Friday, April 20, 2007

Free Speech Reform

Freedom of speech, while forming one of our most precious and treasured possessions, can also become a platform for some of the grossest abuse, even under special protection, if not guarded and properly used or administered.

Several issues have led me to reconsider and address this subject:

1. It's not uncommon today to see such things as obsenity, pornography, hate speech, etc., exercised and protected to varying degrees under "free speech".
2. Many consciously recognize that something's just doesn't sit well when it comes to the hip hop world singing about killing policemen (and potentially planting seeds among parts of our more impressionable culture) and doing so under the protection of the "free speech" clause.
3. While advancing legislation dealing with hate crimes (a good thing), moral issues like sexual orientation and homosexuality are being slipped in and placed inseparably alongside non-moral issues like race, religion, gender, ethnic origin, etc. (not such a good thing).
4. Legal experts, in addressing the government's hands being tied regarding the massacre at Virginia Tech, declare that while Cho Seung-Hui's writing and words proved very troubling, there was nothing the government could do. (While I'm not suggesting or denying that more could or should have been done or not done in this case, the point is that while actions and steps taken by an individual using other parts of the body would provide grounds for greater intervention or restraint, it struck me that when it comes to one's expressions and words, even the tongue which we know can be so powerful, that particularly in this area, where so frequently the assailant himself was communicating there was a problem and potential for greater problems, it seems our hands were tied, under the auspice of "free speech."

While I recognize issues surrounding free speech, censorship, etc. are extremely complicated, and while I recognize and greatly value the free speech I have and would do nothing to give it up or have it taken from us,... and,
While I claim neither to be an historian, constitutional expert, etc., ... and,
While I do not suggest we can or should legislate individuals for their thought or profitable creative expression, etc....

At the same time, the wisdom of the Scripture is clear, and supreme, and perhaps may provide guidance in better perfecting the manner in which we understand and apply "free speech" when it says in Philippians 4:8 "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things. whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me - put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you."
While this may not speak directly to free speech, it does remind us of the better way that suggests that some things are better than others and that while some individuals may even desire to participate and propagate certain things - some that may not even be appropriate (such as hate, or songs about the killing of cops; or while perhaps not criminal, even the writings such Cho Seung-Hui's which the teachers and media suggest were clearly of inappropriate nature given the nature of writing and context of the assignment ... should it along with his additional "signals" of disturbance not have tipped us off more and perhaps opened the way for greater intervention?? , etc.), it is better, yea best to follow the higher road.

Again, while recognizing that temporally speaking someone must be the legislator and judge of what is appropriate and what is not (and that the lines will ultimately be drawn someone by someone either to one's likes or dislikes), it's also clear to me that while freedom of speech is a right that we should provide and protect, that does not mean we are to do so at the expense or in conflict with other truth and values.
Am I suggesting that all the beliefs and values of unbelievers not be considered and that only the values of Christians be considered in making and enforcing laws? No...but at the same time, it appears to me that given our present situation and struggles, a reassessment of the origin, history, and direction of what we mean and how we use free speech is worthy of consideration. Not being a historian, it's still my belief that the framers of the U.S. Constitution probably did not have in mind and intend to suggest that unrighteousness and evil/rebellious practices were good and were to be protected in the manner and to the degree that we witness today.

While dagoods may accuse of hypocrisy again by suggesting I'm looking to the courts to advance my positions, let me not only state that what I'm suggesting is the evaluation and rightful use of the laws and courts versus the use of the courts as a primary tool to impose and indoctrinate others with one's own beliefs, and at the same time encourage believers through the use of a quote from an unknown author who stated that "the best defense against abuse of free speech is more free speech".

In the same way that Abraham Kuyper and others helped us understand and administer government better, perhaps those with minds brighter than mine can think, act and provide leadership in perfecting the principles, understanding, and application of free speech (or perhaps, as may need to be the case, simply to reform our understanding and ways back to the original intentions of the first amendment).

This much I know, protecting profanity for profanity's sake(or even for the sake of free speech) is not in keeping with purity, nor should it continue in practice. How much more then, for such things as pornography, etc.

1 comment:

  1. One important aspect of the First Amendment is that it was meant to be applied to Congress. It was (and should still) be expected that the news media would regulate itself to some extent, and that violations (like porn) would be punished by local governments. Indeed, this was the case in the early colonies.

    Today, people get upset when a TV Station refuses to air obscene material. They call out for "no-censorship", which cannot be found in the Constitution. The TV Station is a business, and they have to make decisions that suit their best financial interest.

    Freedom of Speech guarantees our right to NOT say something as well.