Sunday, August 07, 2005

Note: I often post here articles that defend freedom of expression for Christian viewpoints. Yet I am an atheist. You see I really DO believe in free speech and the desirability of diversity in thought, unlike the hypocrites of the Left who believe in the same freedom of speech that Stalin believed in: "Freedom to agree with me"


The events described below are an example of how to the Left only "correct" attitudes and opinions are permitted. All expression of other views must be censored and stamped out

Vandals trashed a controversial church display. More than a thousand white crosses protest abortion in front of the Ascension Lutheran Church in Waterloo. But some didn't take the message lightly. Quietly...more than 1,500 white crosses stand in front of Ascension Lutheran Xhurch. But the message is loud and clear. Pastor Tom Jahr says, "It's not a statement against anyone, it's a statement telling a story of the babies we'll never get to see."

Each cross represents five babies who died from abortion each day in the U.S. Busy University Avenue is close by. The pastor thought it was the perfect place for a powerful protest. All the crosses were set up by 10:00 Friday morning. By noon, every single one was knocked down. "We can't figure out exactly why. Somebody just came out and started kicking," Pastor Jahr says. At least 300 were taken down. Their signs were knocked over too. All that was left...a note. "Says this is private property, you can't set up on private property, please remove immediately," Jahr says. He says he's frustrated because it is church property and he's not breaking any laws. He says the crosses are part of a traveling display sponsored by "Lutherans For Life."

Jahr never expected to be targeted by vandals. "Some decidedly are uncomfortable even with anybody taking a stand against abortion. Like we're taking away their rights or something." He says he will not call the police. Church members will just put the crosses back up. "I know it's a hot button issue. It's one our society is struggling with. If we turn to God's word, it simply says this is life."

The crosses will be on display at Ascension Lutheran Church in Waterloo until next Thursday. Volunteers will put the fallen crosses back up Saturday morning


Christianity faces secular antagonism -- or is it fear?

Sometimes, the world seems a little crazier than usual. It's clearly one of those times. For example, a high school brass band in Columbia in the US has been told it can no longer practise Christmas tunes that mention Jesus, even though the songs are all instrumentals. Meanwhile in Tennessee, primary school children have been banned from reading Bibles during recess after a complaint from atheist parents. And, in Milwaukee, a man has been sacked from his Chamber of Commerce job for wearing a cross on his lapel that could "offend" non-believers. In England, a local council ordered the removal of a wooden cross from a crematorium chapel for fear of offending non-Christians. And hospitals in England and Canada moved to remove Gideon's Bibles from patients' bedside tables to "control infection" and also because "the patients might not all be Christian". Meanwhile, Students in Scotland voted to ban the Bible from the halls of residence at Stirling University because they thought the book's presence might bother followers of other religions.

Of course, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists in Western nations seem less offended by such things than politically correct secularists. In the name of respecting all religions, a new form of secular hostility against Christianity has emerged. Speaking at a conference on religious intolerance this month in Spain, the head of a Vatican delegation called on Europe to halt spiralling anti-Christian discrimination. Archbishop Antonio Canizares said: "This must be combated with the same determination with which we combat anti-Semitism and discrimination against Muslims."

Christians have found some unexpected allies in their fight against discrimination. One of the more powerful is the US-based Jews Against Anti-Christian Defamation, led by Jewish author Don Feder. Members span the spectrum from orthodox to secular Judaism, but are united in their determination to support "our beleaguered brothers and sisters in the Christian community". Feder recently said: "What I consider an epidemic of anti-Christian bigotry and persecution is something that has concerned me for a long time. Particularly pernicious is the idea that it's legitimate to base your politics on anything except religion," he said. "You can say that my politics are based on the views of Karl Marx or Ayn Rand or Jane Fonda and that's OK, but as soon as you say your world view is based on the Bible, that's considered an illegitimate basis for embracing certain political views."

A number of orthodox Jews felt compelled to attend a recent demonstration in downtown Los Angeles to protest the removal of a small Christian cross on the county's seal. "Jews have rarely appealed to the Christian community in vain when we needed help with issues important to us, such as supporting Soviet Jewish immigration or fighting domestic anti-Semitism, " one demonstrator, author Judy Gruen, said. "Those of us who came to the demonstration just wanted to return the favour".

Hostility towards Christians is often aided by public ignorance. Surveys show that many people don't trust Christian leaders. But why should they? They've been reading the Da Vinci Code fiction and marvelling at its "historical insights". They're happier to swallow a half-baked Renaissance religious conspiracy theory than to examine the grand possibilities. They cannot imagine a Second Coming that would not be cut down to size by the TV evening news. John Lennon once predicted that "Christianity will go". Many still believe that.

You have to wonder then why so many secularists are upset by the presence of Bibles. No one is forcing people to read them. Perhaps because, as Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy said, Christianity, with its doctrine of humility, of forgiveness, of love, is incompatible with the state, with its haughtiness, its violence, its punishment and its wars.

And why does the name of Christ offend so many? Maybe because it is a most powerful name. The earliest followers of Jesus have turned the world upside down because their hearts had been turned right side up. French emperor Napoleon said: "Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself founded empires; but what foundation did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded an empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him."


Freedom of speech takes a fall in Australia

By Michael Duffy. Duffy is referring to a Professor (Andrew Fraser) in an Australian university (Macquarie) who wrote a letter to a newspaper that was critical of immigration from China and Africa. The professor has now been forbidden to teach. For additional background see Chris Brand

The Andrew Fraser affair is not the first time an attempt has been made to stop discussion of race and IQ at Macquarie University. It also happened when I was a student there in 1977. The British psychologist Hans Eysenck was visiting Australia to talk about the subject, and had already had a lecture stopped by demonstrators at Sydney University. At Macquarie the university administration, to its credit, made sure the talk went ahead. That was in the days when its security guards were used to protect free speech, not suppress it.

We often hear that tolerance is a - perhaps the - central Australian value. But its meaning tends to shift depending on the issue at stake. Recall the slogan "All animals are equal" in Animal Farm. In the closing pages of George Orwell's book, this receives the qualification "but some animals are more equal than others". Likewise with tolerance, some views seem to be more tolerable than others.

Intellectuals have generally been tolerant of extreme views on the left. At Macquarie I studied a course called Marxism, run by people who appeared to believe in it. At least one was a member of the Communist Party of Australia, dedicated to the overthrow of our social system by force. This situation was public knowledge, by no means unique to Macquarie. It was deeply offensive to the many Australians who'd suffered at the hands of communist regimes, but it was generally tolerated on the grounds of free speech.....

Many of those who've commented on this affair have said or assumed that Fraser's views have no intellectual credibility. But is this right? In 1994 in America the book The Bell Curve appeared. Authors Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray argued, like Fraser, that Asians have higher IQs than white people, while black people have lower ones. The book became a controversial bestseller in the United States and led to enormous public debate. Many experts, including Howard Gardner and Stephen Jay Gould, disagreed with the book. But many others supported its views or acknowledged they were based on reputable research. According to Wikipedia, these included 52 professors who signed a letter to The Wall Street Journal, and a taskforce of the American Psychological Association. It's interesting that America, where race is a big issue, was able to have this debate, while Australia cannot.

Many years after Eysenck's visit to Macquarie I met him, and asked why he was so drawn to controversial research. He said it was intellectually productive because it forced him to reconsider basic assumptions, in this case the nature of IQ testing, the extent to which any IQ differences are the result of nature or nurture, and whether anything could be done to narrow gaps between average racial IQs if these were found. (At that stage he was looking at the role of nutrition.) He added that as opponents can't know the consequences of research or of the discussion of its findings, their opposition might actually hurt the people they're trying to protect. Hence any moral argument for the suppression of debate needs to be questioned in its own terms and in relation to academic independence.

Fraser says Tim Sprague, Macquarie's director of human resources, told him last week that the university was a business that needed to attract foreign students. This is certainly true: 31 per cent of all its students, and according to Fraser more than half the full-time ones, are fee-paying. (The university did not respond to my query for the exact full-time figure.) Fraser says Sprague told him his comments on immigration were interfering with the university's capacity to attract these students, most of whom are Asian.

Macquarie's vice-chancellor, Di Yerbury has denied that Sprague had said this and said, "our earnings from international education have not been part of our thinking on this matter". Nor was there any wish "to stifle debate on campus". She also said that if Fraser had agreed to resign, as the university wanted, this would have given him "even more opportunity, not less" to exercise his right to free speech. And they say the art of satire is dead!

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