The freedom to say and think what I like.

Now look, I am no lawyer but I am passionate about learning about our rights and responsibilities under a constitutional Democracy. So when a friend of mine CC’d me on a petition to remove a Facebook page they found offensive, I found that I had a lot more to say than I originally thought I had to say on the matter…

The original email:

‘Smile, because God Loves You J

I find this extremely offensive!!!! Add you name to the list and forward to every Christian you know this is unacceptable for people to refer to our “LORD”

in this manner.,, ,,,, “He is the way the truth and the life and no man will come unto the father but by him”

As a christian you need to make a stand against this violation of our Lord.

Renelda…

PLEASE HELP US TO REMOVE THIS GROUP FROM THE POPULAR WEBSITE FACEBOOK!!!!!!!

JUST ADD YOUR NAME TO THE LIST AND FORWARD, IT ONLY TAKES A FEW
MINUTES OF YOUR TIME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This mail serves as a petition to protest the group “Fuck Jesus Christ”
which appears on the popular website Facebook.
Though the group, claims to be for the freedom of speech – it is offensive to Christians around the world.
No longer will we stand and watch Jesus Christ being abused by people who think it is ok to hide behind ‘freedom of speech’.
When a picture of the Prophet Mu   hammed appeared in a Danish newspaper, the Mu   slim community united and ensured action was taken.
By adding your name to the bottom of this petition, you are calling on the Pope, our leader, to be the voice for all Christians and speak out against this blatant abuse of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We want Facebook to remove this group and others like it with immediate effect. It is not acceptable!
Please add your name to the list at the bottom and if you are the 100th person, please forward the mail onto the Pope his e-mail address is <
mailto:benedettoxvi@vatican.va> benedettoxvi@vatican.va
1. *names of petitioners* ( South Africa )

My response:
Wow, there is actually so much here!
Whilst I do not in any way endorse the website, and do agree that it is offensive (unnecessarily so), it seems to be a classic example of an opportunity to defend free speech.
The problem is that they mention hiding behind freedom of speech, clearly some people (the Christian author) have more free speech than other people (the owner of the Facebook page) because the author asks for Facebook to remove this page. How do you determine which person / view should not have freedom of speech, as soon as you draw a line and say this is OK, but this is not OK, then speech is no longer free. Who decides what is OK to say and not OK – you, me, the government?

No one hides behind free speech – it is a right and a principle enshrined in the constitution – and it is always a good thing!
If anything, free speech, and websites like this make us sit up and think about the difficult problems of determining what free speech implies, and also our own emotional reactions to insult – emotional reactions that hopefully can be tempered by some degree of rationality and circumspection.

The problem with limiting free speech is that it is a slippery slope, once you cannot say certain things, it is not very far to say that a government, or Facebook can determine what you can think or not think. I personally like to have the freedom to make up my own thoughts and utter my own words, whatever they may be.

At the same time, and this is just my opinion, and this should in no way detract from the freedom with which people should be able to say anything they like, freedoms come with limits and responsibilities – and it would seem irresponsible to be offensive in a blatant way. I would suggest you petition the owner of the site, and appeal to his/her better nature, that would seem to be a preferable alternative approach.

The website calls for Facebook to remove the site. Let’s say this happens, then what? They must remove every site that does not think like you, that is not Christian? Why pick on this site, Islamic sites may say equally offensive things about your god? And what about the Hindus who say their gods are the main creators and determinants of our daily lives, must their sites be removed?

If this was a closed website and members held similar views but it was not aimed specifically at offending a specific group, then I would be more comfortable with it. But I do not think it should be removed for the reasons stated above.
The author invokes the response of Muslims to the cartoons, but does she/he realise that if the Taliban style Muslim clerics take over the governance of South Africa for example, then her Christian beliefs will be deemed to be heresy hiding behind free speech – they might say that their god is the one true god and your Christian beliefs are an affront to their god, a blasphemy, and as is evident in Afganistan, a Taliban governement does not tolerate any differing viewpoint. There is no free speech there, only the party line, which if crossed, is likely to result in your imminent death sentence.
“Say what we want you to say, or feel the slice of my sword.” I cannot express adequately how every fibre of my being resists, and fights against this sort of viewpoint.

We must tolerate viewpoints different to our own, we must tolerate the offensive speech of others, because to not do so encourages a society where I am allowed, and motivated to kill you for your speech, or your beliefs or your lack of believing as I do or your lack of belief, or your thoughts. Neither of us wants that.

I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

“If you believe in freedom of speech, you believe in freedom of speech for views you don’t like. Goebbels was in favor of freedom of speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you’re in favor of freedom of speech, that means you’re in favor of freedom of speech precisely for views you despise.” * In Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media, 1992

Some responses I received:

Response A:
Who are you and why are you cluttering up my inbox with your long winded email?

Response B:
If it was another religion it would of been worse, so I believe in standing up for my God! Not to argue about it or anything, I thought I would of gotten your support. My mistake.

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~ by Fluxosaurus on February 4, 2010.

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