Copyright 2012 by John T. Reed
My son was suspended from school because he thought he saw a girl come into the boys room in elementary school and said, in relief, to the boy in question, “Oh, For a second there, I thought you were a girl.” The boy in question is a sikh. They are never allowed to cut their hair. As adults, they wear a turban. As boys, they just wear long hair.
Another boy overheard the comment and turned my son into the principal.
I was called to the school to take him home. After hearing the reason, I recited the religious freedom clause of the Constitution to the principal. (As a full-time writer, I am very fond of, and familiar with, the First Amendment. I have been sued in cases where I had to quote it repeatedly in court motions and counter-motions.):
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.
I then turned to my son who was about 10 and asked,
Did you make a law establishing a religion?
He said no and I turned to the principal and asked, “So what’s the problem.”
He said my son was disrespecting the religion of another student and that was one of the most serious offenses at the school. I said the rule was nutty and in conflict with the freedom-of-speech clause in the same First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech…
My son had no thought about religion. He was just momentarily shocked by a flash in his peripheral vision that he reasonably thought was a girl in the boys room because of the near universal practice of boys wearing hair short and girls wearing it long in America. The sikh boy took no religious meaning and made no complaint or even mention of it to the school administrators.
But that is all beside the point. Every American resident has the right to criticize any religion for any reason. They even have the right to lie about anything other than defamation, like whether they were awarded a Medal of Honor—as stated in a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision (U.S. vs. Alvarez, 567 U.S. ___ 6/28/12).
When she was in elementary school, my wife was sent to the principal’s office because she laughed out loud when a fellow student recited, in class, a rule of his family’s religion—a rule which that religion has since renounced. My wife was not intending to do anything, just reacting to the unexpected humor. Johnny Carson was a rather serious student of humor. He defined it as the combination of logic and surprise. My wife was surprised by the odd, but logical in a goofy way, perspective of the rule and reacted spontaneously to it.
In recent days, it has come to light that some Americans made a You Tube video about Islam that some Muslims find offensive. Under the First Amendment, this is a non-event in the U.S.
It is especially a non-event for all levels and departments of American government. No level of government should have made any comment whatsoever about it. Constitutionally, no American government official can abridge the right of the makers of the You Tube video to say whatever non-defamatory thing they want to say. Defamation only applies to persons, not religious figures or deceased people.
No American government body can exercise prior restraint over the exercise of freedom of speech like the You Tube.
As one Supreme Court justice said,
If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the process of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.
Louis D. Brandeis, Whitney v. California 1927
In this case, the government, to their tiny credit, did not try to exercise prior restraint or censor the video. But they did go into the business of being film critics in the form of various statements by the State Department and White House spokesman Jay Carney criticizing the You Tube video.
While that did not rise to the level of censorship, it tried to. And it suggested that the anti-American rioters and murderers in the funny hat zone were justified in their violence.
It is probably appropriate for the U.S. government to inform foreigners in nations without freedom of speech or even a free film industry that U.S. law places no restrictions on contents of a film and that most films made in the U.S. are not made by anyone with connection to the government including this film. In other words, no American government entity had anything to do with the making of this film nor can any American entity of government do anything about it.
But that’s it. Critiquing the film is not in the government’s job description and doing so sent a message of encouragement and weakness to violent America enemies.
Hillary made a statement trying to persuade Muslims that they should love us because of America’s great tradition of religious tolerance.
Uh, excuse me, Ms. Secretary of State, but Muslims do not consider tolerance of multiple religions to be a virtue. I would have thought a Secretary of State would have figured that out by now. Indeed, tolerating infidels is a capital offense to them. And I don’t even want to think about their reaction to you suggesting they should like us because of our “tolerating” Islam.
And they said Bush was profoundly culturally ignorant when he called our invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan a “crusade.”
My undergraduate alma mater, West Point, has a cadet chain of command. It includes the usual military positions of executive officer, adjutant, training officer, and supply officer. And when I was there, one other unique to West Point: Activities officer (extracurricular activities).
In recent years, I noticed occasional mention in literature from West Point about a Cadet Respect Officer.
“Uh oh,” I thought. “That sounds like a political correctness officer.”
I tried to track down the job description of the new Respect Captain position in the student body. What little I found was rather vague, talking about cultural awareness, responsible alcohol use, healthy eating and self respect, avoidance of sexual harassment and assault, and equal opportunity.
And they had a quote from an ancient Army general;
He who feels the respect which is due to others cannot fail to inspire in them regard for himself, while he who feels, and hence manifests, disrespect toward others, especially his inferiors, cannot fail to inspire hatred against himself.
I do not know what the quote means. Respect is earned, not exchanged by ritual like a hand shake or wishing people goodbye. If you don’t like your superiors or your subordinates, quit and find another place to work.
So the list of subjects covered does not sound so bad. But the name of the officer does. It sound like the same sort of crap that got my son suspended, my wife sent to the principal, and the Fort Hood massacre called “workplace violence.” It sounds like the Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of a religion has morphed into “All U.S. residents will respect, that is, refrain from criticizing, or even uttering the slightest hint that they are criticizing, all religions.”
It sounds like the Congress has enacted a law establishing that any and all religions are above criticism, including so much as a raised eye brow, although lack of religious belief may be condemned without limit. Furthermore, this has gone to the point where if someone established a group dedicated to killing every non-Muslim on earth, and said it was a religion, no non-Muslim in America would be permitted to so much as mention that religion even in the event of its members carrying out murders pursuant to their tenets and explicitly saying that was their motivation.
Furthermore, criticizing any person who is a member of such religion at any time for anything is to be condemned as bigotry or hate speech.
Bigotry and hate speech, by the way, are permitted under U.S. law. Discrimination for certain reasons is illegal under certain circumstances like housing and employment, but mere beliefs and speech are never prohibited under U.S. law. And the laws against bigotry are very much like a ten-foot-wide wall that is supposed to hold back a 100-mile-wide ocean. For example, renters or sellers of housing are not allowed to discriminate by race. But prospective tenants and home buyers can, and do, discriminate all they want against apartment buildings or neighborhoods containing members of races they do not like.
I suspect that nowadays, most Americans mistakenly believe that “hate speech” is a violation of U.S. law. It is not and the simple reason is because then everyone would claim any speech they did not like was hate speech.
Could we pause in singing “I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free” to re-educate ourselves with regard to what our religious and speech freedoms really are? And reinstitute some common sense before we all get killed by enemies who attack us wearing armor composed of our own political correctness gone mad?
John T. Reed