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Tag: Civil Liberties

Against Personal Freedom on the Left

Against Personal Freedom on the Left

Ed Brayton reports on a victory for FIRE against the University of Delaware, which had a diversity training seminar that was mandatory for all students. It was followed up by big brother style watch-dogging.

Just in case some of us might get the idea that it is only right-wing ideologues who would like to indoctrinate people, there is plenty of evidence for the same behavior on the left. Where a particular ideology manages to hold unchallenged authority backed by force, there is an unfortunate tendency to act in this manner.

FIRE is to be congratulated for challenging this type of activity. They are continuing to challenge such practices at the University of Delaware, which, though defeated on this program, has not explicitly agreed to end certain other practices.

Burma/Myanmar Reminder

Burma/Myanmar Reminder

On October 4, 2007 I participated in Free Burma Day by posting just a banner reading Free Burma and nothing else all day.

I received an e-mail today from the U. S. Campaign for Burma, asking that we not forget what’s going on there. They mentioned several avenues for action, one of which works well for me–posting a blog entry reminding people of the situation. Very often our attention span for issues like this runs in days and weeks when actual reform requires months or years. Let’s keep paying attention.

Check out the U. S. Campaign for Burma web site if you’re in the United States, or find organizations in your country to support.

Agreement on Spying

Agreement on Spying

I sometimes wonder precisely what the purpose was of electing a Democrat-led congress, considering their track record. I’ve gotten a couple of notes from the ACLU on this, and also got it from the Washington Post today.

My problem here is not that [tag]surveillance[/tag] does not need to occur in some cases. Rather, my question is how, even with emergency powers to get surveillance going immediately at need, it should be seen as soft on terrorism to require warrants to spy on U. S. citizens? You have a secret court to oversee this, but they would rather not even have them involved, and they certainly don’t want to go to an ordinary judge.

If the problem was their ability to respond quickly, then I would have sympathy. They need to be able to respond quickly. But the law provides that they must get approval within a certain period of time. That is a good idea. It’s accountability. The rhetoric of the administration does not sound to me like that of people zealously carrying out their tasks and being held back by the law. Rather, it sounds like people who don’t want accountability no matter when in the process it occurs.

When we connect this with problems already identified in various agencies using their new powers, the questions become even greater.

How much freedom do we want to give up in the name of fighting terror, especially when giving up that freedom does not actually help the battle against terror?

Stupid Actions in Church-State Cases

Stupid Actions in Church-State Cases

Ed comments on a bizarre church-state case on which he agrees with the ADF, as do I.

There are cases in which there is some significant doubt about the correct set of actions. I sympathize with school administrators who must deal with close calls. But most of these cases are very clear, and I have a hard time understanding the motivation of the school administrators. Perhaps there is an overreaction to the perceived law. I know that many, many Christians I come in contact with truly believe that it is illegal for children to pray at school. They are surprised when someone points out that it is quite legal for their children to pray–student led, voluntary, non-disruptive times of prayer, worship and study.

It would be very valuable for both parents and educators around the country to educate themselves on what the law actually is. Most of the litigation could be avoided with a little care and attention. I know that one way to challenge the law is to push the edges, but one should be aware of where those edges are and have some hope of accomplishing their goal before spending taxpayer money in that fashion.

One document giving general guidelines can be found here, along with contact information for organizations that can provide more detailed and up-to-date information.

WordPress.com Banned in Turkey

WordPress.com Banned in Turkey

It appears that WordPress.com has been banned in Turkey because of criticisms of Muslim creationist Adnan Oktar. Oktar appears to be an unusually warped version of creationist, and may well be using creationism to foster Muslim fundamentalism.

The reason I’m linking to this is that it is a free speech issue. As a number of commentators have pointed out on the official wordpress.com blog, if folks violate a TOS, it’s appropriate that they be removed, but not for their opinions.

I hope this will all be resolved in favor of free speech.

Lybia 6 Freed

Lybia 6 Freed

according to ABC News. These are the folks who were wrongfully jailed for 8 years. I rejoice, but continue to regard with horror the fact that humanitarians such as this could be imprisoned because of ignorance that ought to be criminal. People stupid enough to jail these folks shouldn’t be allowed to drive cars, much less have guns and run countries.

I blogged about this before here.

Government Regulated Media != Free Media

Government Regulated Media != Free Media

The following from YouTube illustrates why I simply don’t trust politicians for anything. There being a perceived imbalance in talk radio in favor of conservatives, to which I say “Who cares?”, a number of liberals are now calling for government control, obviously because we all know that the government is always fair in the way it handles information.

Here’s Sen. John Kerry:

Sorry, no points for you Senator. It’s still free speech, even when people say things you don’t like. It’s still free speech, even when people pay for speech you don’t like. Get over it!

Salman Rushdie Knighted / Violent Reaction in Muslim World

Salman Rushdie Knighted / Violent Reaction in Muslim World

Update: Or really, just a better reference. I think this story from MSNBC covers the ground better in a single article.

I believe very strongly that we need to distinguish between radicals who want to kill us, and the very large number of Muslims who are peaceful people. But with the reaction to the knighting of Salman Rushdie, it is again important to point out that we need to be on our guard for violent people, and there are lots of them.

I am very aware that there has been calls for violence by Christians, or at least those who call themselves Christians. I live near where Paul Hill, a defrocked Presbyterian minister, took a shotgun and killed two people. I’m glad to say that he was a defrocked minister, as in not a minister any more, but nonetheless he did violence in the name of Jesus, and I condemn his actions. I will continue to challenge and condemn all violence and calls for violence from my own or from other religions.

But right now, in terms of numbers, the calls of violence seem to be coming most commonly from the Muslim world. I have been told that I don’t understand Islam, but my question is just who do I listen to in order to understand. Is Islam a religion of peace and of choice, or is it one that punishes apostasy by death? In many countries at least, it appears to be the latter. Is it a religion that is willing to become part of a pluralistic society, to win converts peacefully through persuasion, and to uphold the freedoms of other religions no matter how high a percentage of the population become adherents? It doesn’t seem so, if one considers those nations that are already majority Muslim.

Now I know from personal experience that there are Muslims who are peaceful people, good citizens, good neighbors. I believe that these are likely the majority, though I really can’t prove that. But events like this tend to make it hard to keep people’s attention on the moderates:

Salman Rushdie, who went into hiding under threat of death after an Iranian fatwa, has been knighted by the Queen.

His book The Satanic Verses offended Muslims worldwide and a bounty was placed on his head in 1989.

But since the Indian-born author returned to public life in 1999, he has not shied away from controversy.

A devout secularist, he backed Commons Leader Jack Straw over comments on Muslim women and veils and has warned against Islamic “totalitarianism”.

And the reaction? Were Muslims the world over willing to allow a man who opposed their religion to be honored? Well, years ago they had called for his death. What would happen now?

From Pakistan (source: here):

Mohammed Ijaz ul-Haq, Pakistan’s religious affairs minister, said giving the title to the author was an insult to Islam and ‘at the root of terrorism’.

Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses caused worldwide protests in 1989 and led to Iran issuing a fatwa ordering his execution.

Speaking about the writer at the National Assembly, Mr ul-Haq reportedly said: ‘If someone commits suicide bombing to protect the honour of the Prophet Muhammad, his act is justified.’

But after the comments were reported on local news networks yesterday, the minister claimed he did not mean to condone or incite terrorism, merely to warn that such insults against Islam could lead to attacks.

Or the words of the one Muslim British peer: (from ABC Australia):

Muslim Labour peer Lord Ahmed describes the decision as provocative and damaging to Britain’s relations with Muslims.

“Actually I was appalled to hear that Salman Rushdie had been given knighthood, particularly when this man has been very divisive,” he said.

“This man – as you can see – not only provoked violence around the world because of his writings, but there were many people that were killed around the world and honouring the man who has blood on his hands, sort of because of what he did, honouring him I think is going a bit too far.”

My major point here is that while we must be careful to blame those who are actually guilty, we must also not allow a desire to be fair to keep us from recognizing evil when we see it. The reaction to the Danish cartoons was evil, and so is this. We in the west should not be intimidated by threats of violence. The insult is not the cause of the violence. People suffer insults without violence every day. The violence stems from the evil in the hearts of the people who preach it and carry it out.

HT: Dispatches from the Culture Wars (and commenters there). That article is worth reading.