CIVIL LIBERTIES: by Bill MuehlenbergNews Weekly
Political correctness suppresses free speech
, May 24, 2008
CIVIL LIBERTIES: Political correctness suppresses free speechAnti-vilification laws, political correctness and inclusive language, far from protecting our liberties, actually pose a mortal threat to free speech and Judaeo-Christian values, warns Bill Muehlenberg.Today we see a steady erosion of freedom, especially freedom of speech, in much of the West. This is most often seen in the assault on Judaeo-Christian morality, and attacks on those who dare to express their deeply held moral concerns.
Western freedoms are slowly being whittled away, and a large part of this is coming from the secular left. Their attack on Judaeo-Christian morality, especially in the public arena, is both undermining our free institutions, and resulting in some direct assaults on those who seek to uphold moral values.
Increasingly those who hold to traditional moral views are being targeted in the public square by the secularist thought police. Political correctness, bogus notions of vilification, and attempts at setting up hate crime legislation are all propelling this.Silencing free speech
Examples abound of the attempt to silence those who would dare to speak up for morality and faith. Whole volumes have been penned on this. One new book from the United States, with the sobering title Why We Whisper: Restoring Our Right to Say It's Wrong
, by Jim DeMint and J. David Woodard, nicely makes this case.
Chuck Colson, in two recent columns, discusses this important book. He warns that we are quickly losing our right to speak out. He begins with these words: "David Woodard is a political science professor at Clemson University — one who has first-hand experience on how dangerous it can be to speak out in favour of traditional values: He almost lost his job over it."
Colson explains how Woodard — a co-author of this new book — testified at a court case on the political power of the homosexual lobby. "To publicly oppose the campaign for same-sex 'marriage' and gay rights was, he writes, 'the equivalent to being sent to the university Gulag'. He was denied an administrative position on the grounds that he was 'ideologically incompatible' with the values of the university. He often found the word homophobe
scribbled on his office door. The press viciously attacked him for his views."
Yet, while he was being publicly attacked, in private he was being encouraged — but only through whispers: "People would call to whisper encouragement. So did parents and university staffers. Some students came into his office, carefully closed the door, and whispered their support. 'The one thing they all had in common is that they were all scared, and they all spoke in whispers,' Woodard writes."
It is not just the issue of homosexuality that has so many people having to resort to whispers. It seems that anyone who wants to stand up and defend traditional morality is doing so at great risk.
Writes Colson: "This can come sometimes in the form of ridicule and intimidation — sometimes with lawsuits, as we at Prison Fellowship know so painfully well after three years of fighting Americans United over our successful prison program in Iowa. All too often, secularist judges and legislators have thrown the power of the law behind their views — making it ever harder to speak out for traditional positions.
"But as Woodard and DeMint point out, 'historically, freedom of speech is crucial in any democracy'. They note that (America's) founders understood that the ability to express our differences publicly was democracy's substitute for violence.
"Democracy is — by definition — conversation about what is good and what is right and wrong; what is fair to all. 'The demise of good government comes when this conversation is abbreviated, as we believe it has been,' Woodard and DeMint write. The result: We are now suffering from, as John Stuart Mill put it, the 'tyranny of prevailing opinion'."
And it is not just a question of freedom of speech. The behaviours that moral conservatives warn about are quite costly — to every one of us.Costs
Colson provides some examples from Why We Whisper
: "For example, there is the cost in treating sexually transmitted diseases. Research shows that more than half of all Americans will contract a sexually transmitted disease at some point. The cost: Some $17 billion in higher taxes and health insurance costs every year. And that does not include secondary costs, like treating cervical cancer, infertility, birth defects, and brain damage. And yet, our government does little or nothing to discourage premarital sex.
"And then there are the huge costs of out-of-wedlock childbearing. Welfare costs alone for single-parent families amount to $148 billion per year. We pay indirectly, as well, through costs associated with child abuse — much more common in single-parent homes — and in higher crime rates."
There are plenty of other examples of how the moral anarchists are costing us all: "We also pay huge economic bills associated with pornography and government-sponsored gambling. We pay for the easy availability of divorce and for the choice of many to cohabit instead of marry. In time we will, like Scandinavian countries, be asked to pay the economic costs of destroying traditional marriage."
The truth is, unlimited moral freedom comes with a huge price tag, one for which we all have to pay, even if we do not engage in the immoral activities ourselves. Destructive behaviours are not just private matters, but affect us all. Thus we have every right to speak out about those areas of morality that concern us.
As Colson concludes, "If special-interest groups and (left) liberal lawmakers tell us to pipe down and stop trying to 'impose our morality' on everyone else, we need to remind our leaders of that little clause in the Constitution: the one that talks about promoting the general welfare."
Private actions have public consequences, and our rulers need to bear this in mind.
Instead of seeking to silence the moral conservatives, they should be listening to them more intently. And those of us seeking to express our concerns in the public arena must stand strong, being willing to face the intimidation and attacks that will invariably come.
Freedom has to be defended, and that means taking a stand even when it is costly to do so.
As Ronald Reagan once warned, "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same."
Now is not the time to grow sheepish, but to redouble our efforts to stand for what is right, despite the secular jihad from our critics.— Bill Muehlenberg is a commentator on contemporary issues, and lectures in ethics and philosophy. His website CultureWatch is at: www.billmuehlenberg.com
******* How to silence free speech under the guise of "pluralism"
The practice of legal intimidation, directed at both individuals and organisations who affirm traditional values, we label as SLAPP, for "Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation".
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) ploy is not new; it invokes the requirement of "pluralism" to secure submission to the doctrine of a secular, naked public square. Anything religious, especially if it is associated with the religion with which nine out of 10 Americans identify, must be denied public salience. The free exercise of religion becomes synonymous with "theocracy", and its practice declared to be a threat to democracy and the public order.
The SLAPP strategy uses the legal system to threaten people by "slapping" them with lawsuits to create a media frenzy. The publicity of such litigation results in a vilification of those who take a stand for moral behavior in the hope that they will be silent next time.
In a SLAPP lawsuit, even if the moral position is successfully defended in public and in court, the adverse media attention can turn a legal victory into a public relations defeat.
The use of courts to silence opponents is not new, of course. Plato in the Apology
quotes Socrates as saying to Meletus, one of his accusers: "You see, men of Athens, this fellow seems very arrogant and intemperate to me and to have written this indictment out of some sort of insolence, intemperance, and rashness."
No better description of an ACLU-inspired SLAPP lawsuit has ever been written. The difference between today and Athens circa 400 BC is that Socrates paid for his convictions with his life, while the ACLU's present purpose is to create a media environment of intimidation that results in people losing heart and shutting up.
Strategic lawsuits to limit public participation have been used by the ACLU—and other groups such as Planned Parenthood, the National Abortion Rights League, National Organization of Women, and the Human Rights Campaign Fund—to silence the voice of moral reason in America. We cite a number of these incidents in our book, Why We Whisper
, but we want to stress that it is not necessary to sue in today's media-rich environment; the mere threat of a lawsuit is sufficient.
In the postmodern politics of the new millennium, the political strategy is not to file a lawsuit but to threaten to file one. Legal posturing alone is usually enough to win a point.— from Jim DeMint and J. David Woodard, "Why we whisper", First Things blog, January 17, 2008.