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Putin calls on world leaders to unite to end persecution of Christians, while President Obama condemns Russian defense of traditional marriage, cancels summit with Putin

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on August 10, 2013)

The evangelical Christian community that still identifies Russia with communism, Cold War tensions and the chilling brutality of Stalinism, is in for a big, painful shock this week. The world has changed, and not only is the USA no longer the cheery western beacon of homely virtues, but one of her traditional enemies is standing in to defend the sacredness of the ideals she no longer cherishes.  

While attending a meeting with Orthodox Christian leaders in Moscow last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin vaulted into headlines by making comments urging the international community to take steps towards preserving the rights of Christian people worldwide and preventing the violence that they suffer routinely in dozens of nations around the globe. Putin said he observed “with alarm” that “in many of the world’s regions, especially in the Middle East and in North Africa, inter-confessional tensions are mounting, and the rights of religious minorities are infringed, including Christians and Orthodox Christians.”

Presumably, Putin was referring to the recent violence against Christians that is ongoing in Syria and has occurred in the Sudan during the decades-long Sudanese Civil Wars and the continuing unrest. In Iran, Christian pastors like Saeed Abedini and Youcef Nadarkhani have been undergone beatings and torture in deadly prisons over the past two years, and have been threatened with execution. In a recent interview with CBN, Eritrean torture survivor “Philip” shared graphic stories of his own experience suffering as a kidnapping victim in torture camps in the Sinai desert. "In some cases, we were tortured simply because we were Christians," he said. “I was hanged up from the ceiling for three days, the blood was cut off from my hands and the flesh started to literally drip from my hands.”

These kinds of stories are nothing new. Horrific persecution of Christian people has been widespread since new converts were fed to the lions in the Roman Empire. What is surprising is that these are the kinds of stories that were coming out of Russia not long ago, when atheism was the official doctrine of the Soviet Union and twenty-year-old Ivan Moiseyev was beaten to death in the Red Army.

What’s changed since then? Putin hinted at it when he said the church in Russia had been a “moral compass” to many who were looking for help, hinting at the recent century of misery and struggle that the Russian people have endured. He also acknowledged the role that the church has played in “culture and education,” adding, “The adoption of Christianity became a turning point in the fate of our fatherland.”  

Why is the Russian leadership suddenly recognizing the priceless value to their nation of the Christian virtues they condemned for so many years? It’s simple. The Russian people have learned the hard way about the cultural devastation and decline that results from the rejection of the happy principles that have bolstered the western world for so many centuries.

Russia is a nation that has tasted of the fruit of the self-destructive anti-ethical policies that so much of the western world has come to label “progressive.”

They already tried dismantling the natural institution of family, and replacing it with state control and regimentation. As a result, they are suffering a demographic crisis, with the highest abortion rate in the world. Russians have more abortions than live births.

They already tried out the scheme of deconstructing the faith of individuals and replacing it with a collectivistic, subservient society where people owe nothing to an eternal, unchanging God, but everything to a transient, ever-evolving state. This didn’t serve as any kind of cultural liberation.

Today, Russia is ravaged by alcoholism, with an annual per capita alcohol consumption of 15.76 litres, one of the highest in the world, and a shockingly low life expectancy. According to a U.N. National Human Development Report, Russian males born in 2006 had a life expectancy of just over 60 years. Russia has a suicide rate of 27.1 per 100,000 people. In 2008, suicide claimed 38,406 lives in Russia. Russia has been repeatedly rated the most corrupt European nation, tied with Iran, Guyana, and Khazakstan.

Russia is also a significant destination and transit country for persons trafficked for sexual and labor exploitation from regional and neighboring countries. A 2006 World Vision report claimed Russia is becoming a new destination for child sex tourism, and estimated 2 to 2.5 percent of Russian sex workers are minors.

With all of these sorry statistics to show for their experiment in statism and rejection of Christian virtues, is it any wonder that Putin is extending an olive branch towards the Russian church and seeking to reinstate what has been lost?

The meeting was held with the leaders of all 15 Orthodox Churches to celebrate the 1,025th anniversary of the official adoption of Christianity by Prince Vladimir in 988 A.D. Orthodox leaders spoke out against what they consider the growing secularist suppression of Christian freedoms in Western nations like the UK and France, where “gay marriage” has just been instated, and Christian business owners have been threatened with jail time and forced to pay fines for refusing to participate in homosexual wedding ceremonies.

The Russian Orthodox Church’s chief ecumenical officer, Metropolitan Hilarion, warned of  “secularization in disguise of democratization” and of a “powerful energy today [that] strives to finally break with Christianity, which controlled its totalitarian impulses during 17 centuries.”

“Eventually,”
Hilarion said, “it unconsciously strives to set up an absolute dictatorship that demands total control over each member of society. Don’t we move to it when ‘for the sake of security’ we agree to obligatory electronic passports, dactyloscopy [fingerprint identification] for everyone, and photo cameras occurring everywhere?”

These remarks come as Russia attracts global attention for its law banning homosexual propaganda directed at minors, and continues each year to pay fines to the European Court of Human Rights for prohibiting Gay Pride parades in Moscow.  In June 2012, Moscow courts enacted a hundred-year ban on gay pride parades.

Do Putin’s recent comments signal a Christian transformation of character? Probably not. What they do signal is a fear that grows as Russia slips deeper and deeper into the vicious results of the black hole of creedlessness. And perhaps they signal a growing friendliness towards the virtues of Christian culture.

While Western Europe and the US are slanting slowly towards the neutralization and ultimate rejection of classical and Christian ethics, Russia and Eastern Europe rushed into this chaos of amorality years ago and, it seems, are coming out on the other side a little wiser, a little steadier.

But are they even growing wiser than us?


This week, President Obama announced a planned summit with President Putin had been cancelled, and that US relations with Russia had moved from a "reset" to a "pause."

(First posted at the Washington Times Communities)
 
 
PicturePrince William & Princess Kate and the Royal Baby

What's wrong and what's right about the #RoyalBaby celebrations: who can say which are the children that will change the world by being in it?

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on July 24th, 2013)

Let’s face it: the media buzz and twitterverse hype over the #GreatKateWait and the subsequent #RoyalBabyBoy has been a bit ridiculous, a little over-the-top. From CNN’s Victoria Arbiter calling the Duchess of Cambridge “brilliant,” for delivering a boy on the first try, to Pampers seizing the moment for some timely advertising by tweeting, “Every baby is a little prince or princess. SHARE pics of yours at http://www.pamperslovesleepandplay.com,” the celebrations seem a little out of balance. Thousands were glued to their screens to watch the livefeed of the royal couple leaving the hospital. “Here’s the important question,” tweeted self-titled “royalty blogger” Brooke. “Will they give us a name when they leave? #RoyalBaby.

But even if the virtual chatter about the baby seems a little out of whack, on the whole all this talk and joy is a good thing. Because a child was born and our shallow, confused culture somehow decided to called it good.

We live in a culture where respected senators can wave wire coat hangers high over their heads in demand for unabridged abortion rights and thousands will march to protect the legality of late-term abortions that end the lives of fully-viable babies. It’s a country that elected a president who voted for the infanticide of partial-birth abortion, and a country where family planning agencies will defend the right of a doctor to kill children born alive and breathing.

But when Prince William and the Duchess walked through the swinging glass doors of the hospital Tuesday evening, cradling their frail and blanketed, unnamed baby in their arms, the spectators lining the streets erupted with a volley of wild cheering.

Is it possible the western world does know, however shallowly, something of the beauty and intrinsic preciousness of new life?

We must ask another question. Was this cheering a celebration of the fact that a new man has entered the world and, like every other man and woman already here, and yet distinct from them, has the opportunity to work his one precious life to inconceivable glory? Or was it a celebration of the supposed fairytale life that this one remarkable human has been born into?

There is a young woman is China who is not so lucky today as the world’s darling Kate. ChinaAid reports Li Fengfei, at 18 months pregnant, was dragged to the office of Family Planning officials on July 9th and beaten so that her front tooth was knocked out. Her fingerprint was forced onto an abortion consent form and she was given a dose of labor-inducing medications.

An estimated 35.9% of Chinese citizens are still living under China’s infamous one-child policy, and Fengfei was just one of these. In her case, however, everything didn’t go as planned, and her body did not immediately respond to the abortifacient drugs. 72 hours later, she was given another dose. Several days afterwards, it was reported she was in critical condition with her dead baby still inside her. According to a doctor who examined the report, she had been given a fatal dose of the drugs. Her fate is still unknown at this time.

In June, another victim of the brutal one-child policy, Feng Jianmei, was photographed lying stunned on a hospital bed with her aborted seven-month old baby beside her. The woman was reportedly taken from her home and beaten while her husband was at work. When her family did not pay the fine required by family planning officials, the child was forcibly aborted. The photos are graphic and horrible.

But these women aren’t Kate. Their babies aren’t royalty. They don’t live in palaces and wear chic clothing and dodge cameras and get featured on magazine covers. Their children wouldn’t have been third in line for any throne anywhere. They would, perhaps, have lived their whole lives in relative poverty, and known few material comforts.

But they might have been happy.

They deserved that chance, at least. At least they deserved a chance.

Until our culture makes as much fuss about the brutal murder of a poor woman’s child as we do about the happy birth of a wealthy woman’s son, we do not know anything that really matters.

Maybe Pampers did get it right after all: Every baby is a little prince or princess. Glad congratulations to William and Kate on the child they have brought into the world! And glad congratulations to the parents of every naked, squalling baby birthed yesterday in half-lit, sweltering hovels in the slums of India or Brazil. Who can say which are the children that will change the world by being in it?


First posted at The Washington Times Communities.

 

May 21st, 2013

05/21/2013

 
PictureThe Romeike Family

The German homeschooling family that fled to America in order to homeschool their children has
been denied asylum by the Obama administration

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on May 21, 2013)

The verdict on a massively significant case in the Sixth Court of Appeals has been returned. In a shocking development, the court has upheld the Obama Administration’s bid to deny asylum to the Romeike family, who fled to the US in 2008 after persecution in their native Germany for homeschooling their five children. The decision was announced Tuesday by the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). The HSLDA has been representing the Romeike family throughout a seven-year struggle to educate their children in the way they think best.

Uwe Romeike and his wife Hannelore are music teachers and evangelical Christians who withdrew their children from German public schools in 2006, after becoming concerned that the educational material employed by the school was undermining the tenets of their Christian faith, and that the school was not providing their children with an ideal learning environment.

“As we were confronted with opposition to our choice we began to feel more and more that our faith required us to homeschool our children,” Uwe explained Wednesday.

Unfortunately for the Romeikes, homeschooling has been illegal in Germany since it was outlawed by Adolf Hitler in 1938. According to the German Supreme Court, the purpose of the homeschooling ban is to, “counteract the development of religious and philosophically motivated parallel societies.”

The family accrued the equivalent of around $10,000 in fines, and faced police visits to their home and the forcible removal of their children from the home. On one occasion, their children were dragged away and taken to school in police vans. Uwe explained in an interview with The Blaze that current German law does not require police to obtain a court order before removing children from parental custody.

In 2008 the Romeikes fled Germany to seek asylum in the land of the free and the home of the brave. In 2010, the HSLDA helped them to become the first family ever granted asylum in the US for the protection of their homeschooling rights. Federal immigration judge Lawrence Burnam, who initially granted the Romeikes political asylum, ruled that they had a reasonable fear of persecution for their beliefs if they returned to their homeland. He called the German policy “utterly repellent to everything we believe as Americans.” 

However, it seems the Obama administration doesn’t concur. In 2012, the Board of Immigration Appeals tossed Judge Burnam’s ruling, forcing the family to head back to court, where Attorney General Eric Holder sought to revoke their asylum and force them to return to Germany.

HSLDA’s Mike Farris explained, “The U.S. government contended that the Romeikes’ case failed to show that there was any discrimination based on religion because, among other reasons, the Romeikes did not prove that all homeschoolers were religious, and that not all Christians believed they had to homeschool.”

In Farris’ opinion, this shows that, “the US government does not understand that religious freedom is an individual right. Just because all adherents of a particular religion do not abide by a certain standard does not mean that individuals who feel compelled to abide by this standard do not have the right to do so. Religious decisions must be made by individuals, not by groups.”

A crowd of the American people agree with Farris and have rallied around the Romeike family by signing a formal petition on the White House website. Part of the petitions reads,

“Every state in the United States of America recognizes the right to homeschool, and the U.S. has the world’s largest and most vibrant homeschool community. Regrettably, this family faces deportation in spite of the persecution they will suffer in Germany. The Romeikes hope for the same freedom our forefathers sought. Please grant the privilege of liberty to the Romeike family.”

The number of signers has exceeded the threshold necessary to earn a response from the White House, and the response is still being eagerly awaited. However, the verdict from the court has created a major setback for the Romeikes and makes their status in the US uncertain. The family may be faced with deportation.

Michael Donnelly, an attorney for the Romeikes, told ABC News the family remains hopeful.

"They feel very comfortable that, in the end, things are going to work out for them," he said. "There is a lot of support for this family in Congress, it is possible that Congress might take some action."

Farris expressed his indignation at the verdict, stating, "You can't look at the lenient attitude to 11 million people who came here for economic opportunity, why we would not treat people who come here for economic freedom on par with people who came here for religious freedom I don't understand.”

Farris said the family is planning to appeal the decision first to the entire Sixth Circuit Court and then to the Supreme Court, if necessary.

READ MORE:
Deportation of German homeschool family affects US homeschool freedom
Interview with the Romeike Family
 
 
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Will legalization of same-sex marriage result in religious persecution?


(Posted by Bryana Johnson on January 28, 2013)

Earlier this month, 1,067 UK priests, bishops and abbots prompted a significant stir by collectively signing what is being called one of the largest open letters ever produced in British political history. The letter was issued as a warning against the legalization of same-sex marriage. Such a development may spark religious persecution against Catholics, who oppose same-sex marriage based on the tenets of their faith, cautioned the multitude of priests.

The letter comes as British Prime Minister David Cameron has announced his intentions to push through a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in the UK by the end of the month.

“The natural complementarity between a man and a woman leads to marriage, seen as a lifelong partnership,”
the clergymen declared in their statement. “This loving union – because of their physical complementarity – is open to bringing forth and nurturing children. This is what marriage is. That is why marriage is only possible between a man and a woman.”

“Legislation for same-sex marriage, should it be enacted, will have many legal consequences, severely restricting the ability of Catholics to teach the truth about marriage in their schools, charitable institutions or places of worship,” they went on to warn. Those who signed the letter make up about one-fourth of all the Catholic clergy in Britain.

Regardless of where we stand on the issue of same-sex marriage, it’s important for us to determine whether or not this statement is backed by evidence and by the collective experience of states and nations that have already enshrined homosexual marriage in law. Surely the rights and religious liberties of the proponents of traditional marriage must be protected even as same-sex partnerships become more widespread and more widely accepted.

Is truth on the side of the UK clergy and should Christian people be taking a warning from their words? Is legalization of same-sex marriage a doorway into an era of universal goodwill and harmony? Or is it merely a sign that a new form of bigotry is at hand – a bigotry of hatred and violence unleashed against the traditional family and its supporters?

The obvious question is, have opponents of same-sex marriage suffered persecution and loss of religious liberty in other countries that have embraced this radical redefinition of marriage? The answer is in no way elusive. Let’s take a look at a little very recent history.

“Tolerance” in Brazil

Last week, members of the Catholic Plinio Correa de Olivera Institute gathered in the Brazilian city of Curitiba to protest abortion and the homosexual ideology and stand in support of the traditional family. Homosexuality has been legal in Brazil since 1830 and enjoys widespread acceptance in that country.

However, the Catholic demonstrators, who marched peacefully and carried signs, were not greeted with tolerance and acceptance. In fact, an angry mob soon gathered around them and began yelling threats and making obscene gestures. The Catholics were spat upon and one of them had an object thrown at his head which drew blood. As he held up his bloodied hand to show the camera, the crowd cheered. These incidents were caught on camera by the Institute and by an onlooker sympathetic to the unruly mob.

In 2007, the Brazilian Association of Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, and Transgender People (ABGLT) filed several lawsuits against opponents of the homosexual movement in Brazil. One of these suits targeted the websites that had just exposed homosexual activist Luiz Mott for his promotion of pedophilia and pederasty.

Another motion was filed against psychologist and therapist Rozangela Alves Justino, who provided counseling and therapy for homosexuals who wished to change their sexual orientation. Because Brazil’s Federal Council of Psychologists prohibited psychologists from performing reparative therapy for homosexuality, the ABGLT asked that Alves Justino’s license be revoked.

Several years ago, Christian pro-life writer Julio Severo fled Brazil after charges were reportedly filed against him for his “homophobic” coverage of Brazil’s 2006 Gay Pride parade. Severo left the country abruptly with his pregnant wife and two small children. At the time, there was still no official law in Brazil criminalizing “homophobic” behavior.

In February of 2009, LifeSiteNews reported that, “the Brazilian government has determined that 99% of its citizens are ‘homophobic,’ and therefore must be reeducated.” According to Brazilian newspaper O Globo, the federal government of Brazil intended to use the data from the study to “plan new policies.” Those new policies were implemented in May 2012, when the senate in Brazil passed a law criminalizing ‘homophobia.’

In the summer of 2012, Julio Severo interviewed Brazilian Christian psychologist Marisa Lobo, who said that the Brazilian Federal Council of Psychology pressured and terrorized homosexuals who were looking for help in overcoming their unwanted same-sex attractions. Marisa was also attacked by the Council when she questioned the “gay kit” that the Brazilian government attempted to distribute to students in public schools for the purpose of fighting “homophobia.” Due to explicit content in the kit and its favorable portrayal of homosexual behavior, the program was eventually suspended by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.

“When they learned that [I was] a Christian, they began to persecute me,” Marisa explained, “as a psychologist who categorizes herself as a Christian, and later in the process as a homophobe, because I said on Twitter that I love gays, but I prefer for my child to be heterosexual. And I still don’t understand why having an opinion instigates violence.”

It seems that the range of tolerated activity in Brazil is fairly narrow, despite decades of campaigns by same-sex marriage advocates against “hate” and “bullying” and “harassment.” And it is becoming increasingly evident that Christian family virtues are not included in the group of “tolerable” ideas.

“Diversity” and “Freedom of Speech” in Canada
Canada Day in Ontario last year was marked by a disturbing incident when Rev. David Lynn and a small group of friends attended the Toronto Gay Pride Parade. Setting up a small stand on a street corner with a microphone and a video camera, Lynn preached, held conversations with passers-by, and handed out Bibles and tracts – that is, until Toronto police wearing LGBT rainbow stickers shut him down and forced him to vacate the area. Ignoring the profanity and violent behavior of angry parade attendees and demonstrators who verbally assaulted the group and even doused Lynn and his cameraman with water, police told Lynn he was ‘promoting hate’ and must leave. Videos of the incident are available here and here and here.

It seems only certain forms of free speech are protected in Canada nowadays. Criticism of homosexuality, even peaceful and motivated by loving concern, isn’t one of these.

When the Toronto District School Board revealed their new “anti-homophobia curriculum” in 2011 (Challenging Homophobia and Heterosexism: A K-12 Curriculum), many people were understandably disturbed. Naturally, things only got worse when the news came out that parents would not be able to opt their kids out of the program – not even their kindergarteners. Teachers would also not be permitted to decline to teach the course based on religious convictions.

It seems only certain brands of diverse thought are encouraged in Canada nowadays. Christian family virtues aren’t among them.

The curriculum taught students that “you can’t choose to be gay or straight, but you can choose to come out.” In 3rd grade, it is recommended that students read the book Gloria Goes to Gay Pride.  Students are encouraged to have their own “Pride Parade” in their school.

Unfortunately, most real-life Pride Parades are scarcely suitable for elementary school children.

The disturbing and seemingly totalitarian approach embraced by the Toronto District is but a foretaste of what lies ahead, suggests an education minister in the United Kingdom. Elizabeth Truss, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State of the Department for Education, warned in November that school teachers could be punished for not teaching pro-gay topics, should the British government follow through with plans to redefine marriage.

More Instances of Love and Acceptance

The adoption agency Catholic Charities has been systemically shutting down its branches in various states throughout the US, following a series of bitter legal disputes over the agency’s right to refuse to place children with homosexual couples. Similar laws have also forced church-affiliated agencies in Britain, such as Catholic Care, to separate from their churches or shut down entirely.

In January 2012, a New Jersey judge ruled against a Christian retreat house that refused to allow a same-sex civil union ceremony to be conducted on its premises, ruling that the Constitution allows “some intrusion into religious freedom to balance other important societal goals.” Last September, a gay couple filed suit against two Illinois institutions that refused to host their civil union. Christian “Bed and Breakfast” establishments, which are often family-owned businesses, have been especially targeted by homosexual rights activists for this type of harassment.

In Ladele and McFarlane v. United Kingdom, plaintiffs Lillian Ladele and Gary McFarlane were fired from their places of work for declining to perform services involving same-sex partnerships and counseling. Ladele, a marriage registrar for Islington Council in London, “was disciplined after she asked to be exempt from registering same-sex civil partnerships.” McFarlane was a counselor who was fired after he “declined to unequivocally commit to provide same-sex couples with psycho-sexual therapy.” They appealed to the European Court of Human Rights, but the court refused to hear their case.

"It seems that a religious bar to office has been created, whereby a Christian who wishes to act on their Christian beliefs on marriage will no longer be able to work in a great number of environments,” commented Andrea Williams, the Director of the Christian Legal Centre.

Certainly this is a tragic remark and one that signals a gloomy answer to the question of whether or not the legalization of same-sex marriage will result in a loss of religious liberty. It is, of course, unfair of homosexual activists to expect people of faith to cast away their creeds and their dear, cherished ideals. But these activists make themselves odious indeed to civilized people when they force dissenters to violate their codes of morality and their very consciences by endorsing and promoting a lifestyle they consider abhorrent.

If the aim of legalizing same-sex marriage is, as we are so often told, to eradicate intolerance and bigotry, surely its activists should be alarmed to find that their efforts have been entirely unsuccessful. However, as shocking as it may seem, the advocates of same-sex marriage are proving repeatedly that they only endorse the toleration of one view and only believe in the protection of one speech – their own. 

 
 
Picture
British Comedian Rowan Atkinson, 'Mr. Bean'



When Insults Are Illegal:

British comedian Rowan Atkinson warns about ‘The Outrage Industry’ and the ‘Creeping Culture of Censoriousness’

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on October 29th, 2012)





A few years back, a young Oxford University student who was out celebrating the conclusion of some exams, came out of a bar and made a childish comment to a policeman. This comment landed him in jail. The comment? “Excuse me, do you realize your horse is gay?”  Rather than ignoring him, the policeman demanded he pay a fine of £80. When he refused, he was arrested under Section 5 of the 1986 UK Public Order Act. Thames Valley Police said: “He made homophobic comments that were deemed offensive to people passing by.”  

" The whole thing is absolutely absurd," said Mr. Brown. "There were about six police officers and a whole load of patrol cars.”

A jury eventually overturned the ruling, but not before calling significant public attention to Section 5, the infamous clause in the Public Order Act which states that,

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.

British comedian Rowan Atkinson, in a short speech last week at the Reform Section 5 Campaign’s Parliamentary Reception, called it, “That thing where you can arrest anybody for saying anything that might be construed by anyone else as insulting.”

Other victims of Section 5 include a Christian preacher who told a passer-by that homosexuality was immoral, a 16-year-old holding a poster that read, “Scientology is a Dangerous Cult,” two hotel managers who engaged a customer in conversation about Mohammed and Islamic dress for women, and a preacher who told police privately, upon being questioned, that he thought homosexuality was a sin. Atheist John Richards, who placed a sign in his window which stated, “religions are fairy stories for adults,” was told by police that he could be arrested under Section 5. Animal rights protestors who displayed toy seals dyed with red food coloring were threatened with arrest and seizure and told by police that the toys were distressing to members of the public. Following a complaint from a customer, police reportedly told Christian café owner Jamie Murray to stop playing DVDs that showed texts from the New Testament in his establishment.

It’s interesting to note that in most of the cases mentioned above, the supposed offenders were eventually acquitted, although sometimes at significant cost to themselves and to British taxpayers who had to fund the ridiculous court costs accrued by the imprudent actions of public servants who were given free reign by an absurd law. In his speech earlier this month, Rowan Atkinson touched on the inherent absurdity of attempts to ban insulting language, saying,

“The clear problem with the outlawing of insult is that too many things can be interpreted as such. Criticism is easily construed as insult by some parties. Ridicule, easily construed as insult. Sarcasm, unfavorable comparison, merely stating an alternative point of view to the orthodoxy, -- can be interpreted as insult. And since so many things can be interpreted as insulting, it is hardly surprising that so many things have been.”

To ban insults is to outlaw a form of speech that is central to most disagreements and controversies – even those which are wholly cordial. Anytime there is a verbalized clash of ideas, there is a likelihood that one party will poke fun at another. In many cases, there is also the possibility that one party will completely lose his or her head and spout off something really offensive. There is always the probability that the two sides in a public debate will publicly declare their opponents to be wrong. This is not a travesty that calls for government intervention but an unavoidable by-product of free speech rights – and of human nature.

Atkinson wisely suggests that a culture which cannot handle insults needs to be exposed to them more regularly. “ For me,” he says, “the best way to increase society’s resistance to insulting or offensive speech, is to allow a lot more of it. We need to build our immunity to taking offense, so that we can deal with the issues that perfectly justified criticism can raise. The strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression, but more speech.”

This brings us to the central problem with laws banning insults, which is that the task of deciding what type of language is insulting is left to the government. A ban on insulting language is not like a ban on swearing or a ban on using curse words in public places. It is a ban which can encompass even justified criticism. Indeed, it has the Kafkaesque quality of being a ban on nothing in particular and therefore on potentially anything.

They [police officers] don’t seem to need a real victim,” Atkinson warns. “They need only to make the judgment that somebody could have been offended if they had heard or read what has been said.”

It is these open-ended bans and this undefined repression which makes the modern era’s war on intolerance so deadly to liberty and so poisonous to law. A nation which is governed by the proverbial “rule of law” is a nation in which citizens are able to easily ascertain what is and is not allowed. The rule of law is characterized by lucid legal language and common sense judgments which are intelligible to the majority of the citizens. It is only in despotic nations that citizens must live in constant fear of breaking some law which they have never heard of and which makes no sense to them at all.

We live in a country where insults are illegal,” laments the Reform Section 5 Campaign’s official video. If you’re an American citizen, you still live in a country where insults are legal. Unfortunately, if the trends in Western Europe and Canada are any indication of the future, you are going to have to fight with all of your might to keep it that way.




(This article first posted at The College Conservative)
 

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