Friday, October 22, 2010

Free Speech in Light of the Possibility of Offending Someone

On October 21, 2010, reported:

“The social networking site Facebook has teamed up with a who’s who list of homosexual advocacy groups to set up a Network of Support for homosexuals, part of an effort to remove “hateful” speech and bullying from the social network site. But pro-family groups are expressing serious concern about the arrangement, as some of the homosexualist organizations call not only for the removal of legitimately hateful or violent speech, but also censorship of statements that are merely critical of homosexuality."

The distinction between destructive, hateful speech and responsible speech should be maintained. We shouldn’t libel others; nor should we scream “fire” in a crowded theater. Some speech might merely provoke bullying. But other forms of speech – forms of moral censure – are necessary for society. This is the legitimate concern of Family Research Council President Tony Perkins:

• “Perkins had made clear…that Christians condemn bullying and violence against homosexuals, and said Christian compassion motivates them to seek to turn homosexuals away from ‘self-destructive’ behavior.”

Is his speech irresponsible? On the contrary, he is arguing against “bullying!” Instead, should we not talk about AIDs because those who have contracted this disease might be stigmatized by such attention? Should we not also talk about the other inherent dangers of the gay lifestyle? Perkins is understandably concerned that political pressure will dissolve such critical free speech distinctions:

“It may happen slowly, but I guarantee that Facebook will begin to broaden its definition of what's ‘hateful’ based on GLAAD's prior actions,” said Perkins.

However, Facebook maintains that it will honor the underlying free speech concerns:

“However, groups that express an opinion on a state, institution, or set of beliefs — even if that opinion is outrageous or offensive to some — do not by themselves violate our policies. When a group created to express an opinion devolves into hate speech, we will remove the hateful comments and may even remove the group itself.”

We shall see, but if the past is any indication of the future, there is a concern that homosexual groups might want to eliminate any speech that calls into question the moral rectitude of the gay sex or any extra-marital sex, for that matter.

• Perkins “referred to GLAAD’s campaign to get him banned from the Washington Post’s editorial page after he penned a column where he said the blame for bullying should rest at the feet of bullies themselves and not at church-going Christians, who believe homosexual behavior is wrong, but affirm the goodness of the person.”

This doesn’t speak highly of GLAAD’s respect for the right of free speech and democratic processes.

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