Category Archives for The Freedom of Speech Awards

Westboro Baptist learns the cost of free speech

I remember a song years ago (can’t quite recall who the artist was, though) that contained the line, “Freedom is never cheap just because it’s free.” Jesus told his followers,

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.'” – Luke 14:28-30

Well, the followers of Fred Phelps, the psuedo-Baptist paster of Westboro Baptist Church, just learned that the cost of free speech in America is in the neighborhood of $11 million; only I’m not sure that they can count that high. From the AP:

Associated Press Writer

BALTIMORE (AP) — The father of a fallen Marine was awarded nearly $11 million Wednesday in damages by a jury that found leaders of a fundamentalist church had invaded the family’s privacy and inflicted emotional distress when they picketed the Marine’s funeral. …

Snyder sued the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church for unspecified monetary damages after members staged a demonstration at the March 2006 funeral of his son, Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, who was killed in Iraq.

Church members picket military funerals out of a belief that U.S. deaths in the war in Iraq are punishment for the nation’s tolerance of homosexuality.

Apparently church members also carried signs with anti-gay slogans as well as anti-military slogans, even though Snyder was not gay. The jury felt that the right to free speech stops when it damages others, in this case, the right of the family to mourn without being picketed. Phelps, however, plans to appeal, believing that the case “will elevate me to something important.” My gut response at this point is simply, “what a jerk.”

I don’t know enough about the points argued to have any feeling for whether this case would be overturned on appeal. I could see an appellate court ruling in favor of free speech; however, the question remains as to whether the protesters’ methods went over the line, and whether they have the right to target individuals to make a public statement. The Westboro protesters were, after all, intentionally inflicting emotional distress; otherwise, the protest would have been ineffective (or ineffective in a different way than it already was). There are appropriate ways to express yourself, and as much as I believe in the freedom of speech, I do think there have to be reasonable limits. Call it censorship, but that’s how I see it.

Another issue in this case is also a 1st Amendment issue, the right to express their religious beliefs. However, that too has its limits. Human sacrifice, for example, is understandably over the line, as is serving poison-laced koolaid for communion and car-bombing. I wish being stupid was also over the freedom of religion line, but that would be harder to judge than pornography, and as you know by now, that would infringe on our right of free speech (the right to say really stupid things in public).

However, there’s a deeper issue here, from a Christian standpoint. Phelps has been quoted as saying, “The goofy jury threw a fit at God.” However, I don’t think God was the issue. In fact, I don’t think anyone saw God anywhere in Westboro Baptist’s protest; I know I haven’t. My guess is that God was comforting the mourners, not marching with the Westboro bunch. Phelps and company are not representing Christianity, they are only representing hate and self-righteousness (which are not fruits of the Spirit in my Bible). I am sure that Phelps and company believe that they are being persecuted for their faith; however, as I’ve said before and will say again, you are not being persecuted if people hate you because you’re a jerk. So again, you’ve got to “count the cost.”

And, it appears the cost of being a jerk is up to $11 million.

Another Free Speech Award Winner!

Thanks to my friend Mike for pointing out “former homosexual and HIV-positive Christian activist” James Hartline, who demonstrates that ultra right wing Christian fundamentalists also take advantage of our freedom of speech. Now, I’ve never heard of Mr. Hartline, but I felt compelled to go to the source and check him out. Wow. That’s all I can say.

Here, from his very own blog, is the quote that won him this prestigious award:

They shook their fists at God and said, “We don’t care what God says, we will issue our legal brief to support gay marriage in San Diego!” Then Mayor Jerry Sanders mocked the Christian vote and signed off on this rebellious legal document to support same-sex marriage.
And then the streets of La Jolla under the Mt. Soledad Cross began to cave in.

They shook their fists at God and said, “We don’t care what the Bible says, We want the California school children indoctrinated into homosexuality!” And then Governor Schwarzenegger signed into law the heinous SB777 which bans the use of “mom” and “dad” in the text books and promotes homosexuality to all school children in California.

And then the wildfires of Southern California engulfed the land like a raging judgment against the radicalized anti-christian California rebels.

Apparently Harry Reid was wrong. It’s not global warming, it is the gays. We should have known. So, Mr. Hartline, you win! If this blog made a profit, I’d send you a trophy or something. But, as it is, the prestige will have to suffice. I should point out, if you’re new to the blog, that the Freedom of Speech award is given to those who proudly take advantage of the First Amendment, which guarantees us the right to say really stupid things in front of millions of people.

What’s “really stupid” about the statement I quoted? Well, one of the commenters on Hartline’s blog had this to say:

god demolished new orleans via katrina. well, except bourbon street, where all the homos are.

currently, fires are burning in southern california, but the city of los angeles has been spared. west hollywood is still standing, but republican strongholds have been turned to ash.

clearly, god hates black people and republicans.

What’s wrong with this “judgment” mentality? Well, consider these Old Testament examples: God sends the flood, but saves the only “righteous” man left (and his family). When Abraham negotiated with God for Sodom & Gomorrah, God agreed to hold off judgment if a mere handful of righteous people remained; as it turned out, he removed Lot and family from the place first. Does God have a pattern of destroying the righteous and leaving the “sinners” behind? It wouldn’t seem so. By the way, in San Diego, you’d expect the Hillcrest area to go up in flames first (along with my favorite restaurants…), not conservative Poway and Rancho Bernardo. Were the people who died gay?

It’s bad theology, bad logic, and just plain ignorant. From this comment, it appears that Mr. Hartline doesn’t know his Bible, and doesn’t know his God (or maybe we have different gods…). I am not “pro-gay” by the way. I’m just pro-truth.

To Freedom of Speech!

The new Freedom of Speech Award goes to…

Harry Reid!

For those who may not be aware, since it’s been some time since I gave out this award, The Freedom of Speech Award is given to those who go above and beyond in celebrating their right of freedom of speech. And, as I’ve explained before, the freedom of speech is defined by me as “the right to say really stupid things in front of millions of people.”

Which brings us to Harry Reid, who could qualify for this award on a fairly regular basis. But, I wait until I see a prime example of public stupidity – I mean, free speech – to take up space here. As reported on the Maverick Philosopher blog, The Hill posted an article Wednesday which included the following gem from our man Reid:

“One reason why we have the fires in California is global warming,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters Tuesday, stressing the need to pass the Democrats’ comprehensive energy package.

In a perfect example of America’s much-valued privilege of Freedom of Speech, Reid is completely shameless in being a political opportunist as well as a speaker of public stupidity. Where else but in America! The Maverick P’s post goes on to make the following observation: “The hot air of a jackass like Reid plays more of a role that any supposed global warming.” However, as the Maverick P goes on to state, Hugh Hewitt doesn’t seem to appreciate free speech as much as I do:

Reid is a witless opportunist. Half a million people are evacuated, at least 1,200 homes have been lost so far, federal, state, county and local resources are performing acts of heroism all over California to save lives and property, and Harry Reid wants to blame it on global warming to score political points for his energy bill? What a creep.

Oh well… Hugh has his First Amendment rights, too. I just like to look at the positive side of things.

Return to Fahrenheit 451

A rather humorous (if it wasn’t so scary) story is being played out at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. It seems that the Discovery Institute, a group which promotes Intelligent Design, was scheduled to present a conference entitled “Darwin vs Design.” The event was co-sponsored by the University’s Christian Legal Society. However, some of the Darwinist professors wrote to the school’s administration, asking that the event be shut down. (In case you missed it, this is Southern Methodist University.)

As you would hope to expect, people charged the opposing faculty with attempted censorship. Opinion articles and letters have since been traded in the school’s newspaper, including two articles by some of the opposition faculty. Anthropology professor Ronald Wetherington first wrote a piece entitled Freedom of Speech vs. License in which he claims essentially that censorship is okay, as long as you can characterize the material as “license” rather than “free speech.” In other words, if you believe the point of view is wrong, you can censor it (although then it’s technically not censorship).

Subsequently, biology prof John Wise wrote an opinion piece that simply collapses the whole notion of free speech. Wise states, “It turns out that even scientists have a First Amendment guarantee to the right to express themselves, and not surprisingly, some of us even exercise this right.” See? It is okay to call for censorship of someone else’s opinion, because it’s just exercising your own freedom of speech…

For years, Christians have been accused (and often rightly so) of supporting the censorship of opposing viewpoints. History will show that often it is that opposing viewpoint that shatters the consensus notion of truth. The need to control the opposition is based in insecurity; otherwise, why bother? If the truth is so obvious, why get your boxers in a bunch?

It would seem that the tables have, or are being, turned. Why are Darwinists so seemingly afraid of Michael Behe and the other IDists? And, why resort to politics (censorship) as an escape, rather than simply restating truth?

Did I point out that this is happening at Southern Methodist University?

(thanks to Lawrence Selden for reporting this and providing the links to the SMU articles.)

Good news on the Free Speech front

While you probably won’t hear it reported quite this way anywhere else, today the Supreme Court voted 8-0 (Alito didn’t vote, probably because he was too new to have reviewed the case) on a case that upholds our freedom of speech. Nearly everyone else will report this as good news for anti-abortion activists, which it is – but, I’m more thrilled about the protection of our free speech, and related freedoms.

In SCHEIDLER et al. v. NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR WOMEN, INC., et al., the Supremes ruled that federal extortion and racketeering laws don’t apply to organized demonstrations and protests.

If you recall, the NOW had filed suit against a pro-life group, claiming they were in violation of the RICO and Hobbs Acts, resulting in a federal injunction against the protesters, which in my opinion was a travesty. After 20 years, it appears that uncommon sense has finally prevailed.

Not that I’m in favor of burning down clinics or injuring medical “professionals.” Violence is violence, and there are laws in place to deal with those issues. What NOW had done was to block organized protests. Various social activist groups, as well as the AFL-CIO, had joined with the anti-abortion groups to fight this ruling.

Again, this will probably get more press under the “abortion” heading, but I think that the real victory is for our right to organized free speech.

Here’s a link to the AP article: MSNBC, and a link to the court’s opinion:

The Consequences of Free Speech

Okay, I haven’t written for a while – not that I haven’t a lot to say, it’s just being “in the moment” and the moment is usually ill-timed. Yeah, I know, that doesn’t make any sense at all, but neither does much of what I read, so I figure I’m okay.

I’ve been thinking of bestowing a Free Speech Award to Denmark because of the whole cartoon-Allah thing. I know they’re not even Americans, but you have to admit, this whole thing has given us a great object lesson about Freedom of Speech: As the Apostle Paul said, “all things are permissable, but not all things are beneficial” (my translation). Or, as someone else has said, “Your freedoms stop where my freedoms begin.”

You see, we can guarantee the right of free speech, but we can’t guarantee that others won’t be offended, or throw some free speech right back at you. They may even decide to trample on some of your freedoms in retaliation, not to mention your face. Sure, there are laws against things like that, but the reality is that it hurts just the same. You can say what you want, but just watch out for what comes back at you.

As another wise man once said, “discretion is the better part of valor.”

My own quotable quote on the subject: “Be free, but don’t be stupid.”

Another Freedom of Speech Award – for “Selective Free Speech”

I think this award could be shared by a number of people who spoke at Coretta Scott King’s funeral, and used the platform for their own purposes, mainly to throw stones at the Bush Administration. Apparently nothing is sacred to the Left. However, due to a truly standout performance, I will give the award to none other than former President Jimmy Carter.

Carter has excelled lately at saying stupid things in public, and yesterday was no exception. Besides his comment that Hurricane Katrina was a civil rights issue, he slammed the President on the current spying issue, mentioning that King and her family were once, too, victims of wire-tapping.

He failed to mention, of course, that the wire-tapping had been ordered by Bobby Kennedy during the Kennedy-Johnson administration. So, I guess this award should be given for the best use of “selective free speech.”

Honorable mention should go to the Rev. Joseph Lowery, for the best dramatic presentation of rambling, illogical free speech, and to the brave person who invited Michael Bolton to sing.

The Freedom of Speech Awards

I love the concept of “Freedom of Speech,” at least the way it was originally conceived. Freedom of Speech was granted by the First Amendment to the Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Of course, the founding fathers would probably have been a bit more concise in their wording had they conceived of the kind of perversities now considered to be “free speech” (some of which do not involve “speech” at all…), but that’s a topic for another time. I suspect they had in mind the abuses they had just fought against, specifically right to speak against the government without being shot or hanged (by the government, that is…).

Freedom of Speech is a wonderful thing. So wonderful, in fact, that I have decided to establish my own “Alden’s Blurt Freedom of Speech Awards.” This just means that whenever I feel like it, I will pick someone who is exercising their Constitutional right of Free Speech, and spotlight them here. There will be no trophies, money or other prizes, just the prestige of being mentioned here.

Now, I should perhaps clarify my own perception of who best uses their freedom of speech. My own slightly warped definition of Freedom of Speech is “the right to say really stupid things in front of millions of people.” I believe that this proves and champions America’s Freedom of Speech better than anything. I am limiting, at this point, the potential candidates to those speaking about political issues, but I reserve the right to amend this at any time.

The problem, of course, is that there are just so many people to choose from.

I am very pleased to announce the first ever Alden’s Blurt Freedom of Speech Award is going to none other than my old Senator from California, Diane Feinstein. She was speaking about why the Democrats are likely to vote in a party-line vote against Samuel Alito. The issue, of course, is that he is simply not a liberal.

According to the AP, she “said things are different from when the Senate considered Breyer and Ginsburg, who were confirmed 87-9 and 96-3 respectively.” She stated:

There was not the polarization within America that is there today and not the defined move to take this court in a singular direction …

Like Ginsburg was nominated because she was so moderate? And, like the “polarization” is something out of the Democrats’ control?

This absolutely brilliant statement by Ms. Feinstein, in my opinion (which is all that really matters here), has earned her this most prestigious honor, in proving that Free Speech doesn’t have to be true, thoughtful, or even logical. That, ladies and gentlemen, is what Freedom of Speech is all about.