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.