability necessarily leading to legislative actions regarding the limiting of speech, but I can see how the conversation could go that way.

    I was mostly thinking in terms of the connection between speech and its effects.

    This is especially true for religious speech that regards a group of people as outside of the will of God.

    What we call that and how we respond to it is a discussion we should have as Americans and as Christians.

    We have the freedom and the right to say what we want, but the moral and ethical question is whether we will use that freedom to build up a society and a church or tear it down.

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  20. "We have the freedom and the right to say what we want, but the moral and ethical question is whether we will use that freedom to build up a society and a church or tear it down."

    Yup, I'm in full agreement with that. I'm all for keeping our brothers and sisters accountable for their hateful rhetoric. I'm just not interested in legal sanction against them.

    But if they're Presbyterian ministers, I'd would be interested in entertaining the notion that we withhold their pensions. ;)

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  21. But if they're Presbyterian ministers, I'd would be interested in entertaining the notion that we withhold their pensions. ;)

    lol

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  22. "How about claims that drunkenness is a sin? Is this advocating hate crimes against alcoholics? Yet there is some biological/medical evidence that some people are born with this proclivity, while there is no such evidence in regards to homosexuality."

    No such evidence??? I would say "You've GOT to be kidding", but based on past experience, I have to assume you are serious.

    Adel, I have no idea what planet you're from, man, and I definitely have no idea what counts for "evidence" with you. None at all.

    Viola;

    I think that "hate speech" should be defined as something like speech which specifically calls for, or is intended to engender, violence against a specific party.

    Now, if you quote the Bible regarding homosexuality, which you would probably claim says clearly that 'homosexuals' should be put to death, are you not de facto espousing violence via that stance? If you (and Adel and so on) are correct about the Bible's stance on homosexuality, then isn't it your duty to be obedient to the 'inerrant' word? I'm honestly asking - how do you choose one part of the 'inerrant' word to quote, but not carry it to its conclusion given your reasoning - the 'inerrant' parts that would constitute violence?

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  23. Were Jesus' words hate speech?

    Matthew 12:34 "You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36 But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned."

    Here is a montage from Matthew 23:
    "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! ... Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are. ... Woe to you, blind guides! ... You blind fools! ... You blind men! ... Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! ... You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. ... Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! ... Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! ... You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?

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  24. This is from Wikipedia:

    Hate speech is a term for speech intended to degrade, intimidate, or incite violence or prejudicial action against a person or group of people based on their race, gender, age, ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, language ability, moral or political views, socioeconomic class, occupation or appearance (such as height, weight, and hair color), mental capacity and any other distinction-liability. The term covers written as well as oral communication and some forms of behaviors in a public setting. It is also sometimes called antilocution and is the first point on Allport's scale which measures prejudice in a society.

    By that above definition, the 1978 Definitive Guidance statement was hate speech. It denigrated homosexuals (by the statements I quoted in the post and others) and it intended prejudicial action (denial of ordination). This is second class status in our denomination by category. Some in the church tried to use this statement to deny membership in the church to "practicing" gay people.

    The nonsense about "practicing" has always been meaningless (God loves Jews--he just hates their Jewish practice?)

    Citing the Bible as an excuse makes it even more insidious as it amplifies prejudice against lgbt people into "holy" prejudice, as if God herself sanctions it.

    You may not like the phrase hate speech. I think it fits. I am not advocating for civil laws for restriction of speech. I am advocating for awareness. This language creates an atmosphere in which violence and prejudice can flourish. I am also advocating ecclesiastical vigilance so that this hate speech will never be official policy again.

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  25. "Were Jesus' words hate speech?"

    yadda, yadda, yadda...

    This kind of argument always makes me laugh. "Well Jesus said it, so we can too!"

    Memorandum to Paul, et. al. I know Jesus. Jesus is a friend of mine. You are not Jesus. He gets a pass to say what he wants because, pretty much by definition, he's right all the time. (Nice work if you can get it.) You, on the other hand, are a miserable sinner like the rest of us. That fact might give you pause before you start walking around acting as if you're the Son of God, too. Make a note of it. Thanks.

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  26. This is really a sticky issue - this idea of "hate speech" and accountability. A few random notes:

    1) I have a lot of books in my library that I have never read, including Mein Kampf, in German. Does that make me a Nazi?

    2) I don't like the idea of calling something hate speech. Saying "Gays are Sinners" is siilar to when Alan said to Paul "you are a miserable sinner like the rest of us", except that it is pointing a finger toward someone else - separating them from the "good" folks. When Alan says "like the rest of us", he's at least being inclusive!

    Freedom of speech gives us the right to be a**holes, too. As an aside, there is an adage that says "there is always one a**hole at any gathering. If you can't identify who that a**hole is, it's probably you". I prefer when a**holes declare themselves openly. It takes a great deal of pressure off me!

    3) Viola, Paul, and Adel are asking us to give them permission to relegate certain people to second-class citizenry. Not gonna do it. You can make all the proclamations you want to about what is and isn't a sin, but you should ALWAYS remember that Jesus admonished his followers to "love the sinner, hate the sin". And since, as Alan says, we are all sinners, that means we need to love each other.

    Love is active, not passive. Therefore, if you just point out what you think is wrong and don't follow it with a clear call for love, you are essentially advocating the opposite: hate. Now, I'm not a "Leo Buscaglia kind of love" person, and I don't know that's what Jesus meant. Live and let live works pretty well, I think. Acceptance doesn't have to mean you "wanna be like Mike", or that you even approve. My husband does not approve of rutabagas, but he's okay with them existing and even sitting on the same shelf as the carrots. That's enough, particularly if you're a rutabaga.

    4) Statements such as "Is this advocating hate crimes against alcoholics?" [to call drunkenness a sin] stink with sanctimony. It's kind of like that 3-day old road kill: you often can't say for sure what it was, but you want to get away from it quickly.

    5) Back to free speech. The Limbaughs and Savages (and that's his stage name, so he knows exactly what he is) of the world have a right to free speech - and I would love to keep it that way. Meaning, "say what you want, a**hole, but you shouldn't get rich doing it". That's one of the biggest problems, as Rachel suggests. The industry that has been built around their loathsome blatherings gives credibility to it. And since they don't want to take personal (or corporate) responsibility for that, others need to.

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  27. Thanks Snad for summing up what I meant. I also learned alot from your post. "Love the sinner, hate the sin" and live and let live is what we should all take from it. BUT: Do you think we should apply this principle to sovereign nations that stone citizens to death or hang homosexuals, such as Syria and Iran. Maybe America's quest to spread democracy is a good thing since it will rid evils such as these? Personally, I don't think we should force any person or country to think like we do. They will come around eventually. The people inside the country will demand it I'm sure.

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  28. I didn't mean Syria, but these countries:

    "Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen and Nigeria apply the death penalty for homosexuality, according to the International Lesbian and Gay Association. "
    source

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  29. Hey, Rachel, and thanks!

    No, I don't think we should attack sovereign nations because they do not do as we do, or utilize our understanding of democracy. What we SHOULD do, though, is lead by example, through our actions and our support for those who seek change.

    We have long provided material and financial support to dictators like Pinochet, the Shah, and Saddam, as long as the profit margin was good. We SHOULD have been providing safe haven, training, encouragement, and diplomatic support to the people they oppressed.

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  30. While I tend to be a First Amendment Purist, I do acknowledge Oliver Wendell Holmes' assertion that "the most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic."

    I completely agree with Snad's asshole rule. The Constitution guarantees your right to make an ass of yourself. It also protects my right to call you on your bullshit.

    However, it does not protect me if I tell someone to kill somebody else.

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  31. Wow,

    Several people have written things about what I said that I never wrote, thought, or intended.

    I strongly agree with alan, who wrote: just the phrase "hate speech" makes me shudder. I also get nervous with the term "hate speech".

    My two postings were intended to look at cases of speech, take the definition, then apply it to the definition of "hate speech". I gave three examples of people who may have used "hate speech". In each of these cases, the speech was political. Political opponents of these people could use "hate speech" legislation to persecute them. I feel that the term "hate speech" bolsters "hate speech legislation" -- something alan, snad, and John are concerned about also.

    alan wrote: This kind of argument always makes me laugh refering to my question: Were Jesus' words hate speech? This was not an argument, but a question. I can see how it could be taken as a rhetorical question, though. I think it is interesting to see if the definition of "hate speech" would apply to these biblical verses.

    alan wrote: "You are not Jesus. ... You, on the other hand, are a miserable sinner like the rest of us." Amen, brother! That's good preaching. You are exactly right. I am a miserable sinner!

    snad wrote: ... Paul [and others] are asking us to give them permission to relegate certain people to second-class citizenry. I don't know which post you are refering to. I haven't written or thought such a thing.

    I don't mind straight talk as long as its accurate (like alan's comment that I am a miserable sinner!) I find it curious that my comments that were providing evidence for other poster's concerns would generate such hostility by the very same posters!

    Now for something on the funny side, take a look at the YMCA Jesus...

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  32. Paul -

    I should have looked more closely and corrected myself - it was Doug, not you, who I should have lumped in with Viola, et al. Still, your question about Jesus' words being hate speech comes awfully close to fitting in with Point 4 ;-).

    Still, I looked over my comments and don't see hostility. So, I guess I get to trot out my favorite Tom Waits line: "come down from the cross. We could use the wood".

    Oh, and by the way, I would never accuse any Brit in a position of authority of having a sense of humor.

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  33. snad,

    Sorry about the comment about 'hostility'. I was really refering to alan and I really should have used the word 'defensive'. Thanks for the correction.

    Alan: I hope you don't find my comment about being defensive offensive. It was just my impression.

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  34. "Alan: I hope you don't find my comment about being defensive offensive. It was just my impression."

    Meh.

    Why on Earth would I be offended? That's actually one of my objections to the notion of "hate speech" ... I simply don't think the words of most people are worth getting worked up about, particularly complete strangers whom I've never met, and whom I'll likely never meet, whose opinions have no effect on my life whatsoever. (I'm not saying words alone aren't important. I never met Thomas Jefferson either, but the words "We the People" are clearly important.) But I save my energy for things that matter: words and actions, for example, from people who I know. I took no offense because, well, you're simply not in my monkey sphere. :)

    I do have the habit of not beating around the bush, but nothing I wrote was meant to be either defensive or hostile. I was just pointing out that attempting to use Jesus's words as a boundary condition for hate speech is a silly notion.

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  35. "I was just pointing out that attempting to use Jesus's words as a boundary condition for hate speech is a silly notion. "

    I'm not sure what you mean. Can you explain? If Jesus is believed to be the Perfect One, how could anything He said ever be considered hate speech?

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  36. "I'm not sure what you mean. Can you explain? If Jesus is believed to be the Perfect One, how could anything He said ever be considered hate speech?"

    Yeah, that was my point. That's why I called such a notion "silly."

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  37. In a society that has (or is supposed to have) a secular government, the words of Jesus cannot legally be considered to be from a "Perfect One" any more than the words of Muhammad or Joseph Smith.

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  38. Let's all bow down to Allah, then, or no God. Do we really have to choose?

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  39. "In a society that has (or is supposed to have) a secular government, the words of Jesus cannot legally be considered to be from a "Perfect One" any more than the words of Muhammad or Joseph Smith...."

    Well, yeah. Which is another good reason why using his words as a boundary condition is a little silly. (There are plenty of other reasons as well.) :)

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  40. Flycandler, I just wanted to let you know that neither Islam or The Official Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints believe that Muhammad or Joseph Smith were perfect, but they do both believe that the "Perfect One" will come. What do you think they mean? Can you put it in words?

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  41. I totally misinterpreted what you said:

    "the words of Jesus cannot legally be considered to be from a "Perfect One" any more than the words of Muhammad or Joseph Smith."

    Alright, I'll keep thinking about it. Are you suggesting the "Perfect One" does not exist?

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  42. Flycandler,

    You say, "the words of Jesus cannot legally be considered to be from a "Perfect One" any more than the words of Muhammad or Joseph Smith."

    I say, why not?

    You also say, "In a society that has (or is supposed to have) a secular government"

    I know a bunch of people who would argue against this statement based on the original Constitution of our Founding Fathers. The answer to all the ills of the world is simply freedom, and America has been the only country in the world lucky enough to have a Constitution that experimented with this grand and wonderful idea. Unfortunately, at the rate we are going our grand kids won't get to experience what it was like.

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  43. You say, "the words of Jesus cannot legally be considered to be from a "Perfect One" any more than the words of Muhammad or Joseph Smith."

    I say, why not?

    Really what I mean is that we need laws that can legally protect people to worship how they please. And we need laws that will legally protect parents to educate their children as they wish. I guess we would need laws to protect sexual orientation, but that could be left to the states. There have already been several states to legalize gay marriage so I don't see the problem.

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  44. I know a bunch of people who would argue against this statement based on the original Constitution of our Founding Fathers.

    Ummmm.... are you talking about Article VI Sec 3 and the First Amendment?

    I tend to be a church-state separation absolutist in large part for the same reason as James Madison: the purpose of the separation is to protect the integrity of both church and state.

    The answer to all the ills of the world is simply freedom, and America has been the only country in the world lucky enough to have a Constitution that experimented with this grand and wonderful idea.

    Well, I think the French and (more recently) Canadians might disagree with you on the "only country in the world lucky enough" bit.

    On the Constitution that believes that the "answer to all the ills in the world is freedom", the Federalists would disagree with you. The reason we have a Constitution is because the original founding document of the United States, the Articles of Confederation, were so weak that there was no functioning government able to even pay the veterans who fought in the Revolution. One of Jefferson's objections to the Constitution was the fact that it centralized power in the Federal government. One of the leading Federalists, Alexander Hamilton, was a staunch opponent of the idea of individual freedoms and thought that the rabble had to be kept in check.

    Really what I mean is that we need laws that can legally protect people to worship how they please.

    Exactly my point. The Scientologists may consider L. Ron Hubbard to be the way and the truth and the life, but that doesn't mean that the American justice system should base its rulings on Dianetics. Similarly, it's morally wrong to impose Christianity (or the idea that Jesus is "The Perfect One") on anyone in secular courts of law. A system where something similar is practiced is called Sharia.

    I guess we would need laws to protect sexual orientation, but that could be left to the states. There have already been several states to legalize gay marriage so I don't see the problem.

    "States rights". That has a negative connotation for a good reason. No one should be a whole person in one state and 3/5ths in another. As that pesky old Constitution puts it:

    "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of the citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

    As a court later ruled, "separate but equal is inherently unequal".

    As far as a civil marriage being a "states rights" issue, let me put it this way. Let's say you were married in Texas. You and your husband travel to New York. Your marriage license is now considered worthless. You get terribly sick and have to go to a hospital. Your husband is barred from seeing you, from talking with your doctor, and from making medical decisions for you while you're unconscious. God forbid you pass away, because your husband will not get one red cent while all the distant relatives who invariably come out of the woodwork clean up in probate court. Your husband can't keep the kids because New York doesn't recognize him as a parent, and they get thrown into foster care, because there's another state law preventing "those people" from adopting.

    The Canadians figured this out. Gay people have been getting married for years now, and the sky has not fallen.

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  45. Good points Flycandler. I think we are on the same page because you agree that we need laws that can legally protect people to worship how they please.

    I suppose I also agree with you on the sexual orientation thing as well...but what do you think of this point:

    By redefining marraige, legalizing abortion and allowing stem-cell research with federal dollars and forcing students to have sex education aren't you imposing your beliefs on people? I don't mean you explicitly, but in general. I'm not sure how I feel about these issues. I haven't studied my own belief system enough, but I thought the point was interesting.

    I like the ideas given by Dr. Paul:

    "I am just absolutely convinced that the best formula for giving us peace and preserving the American way of life is freedom, limited government, and minding our own business overseas." - Ron Paul

    As for the Federalists and Alexander Hamilton, they were for big centralized Government and a central banking system. Look where it has gotten us. It's hard for me to justify American wars over the past 60 years just to spread our form of democracy. Is it justifiable to you?

    Here are some other intersting quotes:

    "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin

    "We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission; which is the stage of the darkest periods of human history, the stage of rule by brute force." - Ayn Rand

    "If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity
    forget that ye were our countrymen." - Sam Adams

    The idea of freedom from a system is very intriguing to me as I bet it was for people during Jesus's day, such as Mary Magdelene.

    Flycandler, do you prefer a global government and bueauracracy as opposed to nationalism? Whose side are you taking on the Georgia versus South Ossetia conflict, for example? Shouldn't South Ossetia be free to break away from Georgia just as Georgia broke from Russia?

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  46. "By redefining marraige, legalizing abortion and allowing stem-cell research with federal dollars and forcing students to have sex education aren't you imposing your beliefs on people?"

    I'm not Flycandler, but my opinion is that legalizing gay marriage doesn't force my opinion on anyone. As I frequently tell people, if you don't like gay marriage, don't get gay married. Problem solved. My support of gay marriage doesn't force anyone to get married, however, their support of a constitutional amendment against gay marriage clearly would prohibit me from getting legally married. Allowing stem cell research does nothing to impose my beliefs on anyone else. If a cure for some horrible disease is discovered using embryonic stem cell research, no one would be obligated to take advantage of it (though I'd wager that those who say they oppose such research would be among the first in line for such cures.) And no child in America is forced to take sex ed. Every school I've ever heard of allows parents to call and excuse an absence from school.

    However, even if I could figure out some way that those positions are "forcing my opinions" on someone else, so what? That's democracy. The majority decides. Right now the majority is forcing its incorrect opinions on me. My job, if I don't like those opinions is to convince a majority of people to agree with me and vote their beliefs. It's imperfect, but it's the best we've got.

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  47. I'm 100% opposed to a constitutional amendement banning gay marriages as well. My point is that we should let the states and countries throughout the world evolve naturally, instead of by force.

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  48. "However, even if I could figure out some way that those positions are "forcing my opinions" on someone else, so what? That's democracy. The majority decides. Right now the majority is forcing its incorrect opinions on me. My job, if I don't like those opinions is to convince a majority of people to agree with me and vote their beliefs. It's imperfect, but it's the best we've got."

    I agree, but I'm more for a Constitutional Republic, what our founding father's originally intended for us to have. This gives more individuals freedom as opposed to only giving the majority freedom.

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  49. "This gives more individuals freedom as opposed to only giving the majority freedom."

    Well, only the freedoms agreed upon by the majority. That is what our constitution is all about, after all.

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  50. "My point is that we should let the states and countries throughout the world evolve naturally, instead of by force."

    Sorry, I guess I'm still unclear what you mean by "force".

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  51. "Well, only the freedoms agreed upon by the majority. That is what our constitution is all about, after all."

    I beg to differ. From my studies, I have learned that our Founding Fathers wrote our Constitution to strictly limit the Government from encroaching on our God-given rights to life, liberty, and property. Our Constitution used to be guarded as a set of rules that guaranteed a republic with limited and regional government and protection of presonal liberty.

    But you are right, "A constitution in and by itself does not guarantee liberty in a republican form of government. Even a perfect constitution with this goal in mind is no better than the moral standards and desires of the people. Although the United States Constitution was by far the best ever written for the protection of liberty, with safeguards against the dangers of a democracy, it too was flawed from the beginning. Instead of guaranteeing liberty equally for all people, the authors themselves yielded to the democratic majority’s demands that they compromise on the issue of slavery. This mistake, plus others along the way, culminated in a Civil War that surely could have been prevented with clearer understanding and a more principled approach to the establishment of a constitutional republic." source

    Ever since that time we moved away from the Consitutional Republic and towards a complete democracy, which is what we have today. This is very scary indeed, because Democracy subverts liberty and undermines prosperity! "Once it becomes acceptable to change the rules by majority vote, there are no longer any limits on the power of the government. When the Constitution can be subverted by mere legislative votes, executive orders or judicial decrees, constitutional restraints on the government are eliminated. This process was rare in the early years of our history, but now it is routine."

    "Sorry, I guess I'm still unclear what you mean by "force".

    What I mean by force is that America in the name of "spreading democracy" is forcing other countries to accept Democracy and its' will by either subsidizing them with billions of dollars or going to war with them. Can you really justify this?

    For a real eye opener, I suggest you read the source I linked to above. It is written by a real modern-day prophet.

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  52. "What I mean by force is that America in the name of "spreading democracy" is forcing other countries to accept Democracy and its' will by either subsidizing them with billions of dollars or going to war with them. Can you really justify this? "

    Why would I want to? My answer would, as I think is obvious from what I've written here, be a resounding "No."

    Or was that a rhetorical question?

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