Monday, March 01, 2010

Regulating the Sale of Scripture

I received an email this evening from some people apparently in Europe who do not understand the meaning of freedom of speech.

Our organization is suing the bible and the koran for sexism, homophobia, call for murder etc. . . . to support a text that would regulate the sale and distribution of those two books in Europe.

To regular readers of my blog, it is almost like a chant.

A right to freedom of speech is not a right to freedom from condemnation for what one says or writes. Indeed, condemnation is itself speech and one of those things that people have a right to.

However, a right to freedom of speech is a right to freedom from violence. It states that the only legitimate responses to words are words and private actions - those actions that one my freely perform without justifying them to anybody.

This lawsuit is a threat to use violence against people for what they say. It is a promise on the part of those who launch the lawsuit to respond to words with violence.

Lawsuits, like the ones being advanced in this email, are attempts to shut people up with threats of violence. "If you are caught saying these things that I hold ought not to be said, then people will come over intent on doing you harm and will do more harm to you if you should also decide to offer resistance."

I not only condemn the lawsuit, but I think that the people who are behind it should have known better. They should realize that any time a culture adopts a policy of using violence to shut up ideas they do not like, they will inevitably shut up some good ideas with the bad. They should also know that they are replacing argument with weapons and potential bloodshed or, at least, threats of bloodshed.

These are not good places to go and this is nowhere that a person with good desiers would want to take us.


mikespeir said...

How does one sue the Bible or Koran?

Anywho, I absolutely agree with your opinion of it.

dbonfitto said...

I suppose you go after the publisher when the author isn't available.

They really ought to just encourage the publishers to stick a "it's just a theory, not a fact" sticker on the inside front cover.

Doug S. said...

To put a more charitable face on it, I can imagine that such a lawsuit could serve several purposes:

1) To establish that the works in question do, indeed, contain material that violates various laws regulating speech - that they ought to be offensive to anyone of modern sensibilities.

2) To call into question the laws restricting speech - if they apply to something that "obviously" shouldn't be restricted, maybe there's something wrong with them.

3) To show that those who enforce the laws restricting speech do not enforce them impartially.