Some More Good News

After the welcome news of the UC-Calvary lawsuit’s dismissal, I’m happy to say I have two other pieces of good news to report on this week:

• The Alberta Human Rights Commission, a group of petty bureaucrats who make it their mission to censor people’s thoughts, has dismissed the charges against Ezra Levant that I wrote about last January, in “In Defense of Free Speech“. The commission decided that Levant’s republication of the Mohammed cartoons was journalistically reasonable, dismissing a complaint filed by a Canadian imam named Syed Soharwardy.

I’m not hailing this as a victory because Levant was acquitted. As Levant himself says, to applaud this decision would be to give legitimacy to the underlying principle: that an arm of the government can punish people for voicing ideas which others disapprove of. I do not grant legitimacy to that principle. No democratic government should ever dare to harass, charge, or punish people for exercising their free speech. Even if this commission has arrogated to itself the power to do that, it does not have the right.

Even if these bureaucrats graciously decline to punish someone for speaking freely on one particular occasion, that does not change the fact that their mere claim to possess the power to do that is tyrannical, immoral and illegitimate. Unless we specifically have the freedom to say things that the government does not want us to say, we do not truly have free speech.

All that said, I’m cheered by this decision for a quite different reason: because the commission’s acquittal of Levant may well be a sign that they realize they’ve overstepped their authority and are fearful of a public backlash. As always, fighting back against bullies is the best course of action. An attempt to punish someone who’s so outspokenly opposed them might shine the spotlight on their actions in a way they would not want, and so perhaps they’ve dismissed this case in an effort to make that unwelcome scrutiny go away. Regardless, I hope that scrutiny only mounts, until this tyrannical bureaucracy is torn down for good. I’ll provide further updates on this as they arrive.

• Also, the University of Central Florida has decided it will not suspend or expel Webster Cook. As you may recall, Cook’s great crime was failing to abide by Roman Catholic rules for how an ordinary wafer of dry bread should be treated. As a consequence, he was physically assaulted, received a flood of violent and profane threats, was accused of kidnapping and hate crimes, and was impeached from the student senate at his university. Bill Donohue of the Catholic League, who makes his living harassing people who won’t fight back, demanded the UCF expel Cook for his imaginary crime of failing to bow down to religious dogma. Happily, the disciplinary panel voted unanimously to reject that demand, which was the only rational response given the circumstances.

This just and fair decision won’t undo the harm Cook has already suffered from deranged Catholics who’ve threatened his life and dragged his name through the mud. If any of them are students at UCF, the case for expulsion is far stronger against them than it ever was for him. But at least the UCF, to its credit, has realized that it is a secular body and that it has no role acting as the enforcer of theistic dogma. This case, like Levant’s, is a welcome reminder that no religious group has the right to demand that all of society abide by the rules it has voluntarily chosen for itself.

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About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, City of Light, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • velkyn

    ah, all this for a cracker. Though I definitely did not come up with this idea myself, I do like the idea of holding the crackers hostage. “Dear Church, please give up all records on priests who are guilty of abuse or the cracker gets it.” Then we’ll see just how important the biscuit is.

  • Mr.Pendent

    I still haven’t figured out how driving a nail through a cracker is worse than putting a (presumably) bloody piece of your lord and savior in your mouth, chewing it up, swallowing it, running it through your intestine and then crapping it out and flushing it into the sewer. But then again, I’m fuzzy on a lot of Catholic arguments about pinhead angels and such.

  • Freak

    You’re not supposed to chew it. You’re supposed to wait for it to disintegrate.

  • Roman Catholic

    Cute. But I bet Dr, Myers or for that matter any of you here have the testicular fortitude to be as flagrantly publicity seeking and blasphemous towards a Koran or picture of Mohammed or “Allah”. Many have directly challenged the good Dr. Myers to do this and so far he hasn’t. He “says” he has thrown pages of the Koran in the garbage. But will he come out in public with televison cameras rolling and grossly blaspheme Islam? Not one person on this blog has the courage to do that!
    Why is that? please give us your anser! What is different about those who follow the teachings of Jesus?

  • Ebonmuse

    You know, whenever someone says “but you wouldn’t dare blaspheme Islam!” – what I really hear is, “I wish I had the courage to commit violence against people who satirize my religion, but I don’t, so instead I’m just expressing my envy of the people who do.”

    Many have directly challenged the good Dr. Myers to do this and so far he hasn’t. He “says” he has thrown pages of the Koran in the garbage.

    He didn’t just say he had done it, he posted pictures of it. Why is that not enough for you?

    But will he come out in public with televison cameras rolling and grossly blaspheme Islam? Not one person on this blog has the courage to do that!

    You seem to hold a high view of Daylight Atheism’s influence. While I appreciate the unintentional compliment, I can assure you that neither I nor any of my commenters have our own TV shows, nor do we have routine access to those who do. But tell you what: You find someone who wants to interview me on camera, and I’ll be glad to speak my mind about Islam and the harm it has caused.

    What is different about those who follow the teachings of Jesus?

    Nothing whatsoever. Islam and Christianity are both superstitious, irrational belief systems that grow from the same primitive and ignorant root. They have the same cruel and immoral teachings, the same sanctions of violence against unbelievers, the same unworkable faith-based moral system, the same tradition of anti-intellectualism and censorship of freethinkers. The only thing that differentiates the two is that Christianity was dragged, kicking and screaming, through an Enlightenment which tamed it of some of its violent and theocratic urges. Islam has yet to undergo a comparable reformation and is still, more or less, where Christianity was a few centuries ago.

  • terrence

    I’d like to add, for Roman Catholic, and this is not original, probably saw it on the PZ thread:

    Can’t we all just get along? There’s no need to fight – simply run a routine test for human DNA on the wafer and the issue should be settled.

  • Sean

    It won’t work, terrence. Since the Middle Ages, Catholic theology has had earnest explanations about how something that looks, smells, and tastes like bread can really be part of their god based on Aristolean distinctions between Form and Substance. And if Webster had desecrated an American flag, there would _also_ be people howling for him to be punished, even though they would admit that a flag is just a symbol.

  • Ebonmuse

    My apologies for the interruption, folks – “Roman Catholic” is a mentally unstable troll I previously banned. I should have been paying more attention. I’ll let the initial comment stand, since it was germane to the thread; I’ve cleaned up the rest of the comments he posted.