Showing posts with label freedom of speech. Show all posts
Showing posts with label freedom of speech. Show all posts

Thursday, January 15, 2015

TFTD: Well Said Holy Father

Full transcript of Pope's interview in-flight to Manila :: Catholic News Agency (CNA)

The Holy Father has spoken about the Charlie Hebdo murders in a way that makes a lot of sense, but will probably not win him support from those who believe there can be no restrictions on speech and press. He makes a two prong statement that addresses both issues:

  1. Using violence in the name of God can never be done.
  2. The freedom of speech is not an absolute that can justify saying anything offensive.

Basically, the Pope said that people have the right and obligation to speak the truth, but freedom is not absolute. One cannot be grossly offensive, especially when it comes to people’s religious beliefs. Even when people are grossly offensive, others don’t have the right to turn to violence in response. However, anger at having something important being attacked is not wrong in itself. (Which is a very useful point—too many try to twist Christians being offended by attacks as if it was “unchristian.”)

Unfortunately, some are beginning to accuse the Pope of supporting the terrorists—never mind the fact that he has continually condemned terrorism and clarified any possible ambiguities in what he said. They look at it as Either-Or, ignoring the fact that condemning both is a legitimate option.

But what he said makes perfect sense. Even if a non-Christian does not share our values, his words can be understood in terms of respect for others. When we make use of the freedom of speech or the press, we have to be respectful of others. When we speak about things we believe to be wrong, we do so with charity. If someone with a large audience does something grossly offensive and millions are offended, there will probably be a small group among them who would be willing to make an extreme response. It would be wrong of them to do so, but they may be motivated to act in spite of the their moral obligations not to murder.

Ultimately, that’s what happened with Charlie Hebdo. Millions of Muslims were angry, and they had a right to be angry by the offensive antics of this magazine. Tragically, some of these Muslims believed it was acceptable to murder. They were wrong to murder, regardless of what offensive garbage the magazine chose to publish. We believe that Charlie Hebdo did not have the right to be grossly offensive, regardless of their convictions.

So, as I see the Pope’s statement, he sees two wrongs: The wrong of people murdering those they disagree with and the wrong of being deliberately offensive. Both of these are condemnable. The Pope is not siding with the terrorists, but he is not Charlie either.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Thoughts on Charlie Hebdo, Freedoms of Speech, Press and Their Abuse

Preliminary Note: The terrorism case in France involves two separate elements—the murder of people who said things that others found offensive on one hand and the inconsistent outrage over the abuse of freedom of the press and speech on the other. To avoid any confusion in the article below, I want to make clear that I denounce these murders as evil. Even though I find the antics of the Charlie Hebdo magazine to be offensive, that offensive behavior does not justify murder as a response. Please keep this in mind that I do not seek to make any excuses for this act of terrorism.

The Situation

The attack in France against a satirical magazine is indeed a terrible thing, but reading the news reports and blogs about it, I can’t help but think that some people have missed the point as to why it was a terrible thing. The catalyst for the attack was the comics published by the magazine Charlie Hebdo which mocked the Muslim prophet Muhammad. Some extremists reacted to the offense by killing twelve people at the magazine offices. The Vatican was quick to respond with a condemnation, and had the right idea of what to condemn, saying it was a “double act of violence, abominable because it is both an attack against people as well as against freedom of the press”. That is the truth—the extremists decided they had the right to commit murder in response to people expressing a view which offended them. In response, we are seeing hashtags going around—#IamCharlieHebdo or #JeSuisCharlie aimed at showing solidarity with the murder victims as martyrs as freedom of speech and press.

Asterix jesuischarlie(The creator of the Asterix comics came out of retirement to publish a protest)

It’s right to be appalled at the use of terrorism as a response to something one finds offensive. But the question is, are we being properly appalled? Or are we merely being appalled in a partisan manner?

Thoughts on Murder as a Tactic vs. Legitimate Tactics in Opposing Evil

First of all, regardless of what is said, no matter how offensive it is, murder is never a justified response. There is a lot of anti-Christian mockery and blasphemy out there. But if some Catholic took it on himself to murder Bill Maher or one of the New Atheists, I would condemn it—not out of sympathy for their speech, but because one may never do evil so that good may come of it. As the Catechism says:

1756 It is therefore an error to judge the morality of human acts by considering only the intention that inspires them or the circumstances (environment, social pressure, duress or emergency, etc.) which supply their context. There are acts which, in and of themselves, independently of circumstances and intentions, are always gravely illicit by reason of their object; such as blasphemy and perjury, murder and adultery. One may not do evil so that good may result from it.

Blasphemy is evil by its very nature, but I may not murder to stop it because murder is also wrong by its very nature. So even when people abuse the freedoms of speech and the press to deliberately be offensive, even when the West has a hypocritical double standard on what they will tolerate, no person may use an evil means to stop it. Before I move on to my reflections on the use and abuse of freedoms of expression, I want to make this clear. There are both evil and good ways to oppose something evil. When the way chosen is evil, it must be condemned. But when the way chosen is not evil, people are free to pursue it. For example, if these murderers had instead organized a peaceful protest or a non violent boycott of Charlie Hebdo, then there would have been nothing to condemn.

I make the above point because I want to make clear that nothing I say below on the use and abuse of freedoms of the press and speech should be seen as a justification of terrorism. If you think you see that as a reader, you’ve misunderstood my point.

Thoughts on Freedom of Speech and Press and Their Abuse

The freedom of speech and the press are very important rights. They protect us so we can speak the truth publicly without being silenced by people who don’t want to have that truth challenge their preferred way of living. Unfortunately, these rights are very precariously perched. It is extremely difficult to protect the legitimate rights of speaking the truth without enabling those who would abuse these rights to publish false or offensive material, and some governments have simply given up trying to find the proper balancing point between the freedom to speak the truth and the “freedom” to say whatever the hell you want.” Pornography, for example, has gone from being recognized as a crime to be considered free speech with very few boundaries (child pornography and necrophilia seem to be the only real barriers left—at least I pray they are still barriers).

Now the ideal of these freedoms would be to recognize that a person has the right to express the truth while excluding the abuse of such freedoms. But since governments have a bad habit of defining what they dislike as an abuse, it is generally recognized that it is better that the abuse be tolerated so as not to restrict the legitimate use of these freedoms. Unfortunately, it really doesn’t work that way in practice.

The fact is, when it comes to the abuse of these freedoms, we have people who slander/libel those they dislike, publicly insulting or harassing certain groups. So long as the targets treated this way are unpopular with the media or the government, the harassers will get away with it. The Double Standard is, a person or group publicizing something attacking a group which is favored by the media can expect either being ignored or being publicized for vilification. But a person or group publicizing something attacking a group which is opposed by the media will generally be supported (For example, Bill Maher’s career of insulting religion).

Thus we have a situation where people are actually behaving like hypocrites. It’s OK to mock or slander/libel Christianity and suffer no consequences. But speak out against something like same sex “marriage” an suddenly, you have no freedom. You can lose your job or be sued or prosecuted. Something is clearly not right here. Either one tolerates both or rejects both if he or she wants to be consistent. Yet we have people who say #IamCharlieHebdo in support of a magazine which openly attacks religion in an offensive way, who won’t stand up for the right of a Christian Fire Chief in Atlanta to express his right in print a book which says homosexual acts are evil. The head of Facebook announces he won’t let extremism silence freedom of speech on Facebook, but Facebook has a history of silencing articles it deems as “offensive.” In fact, it’s in the policy page:

Facebook does not permit hate speech, but distinguishes between serious and humorous speech. While we encourage you to challenge ideas, institutions, events, and practices, we do not permit individuals or groups to attack others based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or medical condition.

Pretend it’s a joke and you can bash religion to your heart’s content (Facebook pages like “The Virgin Mary Should Have Aborted” are allowed even though it exists to attack religion). Post a serious article on why homosexuality is wrong and it can get blocked or removed.

Censorship 12(It took a lot of fighting on Facebook to get an article posted)

So, the question arises—if a person hashtags  #IamCharlie Hebdo, as a protest against the assault on freedom of speech and press, then why are they willing to accept other censorship? If the freedom of speech and press is an absolute, then the unpopular teachings of Christianity needs to be given the same rights to publish and be seen as those who bash Christianity already have.


It seems to me that the current outrage has missed the point. Yes, it is right to condemn these murders. Yes it is right to condemn the idea that a person or group can use violence to strike against those who say things that are offensive. But unless one is prepared to ask whether there is a double standard in play—such as tolerating hatred of groups one dislikes (like Christianity) and only getting outraged when it affects those one agrees with—it makes no sense to hashtag #IamCharlieHebdo. Why? Because such a protest is not a protest for justice. Rather it is a protest that an ally was attacked.

There is a civil way to oppose intolerance, but it requires us to remember truth and the obligation to treat the one we disagree with in a just manner, even when we believe we must oppose that person or group. That civil way is not really found in the West anymore. It is demanded that Christians give this civility, but it is not given to Christians.

So yes, be outraged that terrorists murdered over a dozen people on account of their being offended. But while doing that, why not ask if your own behavior is intolerant as well in what you accept being done to those you dislike?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

TFTD: The Chilling Imposition of Ideology

I came across an article today: "Catholic profs told to report opposition to 'gay marriage' as harassment :: Catholic News Agency (CNA),” that is troubling in one sense, and downright chilling in another sense. The troubling sense of the article is that a Catholic university (Marquette) has had a training session which tells them to report opposition to so-called “same sex marriage” as “harassment.”  The article reports a spokesman from Marquette as saying:

Brian Dorrington, senior director of communications at Marquette University, told CNA Nov. 21 that the university requires all employees, faculty, staff and student employees, to complete an anti-harassment module “in accordance with federal law and university policy,” He added that harassment training “includes the latest changes in law, and workplace diversity training reflects developing regulations.”

He said the presentation uses “hypothetical scenarios” are “teaching tools do not necessarily equate to university policy.”

Given that the Church condemns sexual acts outside of the marriage of one man and one woman as morally wrong, the fact that a Catholic university has given such a training session to be morally troubling.

However, while troubling (a Catholic university should bear witness to the truth despite what people say), this is not what makes it chilling.

What makes it chilling is the fact that this university believes it has to do this to be in compliance with EEOC regulations and court decisions that decree that the belief in marriage being between one man and one woman is “discriminatory.” Apparently, the government sees this belief, expressed publicly, is considered harassment. In other words, to publicly express that a thing is morally wrong is speech which can be targeted. As the program states:

“Although employees have free speech rights under the United States Constitution, in academic and other workplaces those rights are limited when they infringe upon another person’s right to work in an environment free of unlawful harassment.”

Of course, the person who thinks they should be allowed to work without having their religious beliefs attacked aren’t covered. The rights of the atheist to mock Christianity in a university is widespread. But the rights of the Christian to say, “This is wrong,” are blocked.

So, it’s a “right” that is similar to the sentiment expressed in George Orwell’s Animal Farm: "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."

if someone dislikes what you have to say, you can’t say it—so long as what you say goes against the favored ideologies. So, you’re free to bash religion in public, but presumably a Catholic in a Catholic institution could be accused of harassment for quoting the Catechism of the Catholic Church when it states:

2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,141 tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”142 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved. (2333)

2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection. (2347)

Our teaching says we cannot mistreat a person—treat him or her as less than human—just because he or she has a same-sex inclination, but that doesn’t mean we have to accept such behavior as morally indifferent. But apparently, speaking out on what is right counts as “unlawful harassment."

What it boils down to is that we no longer have the freedoms of the First Amendment. We have preferred ideologies which are free to say what they want, and unpopular beliefs which will not be tolerated when they speak against the preferred ideology.

That’s kind of troubling. One thinks of how Brendan Eich was forced out of Mozilla because he privately supported the defense of marriage against redefinition by a donation. Mozilla suffered no repercussions for their action, even though Eich’s action was in no way a violation of Mozilla policy. But, on the other hand, a Catholic parish is being sued because they terminated an employee for publicly flaunting their defiance of Church teaching. One wonders if, by 2016, Google (which runs the Blogger sites) might decide that the blogs which speak in a way they disapprove of can be removed because they promote “discrimination.” Perhaps not, but it is part of the same principle—if speech our political and social elites dislike can be labelled “unlawful harassment,” then the limits to what they can get away with are few.

That’s a real problem. Such policies violate freedom—which America is supposed to be based on—in several different ways, but because the targets are unpopular with the cultural elites, they can get away with it..

In terms of the Freedom of Religion, Catholics believe that the Church is given the mission by Christ to preach the Gospel to all nations. This includes teaching about sin and the need for repentance. We cannot be forced to do what we think is evil and we cannot be forced by the government to teach only what they want us to teach. The Constitution, in this respect, recognizes that the government does not have the right to make such demands on a person. But more and more often, we are seeing the government decree (or permit lawsuits) that do make such demands, while denying the rights of the Christians to live as they believe they ought—particularly if they run a business.

In terms of Freedom of Speech, we are seeing amazing hypocrisy. Christians in America are constantly being told that if we don’t like something, just ignore it. But when others hear Christians say or do things they dislike, we’re told to cease and desist. There’s no freedom of speech there. At a bare minimum, we can say, either give us the same freedoms that our critics possess or give them the same restrictions they give us. Otherwise, there is no freedom.

Our rights to petition the government peaceably for grievances are being denied. When we enact laws which promote the shared values of a majority of citizens, the result is unelected courts overturning the laws they dislike—not by a blind equality for both sides, but by an unequal favoritism towards some views.

Now, it is disappointing that Marquette went along with this policy, instead of standing up for what was right. But let’s remember that the symptom of Marquette reflects the real problem—that publicly expressing what we believe is right means we can suffer legal penalties for being obedient to Christ in a way that even the most indifferent person should recognize is a right the Constitution promises and the government ignores.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Tactics of Redefinition Leads to the Abuse of Law

A few months ago, people were arguing that a religious  freedom was for individuals, not for businesses. Now, definitions have changed again, and a couple who run a marriage chapel according to their religious beliefs are being told to perform same-sex “weddings” or face penalties of 180 days in jail and $1000 in fines for each day they refuse to perform these services. (For refusing to perform one service for one year, that’s 180 years and being fined $365,000 . . . murderers don’t face those penalties).

The argument is that this chapel is not a church but is "considered a place of [public?] accommodation” and therefore subject to the ordinance.

Now a place of accommodation is considered to include:

A public accommodation is a private entity that owns, operates, leases, or leases to, a place of public accommodation. Places of public accommodation include a wide range of entities, such as restaurants, hotels, theaters, doctors' offices, pharmacies, retail stores, museums, libraries, parks, private schools, and day care centers. Private clubs and religious organizations are exempt from the ADA's title III requirements for public accommodations.

So, basically this is assuming that because a wedding chapel, which approaches marriage from a Christian perspective, serves the public, it cannot refuse performing same-sex ceremonies. This is essentially a use of redefining in order to change the meaning of the law to the benefit of one group and the detriment of another group.

That’s the common practice in America today. When it comes to religious freedom, the government practice is to define the law or court ruling in such a way that they can exclude as many as possible from the exercising of these rights if the exercise of religious freedom goes against the preference of the lawmaker or the judge.

Religious freedom belongs to the Bill of Rights as something the individual possesses independently of what the government bestows—the government simply has no right to infringe on them. The First Amendment essentially enables the freedom to do what one feels morally obligated to do. It’s not a laundry list of separate and unrelated rights. It’s a case of of forbidding the government from coercing people to do that which they believe is immoral to do. The amendment reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

So according to this, the State cannot:

  1. Restrict one’s right of peacefully living in accord with one’s religious beliefs.
  2. Restrict one’s right to peacefully speak or write to promote what one believes is good and oppose what is evil—openly.
  3. Restrict one’s right to peacefully assemble with people who share one’s beliefs.
  4. Restrict one’s right to peacefully change the government through legal means when we believe it is going in the wrong direction.

But the government and groups allied with it have been restricting these rights by trying to limit the influence of religion in the following ways:

  1. Denying the freedom of religion from applying to all aspects of the life of the person who adheres to it.
  2. Bullying people from speaking out on what is right.
  3. Limiting what kind of groups that assemble can practice religious freedom—for example, denying places of businesses can be run according to religious beliefs of the owners.
  4. Negating laws supported by a majority of citizens on the grounds that it has a “religious motivation.”

These tactics pervert the First Amendment by making the government the judge of which religious values are legitimate concerns, when the whole point of the First Amendment was to prevent the government from behaving in this way. The government being able to restrict whether a person or group may be free to hold to a belief others may dislike is a dangerous one. The Nazi and Communist regimes are obvious examples of a government forbidding anything deemed to be against their interests. But other restrictions by less extreme regimes differ only by degree because the government is still demanding authority over the religion one believes to be right.

Thus the government declares that a university or hospital affiliated with a Church may not refuse to supply coverage of contraception and abortifacient drugs even though the Church believes the use of these things is wrong. It decrees that a wedding chapel, run by Christians according to religious values, may not refuse to officiate over a relationship the owners believe cannot even be a marriage. It says laws passed by a majority of citizens affirming that marriage is a relationship that only can exist between one man and one woman, or laws acknowledging that the unborn child is a human being are not valid because the shared beliefs of the voters is deemed “religious.” (Genetic Fallacy).

The defense currently popular with the government and its allies is to equate these things with historical “discrimination.” For example, laws against contraception and abortion are considered “discriminating” against women. Laws defining marriage as existing only between one man and one woman are labelled as discriminating against people with same sex attraction. The assumption is supposed to be proven, but the fact is people assume it is proof. (Begging the Question Fallacy).

Ultimately, what the government does is to constantly redefine things in order to place something they dislike under the categories of “discrimination,” “establishment clause,” or “equal protection clause” in order to prevent them from being enforced.

What was once recognized as freedom under the First Amendment is now called “discrimination.” This is not because we have become more enlightened (begging the question again), but because it is a convenient way to negate a law the government dislikes without using the legal process to change a law.

Another tactic is the slippery slope fallacy. It is alleged that without the government and the courts overseeing religion, we’re opening the doors for the rise of sharia law or human sacrifice. But that’s asinine. The American concept of the freedom of religion has never recognized the right of a religion to actively harm another person. Nor have the advocates of religious freedom ever advocated such a thing. Catholic bishops condemn abortion—but they also condemn the murder of the abortionist.

Scare tactics like that make no sense. It’s wrong for Person A from Religion B to murder another person, so it’s wrong for person A to oppose contraception and abortion?

If anything, it’s government that is behaving in a coercive way. Imposing support for anti-Christian values against the will of the Christian citizen is merely a bloodless version of something like ISIS is doing in the Middle East. Go along or be targeted—by law or by bullying in our case. I don’t use this image insensitive of the suffering of the Middle East. Rather I am pointing out that, regardless of whether one uses law or terror to impose a position, one is actively forcing believers to do what they believe is wrong (which is quite different from forcing everybody to do what a religion wants). It is a violation of religious freedom

So ultimately, we have to beware the government because the government changes the meaning of words (fallacy of redefining). When it changes the definitions of words and legal terms, such as “religious freedom” and “marriage,” it does so to vilify the opponent or to promote its own agenda. The danger is, when we allow the government to do such things, it can easily change anything it wants. The only defense is to hold it to the true definition every time.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Unpopular Speech is not Hate Speech

One popular tactic in the American Kulturkampf (yes, it's here—no longer a case of if) is the argument that the freedom of speech and religion only mean you can't be arrested for saying it. People who use this argument claim that a person can't be arrested for saying something is wrong, but they still can be fired, sued, fined or re educated for doing so.

It scares me that people are falling for this spurious reasoning. Effectively, it is saying that if an employer dislikes your morals, he can fire you over them . . . BUT only for certain moral stands: The Christian employee can be forced out because he thinks homosexual acts are wrong, but the secular employee can't be fired by the Christian employer for thinking them right.

What it boils down to is that America is willing to tolerate restrictions on unpopular speech. If the powers that be (political, media, cultural) don't like a position, the person holding it can be ostracized for holding it. But if a business or religious based school or hospital tries to operate according to their beliefs, they can be forced to tolerate behavior they believe is wrong.

Guess which one is accused of forcing their views on others?

Basically, the whole tactic allows the media, government and political elites to decide what speech and belief is legitimate and what is not. That's not free speech. That's censorship worthy of the former Eastern Bloc. Whether or not you remain free after you speak depends on whether the elites approve of what you said.

But legitimate limits on free speech come into play when the speech causes harm. I'm not allowed to yell "Fire!" in a crowded theater. I'm not free to plan a felony. I'm not free to incite a riot. Nobody disputes that these are legitimate limits on the freedom of speech.

But the fact is, the Christian moral teaching is not hate filled and is not discriminatory—it is unpopular because it tells people that some behaviors are wrong and people don't want to hear that they are doing wrong and have to change.

To Discriminate, properly speaking, is to:

make an unjust distinction in the treatment of different categories of people, especially on the grounds of race, sex, or age.

But if God exists and He has condemned behavior that is contrary to how people should live, then informing people that this behavior is wrong is not discrimination any more than the Cal Trans worker with a sign saying "Bridge Out" is discriminating against which road you can choose to use. It's informing people of reality before they suffer harm.

The Christian who understands the obligations of the faith knows he or she cannot hate a person who sins. Correction must be given when a person does wrong and endangers his or her soul:

You, son of man—I have appointed you as a sentinel for the house of Israel; when you hear a word from my mouth, you must warn them for me. When I say to the wicked, “You wicked, you must die,” and you do not speak up to warn the wicked about their ways, they shall die in their sins, but I will hold you responsible for their blood. If, however, you warn the wicked to turn from their ways, but they do not, then they shall die in their sins, but you shall save your life. (Ezekiel 33:7–9).

(In this verse, God is speaking to the Prophet Ezekiel on the obligation to warn people endangering their souls).

The problem is, many people assume that opposition to a behavior must be based on the hatred of the person who does the wrong act.

Certainly a Christian can sinfully hate someone who does wrong. A Christian can misuse speech to cause harm if he actively promotes violence. Nobody denies this . . . but the fact is, those Christians who do these things (and that number is much smaller than the rhetoric would have you believe) are opposed by most other Christians who fully understand their faith and are aware of this twisting of the Christian faith. So to use the examples of extremists to attack the Christian belief in general is basically no different than to use the fact that some members of an ethnic group are felons to denounce all members of that ethnic group.

The important thing to remember is that America has lost sight of the fact that there is a major difference between Unpopular Speech and Hate Speech. Unfortunately, people nowadays believe that the use of coercion is a legitimate tactic to silence a person who says something they dislike.

So long as people are willing to accept this tactic, we cannot hope to become a free nation again.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Church and State


If one wants to be consistent in arguing the "Separation of Church and State," reason requires that we point out the fact that one cannot keep the Church out of the State without keeping the State out of the Church as well.  The problem is this is increasingly ignored by the Federal Government.

Christianity, in following Christ's command to “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God” (Mark 12:17) recognizes that the State has certain areas of authority granted to it for the common good and the protection of the people and that the people are required to give obedience to the authority in these matters.  However, Christians are also required to give obedience to God in matters which concern Him and the State has no authority to oppose or interfere with these commands.

Thus the state can pass laws which provide for the protection and benefit of the population.  For example, it can collect taxes (though not excessively) to make it possible to carry out its duties.  It can set traffic laws for the protection of the people.  There is nothing sacred about driving on the right or the left side of the road, but the government mandates one to avoid the danger of head-on collisions.  The government can set laws concerning military service for the defense of the nation.  There is nothing unreasonable about this as a general principle, though one can certainly judge how the state carries this out (such as a fair conscription in times of national emergency vs. an arbitrary "press gang").

However, the state does not have the authority to mandate what is to be morally acceptable. nor to force religions to participate in things that they find morally repugnant.  The state cannot justly compel Jews and Muslims to eat Pork, nor to force them to provide it for others for example.

The State Cannot Pass Laws outside its Competence or Area of Authority

In Robert Bolt's play A Man for All Seasons, we have an exchange between Thomas Cromwell and St. Thomas More concerning King Henry VII and his Act of Supremacy declaring him the head of the Church in England.  Thomas Cromwell attempts to reason that since More does not know the state of the souls who did sign and he does know he has a duty of obedience to the King, he should therefore sign his assent to the Act.  However, St. Thomas More points out:

Some men think the Earth is round and others think it is flat.  But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round?  And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it?  No, I will not sign. (Page 133).

St. Thomas More's point is a good one.  There are some things the state does not have the authority to declare. Regardless of what the State declares, if it is contrary to what is reality, such a law is meaningless and is nothing more than the state trying to tell people what to think or to do… tyranny.

The State has No Authority to Compel Compliance with an Unjust Law

Let's take another angle.  In the (admittedly mediocre) movie CSA: Confederate States of America, one of the premises is that the victorious South, in attempting to bring the conquered North into its way of life, creates a quandary.  A reconstruction tax is to be imposed on the conquered Northerners.  However, this tax can be avoided by the purchase of a slave.  It leaves the northerners with three choices:

  1. To purchase a slave.
  2. To pay the ruinous taxes.
  3. To leave the country.

The movie shows that the intent of the law is for people to choose option #1 to remove a cultural barrier between the North and the South.  Most Northerners do choose option #1, with a minority choosing option #3.  The viewer is supposed to recognize that all three of the choices are unjust.  Slavery is wrong, and the person who recognizes it as being wrong should not be forced into ruinous taxes or exile.

Both Violations Exist in America in 2012

It is interesting that people can see the problem in the movie, but not see that a very real version is happening right now in America.  With the HHS mandate for example, employers with religious beliefs that tell them that contraception and abortifacients are morally wrong are put in the same quandary.  Failing to provide contraception/abortifacient coverage in their health care plans results in a fine which can equal $100 per employee per day.  It is estimated that the Evangelical owned "Hobby Lobby" could potentially have to pay up to $1.3 million dollars a day for refusing to comply with the HHS mandate.

In other words, the company has these options:

  1. To comply with what they believe to be immoral.
  2. To pay ruinous fines.
  3. To stop doing business in America.

Christians are not Imposing their Beliefs on Others when they Defend their own Rights

Now the examples of A Man for All Seasons and CSA bring out two important facts.  First, that a government which seeks to mandate what is morally acceptable has no authority to do so, and second, when it seeks to coerce acceptance of such a mandate, it is behaving tyrannically and exceeds its authority.

Remembering this is important where supporters of the government's policies are labeling Christians as being intolerant and imposing views on others.  The First Amendment points out:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

So the employer with religious beliefs which tells him or her that providing insurance coverage for contraception or abortifacients is wrong has the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances in regards to the interference with the free exercise of religion.  The government does not have the right to restrict these freedoms.  Religious believers have the right to object to and challenge the HHS mandate and do not impose their views on others in doing so.

Nor do we impose our views on others when we seek to instruct voters as to why certain government policies are unjust and seek to encourage the passage of laws that overturn the injustices.  Our nation was founded on this principle, as stated in the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

The irony is, it is the religious believers seeking to defend their rights declared in the Declaration and the Constitution are unjustly accused of violating these rights, while those who do or favor the actual violations are treated as the victims.

Our objection to the unjust Laws, Mandates and Court Rulings is not out of opposition to the democratic process, but is out of opposition to the imposition of something the government has no right to impose in the first place and has no right to coerce our compliance with unjust sanctions.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Fifth Anniversary Post: Lincoln was Right

In my first post, written September 22nd, 2007, I quoted Abraham Lincoln who had written:

Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation we began by declaring that "all men are created equal." When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read "all men are created equal, except Negroes and foreigners and Catholics." When it comes to this, I shall prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty — to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy hypocrisy.

In that post I had written about my concerns that America was in danger of passing unjust laws in which "the just who are constrained and the unjust are free."

Fast forwarding five years to today, September 22nd, 2012, it is no longer a theoretical question about the danger of passing unjust laws.  They are now passed, and the fate of the First Amendment is much more dubious than it was when I first wrote.  The propaganda of the current presidency and his supporters are in fact blaming people who are trying to defend their religious freedom for "imposing their views on others."

I find that curious.

The Catholic who believes abortion is wrong and uses his or her rights as an American citizen (freedom of speech, the right to vote etc.)  regarding this moral conviction is told he or she is "imposing views on others."  The atheist who believes abortion is a right and uses his or her rights as an American citizen to expand the legality and reach of abortion is praised for "protecting freedom."

Both the Catholic and the atheist in this case are acting according to what they believe.  But one is vilified for doing so and the other is praised.  One is harassed when speaking while the other is protected.  This is an arbitrary application of law, of media reporting calculated to favor one group and denigrate another.

I believe Lincoln was right.  America is a nation where there is a pretense of loving liberty, but no longer an actual love of liberty.  It is the alloy of hypocrisy to praise freedom when the HHS mandate is telling religious institutions that their schools and hospitals must choose between going against what they believe God commands them to do and being fined/taxed out of existence.

People of good will should think about that.  On one hand we have the the First Amendment to the Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

On the other hand, we have a government prohibiting the free exercise of religion by telling religious hospitals and schools that they must pay for insurance coverage for abortifacients and contraception – even if these hospitals and schools think it wrong and refusing to consider the petitions for the redress of grievances.

When the Church (and other denominations) speak out on this, it draws the accusation of "violating the separation of Church and State" and potential legal sanctions.

So we see again Lincoln's point.  America claims to love liberty, but is willing to set it aside when seeking to suppress someone who takes a stand and says "What America is doing is wrong here."  That is "the practice of claiming to have higher standards or more laudable beliefs than is the case" as the Oxford English Dictionary defines hypocrisy.

The sad thing is, once the principle is accepted (which at this time seems to depend somewhat on the results of the November 2012 elections and the Supreme Court challenges), it becomes easy for any future government to use this to their own ends.  It doesn't have to even be the scenario of Obama who makes the United States into a dictatorship.  A future presidency could take the premise Obama established and use it to further his or her own ends, using the force of government to silence opponents.

So with this in mind, what are we to do?  The individual Christians seems weak.  The Church is attacked in a way that seeks to silence her.  The courts seem indifferent to these violations.  The government is actively involved in promoting this violation.  Are we doomed to suffer the violation of religious freedom?

At a time like this, I am reminded of the words of St. Augustine:

God therefore does not command impossibilities; but in His command He counsels you both to do what you can for yourself, and to ask His aid in what you cannot do.

Augustine of Hippo. (1887). A Treatise on Nature and Grace (P. Holmes, Trans.). In P. Schaff (Ed.), A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series, Volume V: Saint Augustin: Anti-Pelagian Writings (P. Schaff, Ed.) (138). New York: Christian Literature Company.

We need to both pray concerning what is outside of our control, and do what God wants us to do.  We can't hide in a bunker and complain loudly about bishops being at fault because we're still under fire.  All of us who profess to be Catholics have a role to play.  It might be something like informing people on a national scale, but it also might be a matter of informing a co-worker who speaks about the so-called "war on women" how things really are.

God does have a role for each one of us to play.  We do have the free will to cooperate with God or to ignore that role He calls us for.  However, we must remember that God doesn't always use spectacular miracles to make His will known.  Sometimes he calls on the little people – like how he called a collection of tax collectors, fishermen and the like to bring His message to the whole world.

How far would those twelve men had gotten if everyone else in the Church had, instead of taking part in the mission of the Church, instead sat around and complained about how terrible these Apostles were for not getting more done?

In 2007, I don't think anyone foresaw this coming.  Now that it is here, we have to remember that all of us: Catholics, Protestants, non-Christians, non-believers – all people seeking to do right – need to make a stand against a government which is choosing to do wrong.

If we don't, the words Cardinal George uttered in 2010 will be prophetic:

"I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr"

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Bleak Fourth of July


         “Why do you recite my commandments
         and profess my covenant with your mouth? 
         You hate discipline;
         you cast my words behind you!"
(Psalm 50:16b-17)

—From the Responsorial Psalm for July 4th, 2012

Independence Day is the day we celebrate the birth of our nation from being a colony of England.  The nation was founded on the recognition of the fact that man had, by his very nature, inalienable rights that do not come from the state so the state cannot take them away.  We have always been a free nation in principle, though tragically we have sometimes in our history failed to recognize that certain groups of people had the status of men, seeking to deny them the rights due to all human beings.

The Founding Fathers always recognized the concept of Natural Law .  They recognized that there is a way which all human beings should behave which fits into their nature of being human, not being an animal.

The point is, in our Declaration of Independence, our justification for breaking away from the British Empire was based on the premise that a government which is in opposition to the natural law must be altered or abolished.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

This is not "Hallmark Card" sentimentality.  This is a recognition that the government cannot do what it pleases – it must always respect the natural law and the rights inherent in being human.

Recognizing this, the Founding Fathers specifically listed in the Bill of Rights restrictions against legislation that was in opposition to those natural laws.  To go against these principles is to become a government destructive of these ends.

The First Amendment, as written, recognizes the freedom of conscience to do right before God and the need to speak out openly when the nation does wrong as one of these unalienable rights:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

So, the government cannot do the following:

  1. Interfere with religion by either promoting one denomination or preventing one from exercising their faith freely.
  2. Interfere with the ability to speak openly without fear of government reprisals
  3. Interfere with the ability to write openly without fear of government reprisals.
  4. Interfere with the ability to peaceably assemble concerning grievances against the government.

It's a wise Amendment to the Constitution.  It prevents the Government from forcing the people to do evil and prevents them from silencing condemnation when they do wrong.

Or so it was in theory.

It is a sad Independence Day this year, because some of us are fearful that the Government of the United States will interfere with the free exercise of religion by mandating that Catholic Schools and Hospitals, and Catholics who run their own businesses will be mandated to provide certain services which faithful Catholics believe go against the command of God.  The only way to avoid this, is to limit the services to Catholics alone (though I suspect a discrimination lawsuit would quickly follow).

So a Catholic Hospital must choose between disobeying God when it comes to caring for the (non-Catholic) sick or disobeying God by trivializing sex as if it were merely an "itch to scratch."

Preventing a member of a religion from doing what their faith tells them they must do – without fear of repercussions – is indeed prohibiting the free exercise of religion.

Unfortunately, this is not merely a problem of a corrupt government.  We've had warning signs for years.  Pharmacists risking loss of their jobs for refusing to sell abortifacient drugs have been met with silence or a public attitude of "so go work elsewhere if you can't do your job."  Owners of a business who are religious and believe they cannot offer services supporting so-called "Gay Marriage" are sued for "discrimination."

Basically, we have a society which tolerates injustice in the name of an ideology they support.  So, "Throw the bums out" is only part of the issue.  If people will keep voting the bums back in, ignoring the abuses if they support the preferred ideology, we will continue to have these problems until one day we might be unable to vote the bums out any longer – because they won't let us.

What is happening is the Government has taken and altered the First Amendment in practice:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

If this action by the Obama administration is allowed to stand, it means that apart of the First Amendment can be ignored.  We will have permanently lost a part of the freedoms the Government has no right to take away from us.  Any future religious group can be coerced by the administration in power if its beliefs are inconvenient.

This is why I find the state of affairs so bleak this July 4th.  We are still free this year, though our freedom is challenged.  How many more Independence Days will we have before we are no longer free?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

What Will You Do If They Come For You?

With the recent news of the government first forbidding the reading of the letter issued by Archbishop Timothy Broglio (who oversees the Catholic chaplains) condemning the HHS decision, and then after a protest, censoring the letter that was read, we must ask… how can anyone pretend that the Obama administration is not a menace to the rights and liberties of all Americans?

First we have the imposing of a directive which demands that religious institutions either comply with providing coverage for contraception, sterilization and abortifacients or shut down.  Now the government is beginning to stifle the freedom to oppose such directives.

Now I recognize that not all Americans share the views of this blog or of the Catholic Church that this blog seeks to reflect.  However, even those who do not share these views need to consider something.

If the Obama administration succeeds in their tactics, then there is nothing to prevent them from using these tactics against any other body who displeases them.  Moreover, if the administration is removed from power and if these tactics are left in place, then whoever succeeds the Obama administration will also have these tools to stifle dissent.

Regardless of one's views of politics or morality, the Obama administration is taking a path which all people of good will must oppose.  Otherwise the American concept of freedom ends in failure and we become yet another nation with an authoritarian regime. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Partisan Secularism

I've been thinking about the concept of the "Separation of Church and State." In theory, it means the government gives neither favor nor hindrance to any religion.  Yet, in practice it means that the state silences religion when it comes to the matters of public affairs and shows favor to secularism which is antagonistic to religion.

So essentially, in America, we have a view which says institutions which believe in God should have no say in speaking on issues involving legislation while those which either deny the existence of God or else treat it as unimportant are allowed to interfere to the extent they choose without restriction.

So when one considers this, we can see that we have a legal system in America which stands the first amendment on its head.  Churches have to be careful about speaking out on abortion or gay marriage lest they suffer tax penalties for "lobbying."  Yet non-religious organizations can lobby without concern. 

I find it interesting that one common response I've seen in comboxes is the concept that since we're not treated like religion is being treated in China, we're not being treated wrongly.  Such a view is an either-or fallacy.

  1. Either Religion in America is [persecuted like it is in China] or it is [not treated unfairly]. (Either [A] or [B]).
  2. Religion in America is not [persecuted like it is in China] (Not [A])
  3. Therefore it is [not treated unfairly]. (Therefore [B])

The error of such a view is that one need not reach the levels of persecution in China to treat religion unfairly.

What is overlooked is that in modern times, religion is viewed as yet another institution when it comes to denying the existence and authority of God (it is not given any special heed) on one hand but treated as "pushing their views on others" when it comes to speaking out on the problems of society.

Essentially this means that a secular group is permitted to seek to influence others but a religious group is not.

When one view is permitted to act and speak freely but another is not allowed to do the same, we call this unjust and showing partiality.  We call it partisan.

Yet this partisanship and partiality exists in America today.  Religion is not free.  This doesn't mean we're overtly persecuted (as some atheists have mockingly used as a straw man).  However, it does mean the state has shown itself to show partiality to secularism – giving them a free range to speak and act while restricting how churches may speak out on issues concerning the nation.  When secular institutions which favor homosexual couples adopting children and restrict religious institutions which say this is wrong, this is in fact partisan behavior in favor of secular beliefs.

This is why I believe America is no longer a free nation in terms of religion.  Yes, I am free to write this blog, yes there is Catholic radio and TV out there which can broadcast without interference.  However, when the state shows partiality to one side it follows the other side is either hindered or not given the same rights.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Sooner We Realize America Is No Longer Free, The Sooner We Can Take Action

So this is how liberty dies... with thunderous applause

Revenge of the Sith


This is what Happens When You Try To Link This Article to Facebook

(This is what happens when you try to post the linked article to Facebook)

An article was written on a Catholic blog concerning a Catholic couple being sued for refusing to allow their business to host a reception for a Homosexual "marriage."  It's an excerpt from a longer article found here.

The couple stated:

“We have never refused rooms or dining or employment to gays or lesbians,” they wrote. “Many of our guests have been same-sex couples. We welcome and treat all people with respect and dignity. We do not however, feel that we can offer our personal services wholeheartedly to celebrate the marriage between same-sex couples because it goes against everything that we as Catholics believe in.”

So it's come to this.  A Catholic who tries to keep to his faith and stand against what he believes to be immoral can now be sued for standing up against the state.  I'm sorry but this sort of a thing is against everything I ever was proud about to be an American.  Nazis can march on Skokie, Illinois.  Klansmen can burn a cross on public land.  Artists can show desecrated religious icons and all is well.  But let a Christian seek to make a stand for what we believe and this is what happens.

We should pray for our nation, that the courts and the lawmakers see this and recognize that if this is allowed to go forward, we can no longer consider ourselves to be a free nation, but rather we can be said to be at best partially authoritarian.

It is also alarming that this sort of acceptance of losing our freedoms spreads further.  Facebook censors this article from being posted.  It is acceptable for people to post anti-Catholic material from pro-homosexual links, but this – which is simply a news article – is blocked because it is now determined we are not free to speak out on what is right or wrong.  Think of it.  This is not a Fred Phelps kind of article using slurs against homosexuals.  It merely reports that Catholics are being sued for standing up for their faith.  So it seems that speaking out against immoral acts is no longer permissible in society and perhaps it will soon be forbidden by law as well.

It is a sad thing.  Our Bill of Rights once gave us the freedoms to do what our consciences obligated us to do.  Now, we have favored classes which may never be questioned and certain beliefs that may never be questioned.

Yes, I know that Jesus did tell us:

22 Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man.

23 Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way. (Luke 6:22-23)

However, that does not mean those who do this to us do right to persecute us.

Very well.  I will follow the example of St. Thomas More and be faithful to my nation insofar as my nation does not ask me to disobey my God, for I must obey God instead of man if the laws of the nation are in conflict with Him, and I pray I will not falter if God calls on me to suffer for my faith and that He give me the grace to press on.  Perhaps I worry for nothing.  I am nobody important.  But then, neither was this couple.

Just know that the injustice is not being done by the Catholic couple with a Vermont inn.  It is being done by those who would deny us the right to follow our conscience and obey God.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Reflections on the California Video Game Law Before the Supreme Court

There is recently a California law before the Supreme Court which forbids the sales of certain violent video games to minors (See here for some background).  What strikes me about this discussion is what is not being asked.

The Issue NOT Under Discussion

First of all, let me preempt certain angry responses

On some gamer sites, the argument tends to go that people either are entirely for censorship or must insist on no restrictions whatsoever, so let me make clear that this article is not an article supporting state control over all issues of our lives.

Moreover, this is not an article seeking to defend the California law (I think it should be redrafted personally as it is too vague in some parts and redundant in others)

What this Article IS About

What this article hopes to make clear is that there is a difference between the rights which an adult possesses and the rights which a child not yet legally responsible for their own decisions possesses — specifically the issue of the rights of the parent to bring up their children in accordance to what is right.

Ultimately this article focuses on the question of whether the retailer has the right to sell a movie or game with content labeled Mature or Restricted to a minor without consulting the parent.

"Freedom of Speech" Misses the Point

The article cites some of the Supreme Court Justices as divided:

"We do not have a tradition in this country of telling children they should watch people actively hitting schoolgirls over the head with a shovel so they'll beg with mercy, being merciless and decapitating them, shooting people in the leg so they fall down," Chief Justice John Roberts said, according to a Nov. 2 report by the Associated Press.

By contrast, Justice Antonin Scalia said: "I am concerned with the First Amendment, which says Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech." He then added: "It has never been understood that the freedom of speech did not include portrayals of violence. You are asking us to create a whole new prohibition which the American people never ratified when they ratified the First Amendment."

Here is my problem with the basic assumptions of the Court: That it is a Free Speech issue as opposed to an issue of denying parents the right to control the media their minor children are exposed to.

The Parental Authority over their Children Overrides the Freedom of Expression for the Child

Whether one is strict on lenient on the types of restrictions which ought to be placed on content in media, one issue which used to be recognized is that the parent has the right to set the restrictions on what his or her minor child can view.

When one recognizes this, it becomes irrelevant to what the Supreme Court says on Free Speech.  If a parent deems certain material offensive, the Supreme Court does not have the right to overrule the parental decision.

Now of course there are limits.  As I pointed out in a past article parents can use poor judgment, and that merely using the "if it is ok with the parent, nobody has a right to complain" argument can lead to some extreme problems. 

We do realize there are also some moral absolutes involved.  If (to use a hypothetical example) a parent were to see nothing wrong with permitting their minor children the right to drink, smoke and watch pornography, most people would consider such parents failing to live up to their obligation in bringing up their children.

So here we run into a problem.  Some parents do have issues with the exposure of their children to R rated moves and M rated video games.  Others do not.  So the question is what happens when a minor goes to buy a movie or a game which is rated for an age above the person buying it?

Understanding the Movie/Game Rating System

We do recognize that certain bodies offer ratings to advise parents of the content of certain media.  The MPAA for example has an 'R' rating which advises that "Children Under 17 Require Accompanying Parent or Adult Guardian."  It also has an 'NC-17' rating which advises "No One 17 and Under Admitted."  Such ratings are not considered censorship for requiring a parent or guardian to accompany anyone under the age of 17 to an R rated movie and forbidding anyone 17 and under from seeing an NC-17 movie.  Rather they are considered to be helping parents be aware of the content.

Likewise the ESRB has a rating system for video games.  It gives a general description of videogames content to advise parents.  The issue of course is whether a game has content intended for people 17 and older.  The M rating for the ESRB rating is described as:

Titles rated M (Mature) have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.

Very well.  For people who grew up with things like Pac Man and Space Invaders, a game which shows graphic death, profanity or other things may be problematic.  However, so long as we make sure that only individuals old enough to buy the game for themselves, or parents/guardians have made an informed decision that the game is not morally offensive, we do not have a problem.

When Retailers Violate the Rights of Parents

The problem with such a system is that, being voluntary, there is no legal obligation for a retailer to stop a 14 year old kid from buying a copy of RoboCop or Grand Theft Auto.  Now some stores have policies to check ID and some stores do not carry certain materials which goes against a family friendly mindset.

Unfortunately others do not, and that is why this case is before the Supreme Court.

This is my own take on the subject.  A law which requires a check of ID and requires parents to purchase  R rated movies or M rated games for their minor children does not violate the rights of the movie/game distributor, the retailer, the minor child or the parent.

HOWEVER, the retailer who does sell to a minor without checking ID does usurp the rights of the parent by making an assumption that the child has permission of his or her parent, or by not caring whether or not the child has permission so long as he has money.

Laws Requiring the Check of ID Do Not Demand the State do Parenting Instead of Parents

One of the annoying Straw man arguments I have seen on gamer sites is the claim that laws which place any restrictions demonstrate bad parenting by insisting the state do parenting for them.  That kind of argument might have been true back in the past before VCR Players, DVD Players and home consoles, and even PCs were common enough to be in every room of the house, back when either parents had to drive youth places or the youth were old enough to drive.

Instead, such laws prevent the minor from certain levels of access to content their parents have forbidden.  Now of course such laws can never be perfect.  There is always the possibility of the retailer being fooled by a fake ID.  There is always the possibility of a minor being exposed to content at the house of a friend with more lenient standards.  It would be ridiculous to expect the law to enforce the impossible.

However it does not follow that because a law cannot prevent everything it should prevent nothing.

On the Other Hand, The Existence of Laws Do Not Remove the Responsibilities of Parents

Just because a law exists which prevents the minor from the legal purchasing of something controlled does not mean the parent can abdicate any of their own responsibilities.  It is the responsibility of the parent to raise their child in keeping with the truth, and to discern what is acceptable or unacceptable in a way which movie or game ratings cannot accept.

For example, many parents have decided that the movie The Passion of the Christ was something they found suitable for their children to watch despite the violence contained within the movie.  On the other hand, Catholic parents would be unwise to let the old game Grandia II into their house even though it had a "T" rating (it was a pretty anti-Catholic game).

It's not enough to say "It's rated [whatever], therefore it must be OK/Bad."  Parents do need to discern messages in a movie or game which the state or rating agency is not competent to judge.

Thus we need to look at a fine line to see what can be legally liable and what cannot.

What a Just Law Should Require

Now the problem with the California law is that it sets up a state commission to establish what games within the ESRB code require a special 18+ sticker for violence.  This is redundant of course.  It is also subjective.  By what criteria is this commission to discern what is acceptable and what is not.  Is it acceptable for a store to not sell a game with a special 18+ sticker to a minor 16 years old, but also acceptable for a store to sell a game without the sticker, but still rated M (for 17+) to the same 16 year old?

I think certain objections on a vague line are justified.  If a game would warrant an 18+ sticker, why is it not rated AO for example instead of M.  Such a law creates overlapping

However, just because the current form of the California law seems to be flawed, it does not seem to logically follow that therefore no law should exist.

It seems to me that a just law would require the retailer to check the ID before selling a movie rated R or NC-17, or a game rated M or AO to someone who is suspected of being under the required age, refusing to sell to people under this age, and if the retailer will not comply, they can be fined for violations of such a law.


Such a law would not prevent a parent or guardian from using their own discretion and permitting a child to view a certain R rated movie or playing a certain M rated game.  Nor would it violate the rights of the game creator from offering a game for sale or a retailer to sell games to an adult.

It would however say to the retailer "You do not have a right to sell such a movie or game to a minor who is not your own child.  Only the parent has this right to permit the child access."

Again, such a law would not protect the minor from being exposed to materials at a home of a friend with parents who held lesser standards.  However, once we recognize such a situation is beyond the scope of the law anyway, such an argument against passing any law at all becomes irrelevant.