Friday, June 23, 2006

Like Freedom of Expression? Then Stop H.R. 2679

While I spend much time on this blog arguing against religious perspectives, I am a staunch supporter of the right to free speech (even if I find that speech personally distasteful). You defeat ignorance and stupidity by spending time (and hard work) countering it with logic and reason in forums that are available for anyone to access. You hope that most people reading (or listening, or watching...) your material are sufficiently thoughtful that they may be pursuaded by the strength of your arguments. The ability for people to provide alternative information in accessible form to most everyone, without fear of government reprisal, is the primary characteristic of this country that has allowed it to exist as long as it has (note, however, that this is not an argument for "equal time"; ID is a non-science that still doesn't belong in a science classroom; nor should I expect equal time to counter a priest's sermons in church - both I and the ID crowd have plenty of other easily accessible forums to offer alternative ideas).

Many of the blogs I read religiously appear to feel the same way. Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars has long been an advocate of free speech, even when he clearly disagrees with its content. The same can be said for Pat Hayes at Red State Rabble, as well as many other blogs who take exception with many religious arguments but simultaneously feel those same arguments should not be stifled in all forums (although again, I am not suggesting equal time in the same forum - some forums are arguably not appropriate for some forms of rebuttal).

I generally have no problem with religious expression in public; but I expect to be able to return the favor with my own views with the same ease. Put a "Jesus" fish on your car...fine, no problem; so I put the "Darwin" fish on mine (two of them, in fact!). Want to discuss why Leviticus condemns the homosexual lifestyle? Fine, but then I'm going to ask you why you don't follow all of the Levitican regulations. The religious right, however, does not like the potential for reasoned rebuttal. They not only want the ability to publicly promote their viewpoints, they also want the ability to restrict responses and alternative viewpoints.

Dispatches just posted on HR 2679, a bill that would "stack the deck" in favor of Christian viewpoints being heard publicly by limiting the potential for counter arguments. I won't discuss it in depth here...Ed has a good discussion about the effects of this bill, including some real life examples. If bills like this get passed, the First Amendment will become an irrelevancy and I will be forced to re-think my willingness to tolerate public expression of religious ideas.