Respectful Insolence

Anti-blasphemy = anti-free speech

Chalk this up under “Yet another example of U.N. incompetence“:

UNITED NATIONS – Islamic countries Monday won United Nations backing for an anti-blasphemy measure Canada and other Western critics say risks being used to limit freedom of speech.

Combating Defamation of Religions passed 85-50 with 42 abstentions in a key UN General Assembly committee, and will enter into the international record after an expected rubber stamp by the plenary later in the year.

But while the draft’s sponsors say it and earlier similar measures are aimed at preventing violence against worshippers regardless of religion, religious tolerance advocates warn the resolutions are being accumulated for a more sinister goal.

‘(Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy laws) have been used to intimidate business partners, suppress any reformist ideas, jail people who discuss women’s rights,’ say critics.

“It provides international cover for domestic anti-blasphemy laws, and there are a number of people who are in prison today because they have been accused of committing blasphemy,” said Bennett Graham, international program director with the Becket Fund, a think tank aimed at promoting religious liberty.

“Those arrests are made legitimate by the UN body’s (effective) stamp of approval.”

And, of course, it’s not enough for this to be a non-binding resolution. Oh, no. Religious people want it eventually to be made binding:

While the current resolution is non-binding, Pakistan’s Ambassador Masood Khan reminded the UN’s Human Rights Council this year that the OIC ultimately seeks a “new instrument or convention” on the issue. Such a measure would impose its terms on signatory states.

“Each time the resolution comes up, we get a measure of where the world is on this issue, and we see that the campaign has been ramped up,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based monitoring group UN Watch.

While this year’s draft is less Islam-centric that resolutions of earlier years, analysts note it is more emphatic in linking religion defamation and incitement to violence.

That “risks limiting a broad range of peaceful speech and expression,” Neuer argues.

Exactly. Because it’s never enough for certain types of religious people believe what they believe. All too often they either have to impose what they believe upon everyone else, or, failing that, suppress any criticism of their religious beliefs, even if they have to trample free speech to do it. Worse, this sort of resolution and these sorts of laws elevate group rights above individual rights:

But supporters of the Western position say the resolution and its predecessors contribute to increasing discrimination based on religion.

“From the human rights side of things, this is the opposite of what is supposed to be happening,” said Becket’s Graham. “Instead of protecting an individual, this resolution protects an idea, and relies on hurt feelings as a source of judgment. It can only lead to a jurisprudence of hurt feelings.”

Canada says governments have abused laws against defamation or contempt of religions to “prosecute and imprison journalists, bloggers, academics students and peaceful political dissidents.”

The Iranian parliament, for example, is currently weighing a draft amendment to its penal code that would impose capital punishment for apostasy.

In other words, it creates a right not to be offended and elevates it above the right to freedom of speech. The spread and ascendence of such a “right” is anathema to the most important right of free people: freedom of speech. Once again, I find myself pointing out that no idea, religious or otherwise, should be above criticism. Period. And no one–I repeat, no one–has the “right” not to be offended.

I wish I could say this were the worst of it, but there are nations that wish to take this ridiculous concept of a right not to be offended and generalizing it beyond religion. Just look at what the Dutch cabinet just did:

THE HAGUE – The Dutch cabinet gave the nod Friday to a bid to scrap a legal ban on blasphemy, opting to expand hate speech beyond religious boundaries to include all groups of people.

“The cabinet gives the prohibition of blasphemy a new form and place in the law,” said a statement from the justice ministry.

“In future, it will be punishable to give serious offence to any group of people. There is no need any more for a separate provision for blasphemy.”

The statement said there was no difference between insults aimed against people based on their race, religion, sexual orientation or handicap.

I guess that’s one “solution” to the problem inherent in religious defamation laws of elevating religious group identities and beliefs over others: Let every other group have the same status. Yeah, that’ll work. I wonder what will happen under such a law when two groups with diametrically opposed, deeply held beliefs start saying nasty things about each other as a group. Is it more or less “wrong” under such a law for homosexuals to insult religious homophobes or the religious homophobes to insult homosexuals? Get out your popcorn.

In the meantime, the willing destruction of freedom by nations and people who should know better appears to continue apace. The scope of these proposed measures by the U.N. and Denmark go far, far beyond reasonable restrictions on speech than could serve any purpose compelling enough to justify the dimunition of the right to free speech that they would cause.

Comments

  1. #1 Interrobang
    December 1, 2008

    I hate to disagree with you, but you’re off on a very fundamental level. The absolutely most important right for free people isn’t freedom of speech, it’s the freedom to control one’s own body, the principle that one’s body belongs to oneself, not the state, and not some agent external to oneself. If you haven’t got a guarantee of bodily integrity in law, who gives a shit what you can say or not say? You’re still a slave, and a slave with a loud mouth is still oppressed in a much more fundamental way than a person with protected bodily integrity and restricted speech.

    That’s not that I don’t think freedom of speech is important; I do. I just don’t think it’s absolutely the most important right. Then again, nobody is likely to vasectomise you while you’re in surgery for something completely unrelated, and you don’t have the problem where legislators are trying to give the putative contents of your uterus supercitizenship rights and take away your right under the law to a discrete existence as a full human being.

  2. #2 kraut
    December 1, 2008

    “I hate to disagree with you, but you’re off on a very fundamental level”

    I disagree with your disagreement. The right not to being criminalized having abortion can only be sustained if free speech is still possible, and the right to offend the mostly religious believers supporting criminalization can be sustained.
    All disagreements with religiously supported countermeasures to personal freedom will be impossible if those idiocies in the UN will find their way into law.

  3. #3 Ranson
    December 1, 2008

    I hate to disagree with you

    And there, you make his argument. Lacking the ability to disagree in a public and vociferous manner, the right you cherish would quickly go by the wayside.

  4. #4 Scott
    December 1, 2008

    This doesn’t just *restrict* freedom of speech. For all intents and purposes, it abolishes it entirely. The only speech that NEEDS protection is speech that offends somebody! If nobody objects to some particular expression, then nobody will try to suppress it so it requires no protection.

    (This was said much better a long time ago, by Thomas Jefferson if memory serves, but I can’t lay my hands on the quotation. If anybody can provide a link to it, I’d be much obliged.)

  5. #5 Ramel
    December 1, 2008

    Scott’s right, if what you’re saying dosen’t upset people then no one will try to stop you.

    Although….. If I’m offended by stupidity can I force creationists to be silent?

  6. #6 THobbes
    December 1, 2008

    The absolutely most important right for free people isn’t freedom of speech, it’s the freedom to control one’s own body, the principle that one’s body belongs to oneself, not the state, and not some agent external to oneself. If you haven’t got a guarantee of bodily integrity in law, who gives a shit what you can say or not say?

    I might agree with you there–you can certainly argue that all rights are eventually derived from the right to self-determine. But would you mind explaining how that justifies government turning around and destroying the most fundamental manifestation of that right by neutering the idea of free speech? If the right to free speech is not the most important, then it is the most important facet of the larger right to self-determination. Your argument does not address the restrictions raised by the UN.

  7. #7 Calli Arcale
    December 1, 2008

    Lordy, lordy, what a horrible resolution.

    Free speech *is* the most important right because it’s how we protect all of the others. The framers of the Constitution realized that; it’s why they put it in the very first amendment, the first part of the Bill of Rights.

    I’ve always been uneasy about “hate crime” laws and things like that because they should be unnecessary. It’s already a crime to assault a person, or harass them, or discriminate against them unfairly for their opinions and stuff like that. Why should there be special categories for religious persecution? Shouldn’t it be treated like *all* persecution?

    Religion is nothing more than a highly ritualized opinion. It should have the same protection that any opinion has — that is, you should be free to hold it, and free to disagree with it. You should not have, nor expect, any protection from the knowledge that other people have different opinions. That is my firm opinion.

  8. #8 teej
    December 1, 2008

    Calli Arcale -

    Hate crime laws are meant to identify crimes that are meant to intimidate or harass a community based on race, religion, gender, etc. They recognized the difference between putting graffiti on storefront and spraypainting a swastika on a synagogue. There’s a difference between putting a flaming bag of dog crap on somebody’s doorstep and lighting a flaming cross in their front yard. One is a petty crime; the other is meant to convey a serious threat to a community of people.

    The law recognizes intent as a key component of crime all the time – look at the difference between first degree and second degree murder, for instance. As I understand them, hate crime laws are a recognition of the fact that some crimes are much more damaging to society than they would otherwise be because of the target, method, and intent of the crime.

  9. #9 D. C. Sessions
    December 1, 2008

    If I’m offended by stupidity can I force creationists to be silent?

    You’re outvoted. First, of course, by creationists who are offended by the very notion of evolution; second, by the stupid who are offended by being compared to creationists.

  10. #10 Rogue Epidemiologists
    December 1, 2008

    GODDAMMIT!, I hate when the UN endorses the suppression of free speech!

  11. #11 JThompson
    December 1, 2008

    So, if the US adopts this, and I claim to be a Bright, can I start suing the nutjobs that say it’s stupid? What about a pastafarian? Jedi?
    Actually, don’t the Scientologists already do this anyway? ;)

    This is nothing more than a tool to put a boot on the neck of the nonbelievers….but I bet if they suddenly saw their church coffers emptying because of constant lawsuits, they’d be screaming for freedom of speech.
    Then again they’ll probably just claim they speak the truth while we’re just spewing hate, as usual.

  12. #12 D. C. Sessions
    December 1, 2008

    This is nothing more than a tool to put a boot on the neck of the nonbelievers

    Yup, and since everyone is down on atheists, you can use it to shut down every mosque in Europe, never mind all of those churches.

    Obviously every sermon will have to be pre-screened by the Ministry of Religious Tolerance, which will have a bureau for every identifiable religious group. Can’t have those Baptists ranting about the Pharisees now, can we?

  13. #13 William Miller
    December 1, 2008

    This is the fundamental problem with the UN: theocracies, dictatorships, and Communist nations get to vote.

  14. #14 Katharine
    December 1, 2008

    Where is Richard Dawkins on this? He needs an audience with the United Nations, and fast.

  15. #15 Katharine
    December 1, 2008

    Oddly enough, the fundies apparently are whining about it too because they say it curtails their brainwashing.

  16. #16 Chronos
    December 1, 2008

    @Calli:

    Hate crimes exist because, when enforcing the law, intent matters when crafting a sentence.

    For instance: manslaughter, second-degree murder, and first-degree murder form a sliding scale of intent. Manslaughter is completely unintentional, but a predictable consequence of the actions taken. Second-degree murder is deliberate, but done in a moment of passion. First-degree murder is also deliberate, but planned ahead of time with a calm mind.

    All three are, at the root, the same crime: one person is dead, due to the actions of another. But the odds of recurrence are vastly different. Someone who committed manslaughter almost certainly feels tremendous guilt and will never do it again. A second-degree murderer might regret it, but also might fail to control their temper and do it again. A first-degree murderer will almost certainly do it again, if the opportunity presents itself and they believe they can escape punishment.

    In this light, hate crime laws are a sentence enhancement based on the odds of recidivism: a murderer who believes that one person deserved to die is far less dangerous to society than a murderer who believes that an entire class of people deserves to die. The same still applies to less dramatic forms of violence, such as beatings, muggings, and vandalism.

  17. #17 Paul Murray
    December 1, 2008

    The spread and ascendence of such a “right” is anathema to the most important right of free people: freedom of speech.

    The most important right is habeas corpus. The foundation of tyrrany is the ability to just pick people up and toss them in prison at the whim of the executive.

    Free speech, however, is the first right – the right on which other rights depend. It’s the right without which a government cannot be legitimate – as there’s no way to know if society consents to be governed or not. Democracy, in particular, is impossible without it.

  18. #18 Paul Murray
    December 1, 2008

    In a similar vein, the most important virtue is – arguably – charity. But the first virtue, the one without which the others are impossible to practise – is courage.

  19. #19 Happy Spirochete
    December 1, 2008

    Long time reader, first time commenter, etc…

    I feel like i’ve wandered into PZ’s place? Is it my imagination or is Orac getting all lefty?

    BTW, great post..

  20. #20 Calli Arcale
    December 1, 2008

    I realize intent matters, but isn’t that already covered in existing laws? For instance, as you both cite, there are many degrees of homicide without getting into “killed him because he was black/gay/Jewish/wore the wrong gang’s colors”.

    I don’t object to the reason behind hate crime laws. My main concern is that they are so blunt, and the concept of a hate crime (as opposed to, I guess, regular old crime) is like porn — you know it when you see it, which is a little too vague for my comfort. I mean, I’m okay with handing down a stiffer sentence when somebody smashes a storefront because the owner looked vaguely Middle Eastern than when somebody smashes a storefront because they were bored. That’s that whole “intent” thing, and that’s why judges are granted a certain amount of leeway in deciding how to sentence convicts. My worry is that since “hate crime” is subjective, its scope can be broadened in originally unintended ways, and we could ultimately end up throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

    Orac’s article is about religious groups conflating dissent with persecution, and getting this converted into law to stifle criticism of the religions. While this sort of thing seems alien in the US, it could still come here. The religious fundamentalists have certainly been making efforts in that direction. I could see them exploiting hate crime laws to silence opposition. That’s what religious extremists do in other parts of the world where they are already in power.

  21. #21 Liesl
    December 1, 2008

    “Where is Richard Dawkins on this? He needs an audience with the United Nations, and fast.”

    That’s all we need, more evangelism in the name of belief.

    Less particularly: I didn’t realize rights had measurements of importance. How is taking away one better than taking away another?

  22. #22 Robster, FCD
    December 2, 2008

    I’ll give God/ess/s/es rights once they prove their existence. Until then, blasphemy, which one could describe as slander and libel against said God/ess/s/es, is protected speech.

    And if these God/ess/s/es show up to lodge their complaints, I’ll be happy to help file racketeering charges for crimes committed for their benefit.

  23. #23 Chris H.
    December 2, 2008

    Happy Spirochete said “I feel like i’ve wandered into PZ’s place? Is it my imagination or is Orac getting all lefty?”

    Did you hear that even Christopher Buckley endorsed a Democrat for president? See:
    http://www.npr.org/templates/rundowns/rundown.php?prgId=35&prgDate=10-25-2008&view=storyview

    This is a topsy-turvy world.

    Once upon a time I was a Republican, and I was all about free speech. Some of my favorite politicians from my state were Dan Evans (Republican, who helped create the ever so liberal Evergreen College) and Henry (Scoop) Jackson (a pro-war Democrat!)… and the Republican governor John Spellman was more liberal than the Democrat governor Dixy Lee Ray!

    What turned me from being Republican was the Pat Robinson presidential campaign in 1988. It was through the actions of his followers who flooded the caucuses (including the neighborhood precinct caucus held in our home) that turned me into a radical independent! I am so glad that the top-two primary was passed the Supreme Court test so that after a few years I can now vote in the primary (even though a college friend argued in front to the highest court in the land to let the political parties dictate how we could vote… oh, and we let him know how we felt):
    http://www.secstate.wa.gov/office/osos_news.aspx?i=c8pwBIF8E7gDI%2FQPTMZuCA%3D%3D

    Did I mention I live in a weird state?

    I do not think that promoting free speech is either “right” or “left”. It is just the right thing to do. Once upon a time I lived in a country where newspapers were confiscated because they said unflattering things about the “military coup selected” leader.

  24. #24 Paper Hand
    December 2, 2008

    The framers of the Constitution realized that; it’s why they put it in the very first amendment, the first part of the Bill of Rights.

    Actually, that’s not quite the case. First off, it’s an amendment. That is, something added after the fact. The original text of the Constitution had no 1st amendment. Secondly, it was actually the third of 12 proposed amendments in the Bill of Rights.

    The first one said:

    After the first enumeration required by the first article of the Constitution, there shall be one representative for every thirty thousand, until the number shall amount to one hundred, after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall be not less than one hundred representatives, nor less than one representative for every forty thousand persons, until the number of representatives shall amount to two hundred; after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall be not less than two hundred representatives, nor more than one representative for every fifty thousand persons.

    It was unratified, and is now a moot point.

    The second said

    No law varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.

    It was ratified in 1992 as the 27th amendment.

  25. #25 Prometheus
    December 2, 2008

    I cannot imagine too many things that cry out for ridicule more than the beliefs and practices of most fundamentalist religions – Islamic fundamentalism decidedly not excepted.

    It is no wonder that the Islamic fundamentalists want to outlaw “blasphemy”. It is a wonder that other religious groups have seen through this rather transparent grab for power and realized that they might end up as the “blasphemer” rather than the “blasphemee” in this law.

    As for the Dutch deciding to outlaw any speech that gives “…serious offence to any group of people” – well, that will spell the end of Dutch newspapers, television, radio and pretty much all public conversation beyond “Goede morgen” and “Doei”. Seriously, can they not see that – apart from meaningless social exchanges and comments about the weather – almost anything can “give serious offence” to some group of people.

    In fact, it is precisely those people who take offence at everything that are pushing this “resolution” in the UN. Rather than nodding sagely and gravely pronouncing that “blasphemy” leads to violence (which is exactly backwards – it is people who perceive that something is “blasphemous” who start the violence), the UN should laugh those clowns out of the building.

    Of course, if all of the clowns were laughed out of the UN, only the janitorial staff would remain.

    Prometheus

  26. #26 csrster
    December 2, 2008

    Wait a minute … the Dutch parliament is passing a law to outlaw blasphemy in Denmark? Now that really is offensive.

  27. #27 Richard Eis
    December 2, 2008

    This is going to create a god-awful mess for the courts to clear up. I’m also going to laugh my little socks off when the first islamic scholar gets arrested. Shouldn’t take too long before that happens.

  28. #28 DLC
    December 2, 2008

    Apparently freedom of speech will now be “freedom to say anything not deemed offensive by some party.”
    So, companies and individuals averse to being sued or jailed will either shut up or hire professional editors to craft carefully-worded advertisements and press releases.
    Somewhere, someone is already setting up office space for The Ministry of Truth.
    Double-Plus-Ungood.

  29. #29 DLC
    December 2, 2008

    For Richard Eis:
    The british have such laws against “hate speech” already, and yet none of the “kill the infidels” preaching Imams have been arrested that I am aware of.

  30. #30 JThompson
    December 2, 2008

    Seriously, can they not see that – apart from meaningless social exchanges and comments about the weather – almost anything can “give serious offence” to some group of people

    “Damn, it’s raining again.”
    “Don’t be stupid, I love the smell of rain.”
    “Hate speech! Stone the infidel!”

  31. #31 D. C. Sessions
    December 2, 2008

    This is going to create a god-awful mess for the courts to clear up. I’m also going to laugh my little socks off when the first islamic scholar gets arrested. Shouldn’t take too long before that happens.

    The law is, as pointed out so often and gleefully, impossibly broad. As such it will be enforced, if at all, very selectively. Don’t expect the Islamic scholars to be first.

    Since I don’t know the legal traditions of the country I can’t say whether they have the equivalent of the “unclean hands” defense. However, most of the extreme applications of this law would themselves be illegal under it :-)

  32. #32 Ramel
    December 2, 2008

    DLC, acouple of Imams have gotten into trouble over the last coupl of years, so did some of the protesters during the danish cartoon business. The most famous was Abu Hamza,

    From wikipedia:
    “On 19 October 2004, Abu Hamza was charged with 16 crimes under the provisions of various British statutes, including encouraging the murder of non-Muslims, and intent to stir up racial hatred. Guilty of three charges related to “using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with the intention of stirring up racial hatred” under the Public Order Act 1986, not guilty on one further such charge”

  33. #33 Harald Hanche-Olsen
    December 2, 2008

    One thing that bothers me is how all the news stories say this happened in “a key UN General Assembly committee”, but not which committee. I want to find out which nations voted for and which voted against or abstained. I’ve been surfing the UN web site for information, but can’t find any pertinent information. Anybody have a clue?

  34. #34 AstroPaul
    December 2, 2008

    Just a quick catch — you’ve slandered the (in this case) innocent nation of Denmark, based on a story about the Dutch parliament.

    Other than that, excellent post!

  35. #35 Scott
    December 2, 2008

    The Dutch cabinet has given serious offense to everyone concerned about human rights. They must therefore be punished according to their own law!

  36. #36 llewelly
    December 2, 2008

    THobbes:

    I might agree with you there–you can certainly argue that all rights are eventually derived from the right to self-determine. But would you mind explaining how that justifies government turning around and destroying the most fundamental manifestation of that right by neutering the idea of free speech? If the right to free speech is not the most important, then it is the most important facet of the larger right to self-determination. Your argument does not address the restrictions raised by the UN.

    Interrobang never argued that ‘government turning around and destroying the most fundamental manifestation of that right’ was justified. To the contrary:

    That’s not that I don’t think freedom of speech is important; I do. I just don’t think it’s absolutely the most important right.

  37. #37 rogue medic
    December 3, 2008

    Apparently, this would make all intelligent debate, if overheard by unintelligent people, offensive.

    This is hate speech against peaceful, open-minded people.

    You cannot have much of a debate on any serious issue without offending someone.

    While I try not to encourage people to insult others, a day without sarcasm is not a good day.

    As much as I would not like to see people subject to intimidation by the local venom spewing thugs, I do not see this as a sensible answer.

    The US Bill of Rights is an important document. What is often overlooked is that only by tolerating the rights of others are your own rights protected. If you wish to express your opinion without fear of arrest, you must allow those, with whom you disagree, to do the same. The Bill of Rights is about protecting individuals from the excesses of powerful groups. Popular speech does not need protection. Unpopular speech does.

    By means of the law, I can try to silence someone else, but I will probably be ineffective. Contrariwise, I can point out the flaws in the argument of the other person. I can use satire. I can use sarcasm. I can appeal to reason.

    One fault of this law, and others like it, is that it only addresses appearances. It does nothing to change beliefs, at least not for the better. You cannot ban thoughts. Good thoughts cannot be banned. Bad thoughts cannot be banned.

    Making appearance more important than reality, creates a superficial reality.

    I cannot be silenced by a law. I can only be silenced by not presenting a persuasive argument, or by boring my potential audience. If nobody is interested in what I have to say, no matter how offensive, I shall be silenced. If people are interested in what I have to say, no matter how illegal, I shall be heard.

  38. #38 Prometheus
    December 3, 2008

    As a faculty member of a medium-sized US university, I already have to live under rules similar to those proposed in this UN resolution. Our university has prohibited any speech that might make someone feel “uncomfortable”, “excluded”, “threatened” or “marginalized”. They have also left the interpretation up to the person or persons who feel “uncomfortable”, “excluded”, “threatened” or “marginalized”.

    Needless to say, this policy has caused a great deal of turmoil and has proven nearly impossible to enforce. I was, myself, “brought up on charges” for the heinous crime of saying that “intelligent design” was not supported by any data and was – in fact – impossible to confirm OR refute. One of my students felt that this statement “marginalized” his religious beliefs (it did) and made him feel “uncomfortable” in my class (it should).

    At my hearing, I was offered the opportunity to claim that my remarks had been misinterpreted (I declined) or to offer an apology to the student (also declined). I was then told that I would be placed on “probation” on the condition that I promised not to do that again (I declined the offer). When they were finally left with the choice of either disciplining me or letting the whole thing drop, the hearing panel tabled the matter pending further “research”. I haven’t heard anything about it since then, which was about two years ago.

    The point of this tedious tale is that these “laws” work through intimidation and not through enforcement. Even if the Dutch never bring a single person to trial for “giving serious offence to a group of people”, the mere existence of the law will inhibit most people from speaking freely, for fear that they will be harassed. Even if charges are eventually dropped (or conveniently forgotten, as in my case), the emotional and financial toll will be severe.

    Additionally, the narrow-minded, intolerant people who cannot abide having anyone question their beliefs or dogmas will be able to use these laws and policies to bludgeon into silence those who disagree with them.

    The great irony of this is that these repressive anti-free-speech policies were adopted by my university (and, apparently, the UN) in a stated attempt to foster “tolerance” and “diversity”. It goes almost without saying that they have accomplished exactly the opposite.

    Prometheus

  39. #39 Natalie
    December 3, 2008

    I don’t object to the reason behind hate crime laws. My main concern is that they are so blunt, and the concept of a hate crime (as opposed to, I guess, regular old crime) is like porn — you know it when you see it, which is a little too vague for my comfort.

    Calli, as far as I know hate crimes statutes have been applied relatively sparingly in the United States. I can’t speak for any other nation’s laws, but the burden of proof here is high enough that I think hate crimes are more often prosecuted as regular crimes than regular crimes are prosecuted as hate crimes.

  40. #40 Integrity means never having to say you're sorry
    December 4, 2008

    Prometheus,

    I had a similar experience (a charge being levied) but had the extreme good fortune to have a dean who understood the necessity of academic freedom. What disturbs me about our similar stories is that you actually have some factual answers in your discipline while my discipline is entirely interpretive. (sorry for remaining vague here in my non-tenured status) If we were forced to choose which of us should have walked away without even the suggestion of wrong doing based solely the educational material, it should not have been you. I’m not saying that I did anything wrong (I most assuredly did not), but I am very disturbed by the idea that a student was able to hold you so entirely hostage by their offense over something that can be demonstrated. If that sort of thing continues what hope is there for people who have to explain intent as their only true measure of offense?

    This scares the academic crap out of me.

  41. #41 Jurjen S.
    December 5, 2008

    Is it me, though, or is it more than a little ironic that the Canadians are so worked up over this? After all, they have hate speech laws of the own that have nipped more than one bit of free speech in the bud. (One example: in the short-lived cartoon series Clone High, the clone of Genghis Khan wears a shirt that reads “Screw Tibet.” Historical humor, you might think, but Canadian law does not agree; in Canada, Genghis’ shirt is blank.)

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