Wednesday, April 26, 2006

"Free speech" and really stupid arguments.

If there's one thing religious nutbars absolutely do not comprehend, it's the concept of "free speech," as we can see here. Let's briefly set the stage:

... To come to the rest of the "mirror image" point, let's turn briefly to the case of Chris Kempling. He, after all, represents a case which, at first glance, appears totally related to free speech.

Kempling is the Quesnel, BC, public school counselor who was censured by both his local school board and the BC College of Teachers (the accrediting group for that province's public school system). His apparent departure from the college's professional standards came about because he wrote several letters to a local newspaper, criticizing gay and lesbian lifestyles.

The college maintained that his public criticism placed him in conflict, by hampering his ability to deal empathetically with gay and lesbian students who came to him for counseling.

Let's first understand that this situation is not primarily an issue of free speech, Rather, it's an issue of Kempling being an ignorant, bigoted dumbfuck who is hopelessly unqualified for that particular job.

I can't believe I have to explain this but, as a public school counselor, it would be Kempling's responsibility to counsel all students who might be having problems. That would, of course, include gays or lesbians, for whom that stage of life would be particularly traumatic and emotionally trying. It's hard to see how those students could even imagine going to Kempling for advice after he'd publicly, in the local newspaper, criticized gay and lesbian lifestyles.

As you can see, this has nothing to do with free speech. Kempling is simply unqualified for the position of counselor, in the same way that someone would be unqualified for the position of, say, math teacher if they didn't know any math. This is not a difficult concept. If you clearly dislike gays and lesbians, it's not going out on a limb to suggest that you are not the right person for a job that might require giving them wise counsel. How difficult can that be to understand? But there's more to it than that. In another way, this really is all about free speech, but not in the way you might expect.

Some folks undoubtedly argued that Kempling was being denied his right to "free speech," but those people would be hopelessly deluded. In fact, if you bear with me for a minute, Kempling still had every right to say what he wanted, as publicly as he liked, and no one was stopping him. If he wanted to continue to write letters to the local paper castigating gays and lesbians, he was completely free to do so. But here's the catch.

If he chose to exercise that right to free speech, he did not simultaneously have the right to continue to work as a public school counselor. This is also not a difficult concept -- it's based on the idea that, as conservative wanks love to lecture us, actions have consequences. If Kempling wants to continue to be an anti-gay bigot, no one's going to stop him but, at the same time, he shouldn't expect everyone to continue to accommodate him.

As another example, I personally despise Microsoft software, which I consider to be overpriced, bug-ridden crap, and my right to free speech lets me say that whenever and wherever I want. However, if I were to accept a job with Microsoft, I shouldn't be surprised if they made it clear that they wanted all that bad-mouthing to stop.

One might argue (if one was a moron, that is) that Microsoft is trampling on my right to free speech. Hogwash. In fact, I still have the freedom to slag their software as much as I want, provided that I'm prepared to accept being fired for it. My freedom of speech is still entirely intact, as long as I understand that that goes along with Microsoft's freedom to kick my sorry ass out the door for exercising it.

Perhaps the best example of this total lack of misunderstanding involves the tax-exempt status of churches in the United States. Those churches enjoy the delightful status of being tax exempt, in exchange for which they are not allowed to get blatantly involved in politicking. It's a simple idea and yet, year after year, evangelical wingnuts complain about how this ban on political involvement is somehow an infringement on their right to free speech.

But no one is stopping those churches from getting as political as they want. If they truly want to start promoting political candidates, the solution is trivial -- they need only give up their tax-exempt status, at which point they're welcome to go totally bananas. Not surprisingly, that doesn't interest them since what they really want is to have their cake and eat it, too. They want all the perks that go along with being a church, with none of the legal obligations.

What this boils down to is a simple idea -- actions have consequences -- and the citizens of Wankerville are certainly familiar with that idea. Witness the latest dust-up involving Michelle Malkin and the publication of the personal contact information of those anti-war protestors. None of Malkin's adoring, brain-damaged groupies denied that those protestors had the right to protest. Rather, they argued that, if those protestors were going to do that and publish their contact info, well, they deserve what they get. Sound familiar? Yup -- actions have consequences.

Unless you're a Bible-pounding loon like Lloyd Mackey, who seems to want all of the rights of free speech without having to deal with any of the associated consequences. Sorry, Lloyd, it doesn't work that way. You (and Chris Kempling) have the right to be as publicly homophobic as you want. But if you are, you have no right to complain when the rest of us make you pay the price for it.

Actions. Consequences. See how that works?

BY THE WAY, it's not like you need another example to pound this home but, when it comes to mangling the entire idea of free speech, one doesn't even have to leave the confines of religious silliness.

Several years back, The Right Rev. Bill Phipps of the United Church of Canada made waves when he expressed doubts about the divinity of Jesus. But wait ... freedom of speech and all that, right? He was entitled to his thoughts, no? Fuck, no:

Sadly, it seems that all that some people are able to hear in Bill Phipps comments is heresy. But heresy, properly understood in origin is 'choice' or 'chosen path'. i.e. there is 'heresy' only when the choice is genuinely different not when certain lines are transgressed. And Bill Phipps has chosen to be and remains a follower of Jesus Christ.

And yet, in spite of this, a person like John Trueman, the President of the Community of Concern, (which is an alliance of conservative members and congregations within the United Church) has requested that Bill Phipps resign and even be disqualified from United Church membership.

Whoops. Apparently, there's more to this "free speech" thing than meets the eye. Apparently, actions have consequences. The mote in one's eye and all that. I'm sure you're shocked.


MgS said...


The "Woe is the poor Christian, for they is persecuted" line has been a talking point among the Religious Reich for a long time.

They like to hide behind "freedom of speech" to justify their own bigoted ignorance. (especially on sexuality)

CC said...

wheaton writes:

This all seems so trivial and obvious to me, I can't believe it's even a discussion.

Welcome to the wankersphere.

Unknown said...

People should be allowed to speak freely. How far free speech should go, I don't know. Do you let Nazis spread hate? Or does not letting them speak cause violence, because they have no outlet to vent.

I like wheaton's post. It all seems trivial. But to fanatics, it is not. Heads have been cut off for less.

Scotian said...


Game, set, match.

You nailed this one perfectly and without any possible sane refutation by those self described persecuted Christians. This "woe is me, woe is us" routine that we see from the religious right in both America and Canada to my mind helps explain the anger we all see in so many Conservative/conservative postings in both countries. After all, if they believe they are under constant attack then they would also believe they have a perfect right to be angry/pissed off. Since anger and hatred are two of the most intense emotions capable of overriding reasoning ability it makes perfect sense for those that prefer their politics driven by emotion and faith to based on objective realities and politics driven by reason and critical thought to use such myths as the war on Christianity by L(l)iberals/lefties/secularists.

Thanks for yet another excellent post showing the Trolletariat of the C(c)onservative movement's complete lack of comprehension about what free speech is really all about. As you say, actions have consequences, yet when those consequences come home to roost for gay people the reaction is what did they expect, whereas when it is a Christian suffering consequences for spouting their particular intolerance for a proscribed group in the Bible then it is persecution and proof of the war on Christianity. What absolute and utter nonsense.

Lindsay Stewart said...

hey cc, spot on. though it does get better. i wrote about kempling last year. his board gave him the opportunity to keep his job, if he would cease with the editorials. he agreed. and kept on writing. but as i recall (i'll go back and look), he was also offering to use his magical jesus powers to heal the gayness out of those poor kids. a clear abuse of his position and a dangerous, prideful boast. he's lucky his foolishness ended in front of a hearing of the human rights commission and not in front of a judge, for contributing to a suicide.

Lindsay Stewart said...

ok i went into the way back machine and found my post regarding our friend the counselor. its a fairly long screed and if you want the gist of it, the kempling stuff is about 2/3s of the way down. cheers.

free speech

Anonymous said...

Prof. PZ Myers regularly criticizes Christians on his blog, yet that's no problem for him (or you) in regards to any Christian students in his class. I mean, it's his job to treat all students equally and fairly - even the Christian ones. Yet how can one expect him to do so when he is so venomously hateful to them online? How can Christian students even go to him to learn about biology?

I guess ultimately, PZ Myers' blog isn't about free speech. It's about Myers being a hateful, bigoted jackass who is hopelessly unqualified for his particular job.

MgS said...

At a wild guess, I'd imagine that "anonymous" is "Jinx/Jason" - I've seen him make that particular - and irrational - rant before.

(In particular when PZ and his audience handed "JMcH" his ass back to him)

Anonymous said...

Someone should explain to Mr. Anonymous idiot the difference between a high school guidance counsellor and a tenured University professor

CC said...

Dear "anonymous":

I will be more than happy to slap you from one side of the room to the other for the silliness you just posted but first, I want to explain a recent rule that I established on this blog.

If you're going to post something that confrontational, you can't do it anonymously. You don't need to use your real name, but you have to pick a handle of some kind.

Feel free to register with blogger if you want so that others have a way of referring back to what you write. If you continue to post simply as "anonymous," further comments will be deleted.


Anonymous said...

Call me stupid, but I just don't get why the "christian" feels the need to castigate gay people in the name of religious freedom, freedom of speech or whatever other bullshit phrase they choose. Are gay people expected to just sit back and take the abuse hurled by the likes of this Kemp character? There is a fine line between free speech and religious freedom. Religious freedom ought not surpass freedom to believe in the divine. It has absolutely no business being in the realm of judging others or being "opposed to the promotion of...certain lifestyles", as it is so pathetically described, let alone in the establishment of laws or equal treatment under same. If the religious freedom arguement is used, then racism, sexism, anti-semitism is justifiable with the disgusting rampant homophobia that pollutes our society.

Scotian said...

BC Waterboy said:

"Are gay people expected to just sit back and take the abuse hurled by the likes of this Kemp character?"

Of course you are, otherwise you are defying the will of God and imperiling your immortal soul. Indeed your fighting back only proves that you are in league with Satan and his evil minions. How can you possibly not understand this obvious fact of life?

Yes the above is said in a very sarcastic tone, but the content is unfortunately the actual basic reasoning which is why so many of these "Christian" gay bashers are so surprised at the way their bigotry is received and opposed and why they feel it is violating their religious freedom as well as their free speech. Needless to say I find that absolute bunk and bilge water but that is the problem with the mindset of a zealot, especially a religious zealot.

One of my basic ways of differentiating between a zealot/fanatic and a true faith holder is this: The true faith holder will be willing to die for their beliefs but not willing to cause others to die for that belief unless it is also their free will decision, whereas the fanatic/zealot has no problems letting others die for their beliefs whether they are willing or unwilling to do so and generally are not willing to die themselves for that belief (usually because they see themselves as too important to be sacrificed so easily, a lovely rationalization for their own moral cowardice while they castigate everyone else’s that they perceive). I see a lot of fanaticism in the religious right and little genuine faith holding.