Sunday, August 22, 2004

Religion Imperiled By New 'Iron Curtain'

The New Iron Curtain
By Mike Mina

Freedom of speech and religion are being threatened throughout Western Civilization, not by fascists, Nazis or Communists, but by leftists who have worked their way into positions of power. In Sweden, a Pentecostal pastor was recently sentenced to one month in prison after being found guilty of "hate speech against homosexuals" for a sermon preached in 2003. He allegedly called homosexuality "abnormal, a horrible cancerous tumor in the body of society." Christianity Today cites a church newspaper that claims the prosecutor in this case said "Collecting Bible [verses] on this topic as he does makes this hate speech. "Catholic World News recently reported that this incident prompted Slovakia's Interior Minister Vladimir Palko to complain directly to the Swedish ambassador that the decision demonstrated how "a left-wing liberal ideology was trying to introduce tyranny and misuse the EU for this purpose." Palko added that "In Europe, people are starting to be jailed for saying what they think. "In Canada, bill C-250 was recently signed into law. C-250 makes it a crime to "willfully promote hatred against any identifiable group." While that aim may seem worthy, consider how "hatred" may be determined in practice.Several years ago, a Saskatchewan tribunal fined Hugh Owens for placing a newspaper ad. That ad, also available as a bumper sticker, referenced four Bible passages against homosexuality on its left side, had an equals sign in the middle, and displayed a drawing of two men holding hands within a circle with a slash running through them (like the no-smoking symbol.) The implication is that the referenced Bible passages indicate Divine disfavor with homosexual behavior. The Court of Queen’s Bench upheld the fine in Owens v. Saskatchewan. According to this ruling, "The Board found that the advertisement of the bumper stickers exposed the complainants to hatred, ridicule and an affront to their dignity because of their sexual orientation...."Affronts to dignity supercede the right to free speech in Canada, with the de facto if not de jure exception being, of course, affronts to the dignity of Christians. Justice J. Barclay wrote: "In my view the Board was correct in concluding that the advertisement can objectively be seen as exposing homosexuals to hatred or ridicule. When the use of the circle and slash is combined with the passages of the Bible, it exposes homosexuals to detestation, vilification and disgrace." The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has gone on record against C-250. Not even the United States immune. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a UN-affiliated NGO, recently warned that an amendment to Pennsylvania’s hate crimes law could leave clergy in that state vulnerable to prosecution for preaching about sexual orientation. Becket Fund President Kevin Hasson stated that “Although legislators expressly disavowed the motive at the time, one might be forgiven the impression that one purpose of this legislation was to generate a fear of prosecution among those who would preach and teach in favor of the traditional prohibition on homosexual behavior - a teaching so common to so many faiths.” With all due respect to the Becket Fund, God help the United States of America when the heirs of Washington, Jefferson and the other Founding Fathers need a UN-affiliated NGO to stand up for freedom of speech and religion.Indeed, Thomas Jefferson would be considered a hate criminal under laws of this type. He drafted the "Bill for Proportioning Crimes and Punishments in cases Heretofore Capital," in which he proposed that "Whosoever shall be guilty of Rape, Polygamy, or Sodomy with man or woman shall be punished, if a man, by castration, if a woman, by cutting thro' the cartilage of her nose a hole of one half inch diameter at the least."The hope that the First Amendment will protect Americans from being prosecuted for their speech or for religious expression may be misplaced. The Constitution means whatever the activist Supreme Court says it means, and some Supreme Court judges have been relying increasingly upon foreign jurisprudence to interpret our Constitution. In 1997, Justice O'Connor wrote that "American judges and lawyers can benefit from broadening our horizons... and looking beyond American borders in our search for persuasive legal reasoning." In 2002, she wrote that "conclusions reached by other countries and by the international community should at times constitute persuasive authority in American courts."In 2003, Justice Breyer said "The world ... is becoming more and more one world of many different kinds of people. And how they are going to live together across the world is going to be a challenge. And whether our constitution fits into the governing documents of other nations, I think, will be a challenge for the next generation."In a 2003 speech to the American Constitution Society, Justice Ginsburg said "Our island or lone ranger mentality is beginning to change," and that the Court was "becoming more open to comparative and international law perspectives.... While you are the American Constitution Society, your perspective on constitutional law should encompass the world."Even Chief Justice Rehnquist stated in 1989 that ''now that constitutional law is solidly grounded in so many countries, it is time that the United States courts begin looking to the decisions of other constitutional courts to aid in their own deliberative process. ''The thought of freedom-restricting European and Canadian jurisprudence being insinuated into our own should concern any freedom-loving American. The issue here is not homosexuality, but the vanishing right of people to express opinions that differ from those of the Left.In his famous "Iron Curtain" speech, Winston Churchill said that "... we must never cease to proclaim in fearless tones the great principles of freedom and the rights of man which are the joint inheritance of the English-speaking world and which through Magna Carta, the Bill of rights, the Habeas Corpus, trial by jury, and the English common law find their most famous expression in the American Declaration of Independence. All this means that the people of any country have the right, and should have the power by constitutional action, by free unfettered elections, with secret ballot, to choose or change the character or form of government under which they dwell; that freedom of speech and thought should reign...."Churchill voiced concern that "Except in the British Commonwealth and in the United States where Communism is in its infancy, the Communist parties or fifth columns constitute a growing challenge and peril to Christian civilization." Today, the threats to freedom of speech and thought within the West come from leftists in Europe, Canada and America, and they do constitute a growing challenge and peril to our civilization. Can it be that a new iron curtain is descending upon us, though less perceptibly than the one brought by Communism?The connection between traditional morality and freedom is not surprising to social conservatives. Jefferson was not a believer in the divinity or miracles of Jesus. Nevertheless, he believed that "The studious perusal of the Sacred Volume will make better citizens, better fathers, and better husbands." In his 1784 Notes on the State of Virginia, he asked “Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure, when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but by his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.”A friend of Jefferson who saw him going to church expressed his surprise. "You do not believe a word in it," he accused. Jefferson did not deny the charge, but instead answered "Sir, no nation has ever yet existed or been governed without religion. Nor can be. The Christian religion is the best religion that has been given to man and I as chief Magistrate of this nation am bound to give it the sanction of my example."John Adams stated that "We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."And Benjamin Franklin believed that "Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.... Nothing is of more importance for the public weal than to form and train up youth in wisdom and virtue."As Western Civilization has become less wise and less virtuous, it has become less free, and its liberties less secure. This is the lesson that economic conservatives who are not also social conservatives must learn. They ask, with some justification: What business have we to regulate what consenting adults do in the privacy of their bedrooms? I would argue that the more important question is: Why do those adults and their sympathizers not consent to allow people to disagree with them without fear of prosecution?Leftists claim to value tolerance and diversity, but to them, tolerance means that those who disagree with leftist views must tolerate those views, though leftists will not tolerate those who disagree with them. To leftists, diversity means that people of every race, creed, color and sexual orientation are free to comply with the leftist agenda or be vilified, and in some countries, prosecuted.Economic conservatives would do well to recall the words of Trotsky. "You may not be interested in war," he warned, "but war is interested in you." The culture war matters. Leftists have shown their willingness to revoke freedom of speech and religion to advance their "culture" and further their agenda. This should surprise no one--could moral relativists behave in any other way? While conservatives want to keep the West safe from foreign threats, leftists fight to make the West unsafe for those who disagree with them. Laws, court rulings and speech codes that squelch free speech and free expression of religion remind us that the war for freedom will ultimately be decided, not in the streets of Iraq or the madrassas of Saudi Arabia, but in the hearts and minds of the citizens of the West. The curtain must be rent before it descends any further.

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