A rather unsavory character, Dr Johannes Lerle, was jailed in Germany for violating their laws against neo-Nazism and Holocaust denial. I discussed this earlier this week, and as
Gerard Harbison and Andrew Brown have recently pointed out, he was not a very nice man at all…a bit of a kook, really.

Dr Lerle is an unabashed and deeply anti-semitic holocaust denier. He takes the view that the only good Jew is a Christian convert. All others are children of the devil: “Jews” with scare quotes round them, to distinguish them from Christians. Those “Jews”, his website explains, control the world’s press, and the American government, are murderers, hypocrites, liars and bent on world domination for religious reasons. All this and more is on his website but it’s in German – a language few Americans read.

Now here’s the weird twist and the reason I’m mentioning it here: Bill Dembski claims that this is an instance of the persecution of an Intelligent Design advocate. Even more confusingly, Dembski leapt to this conclusion because he heard that Lerle had been jailed for being against abortion. There’s nothing there about evolution or Intelligent Design — it’s all an anti-Semitic rant that babbles on about stopping abortions.

That’s an oddly convoluted leap of logic from Dembski that I don’t understand. Are we to assume that if a religious loon hates Jews and considers abortion and birth control to be anti-Christian conspiracies that will allow the hordes of Islam to overrun the country, he must also be a fellow traveler with the Intelligent Design creationists? Are these fairly common tenets among the fellows of the Discovery Institute? Where does he come up with the idea that this rather ugly story implies that teaching ID is a crime against humanity?

I don’t see the connection. I’ll be charitable and assume that his martyr complex is simply and generically inflamed so that whenever he sees anyone getting arrested, he takes it personally.

Just a hint, Bill—it would have been funnier if you’d gotten upset at Paris Hilton’s imprisonment as representative of the persecution of creationists. Lerle…not funny. More than a little unpleasant, actually, and not the kind of frothing rabid religious fanatic you really want associated with your cause, I don’t think. Although, say, how’s Howard Ahmanson doing?


  1. #1 cbutterb
    June 30, 2007

    The problem is, of course, almost any inflammatory or controversial speech could be conceived of as slander against someone. I’ve encountered this before as a reason to ban (via Constitutional Amendment!) flag desecration in the U.S.: If you burn a flag, it allegedly somehow exceeds the bounds of mere expression of opinion and becomes a spectacle so heinous and personally insulting that veterans can’t possibly be expected to withstand the sight of it. The symbolic act becomes slander independently of the actual content or intent of the speech, based solely on the perceptions of those it offends.

    Reasoning this way, it’s not hard to imagine a chilling effect on speakers such as, say, Richard Dawkins: Why, think of all the saints and martyrs he’s implicitly slandered, what with his impudent talk that they died for a delusion!

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