Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Will NZ blasphemy laws be Fryed?

Following up the post below, NZ anti-blasphemy law ("who knew we had one?") may change.

I am with Archbishop Philip.


Jean said...

I had no idea.....

But it seems a pretty harmless law given it doesn't restrict freedom of speech but allows for the possibility in the context of religion, morality and public welfare for any the instigators of any obscene material to be prosecuted if the need arises.... Apparently there are other laws more recent on not publishing material inciting hatred or violence but you would need to ask a lawyer about that!

Although what is blasphemous may be debatable the law is pretty clear saying views should be in good faith, use decent language, and it is also obviously a pretty difficult law to prosecute anyone with it as the Attorney General needs to approve of any prosecution.

I am not sure if Mr Fry would be fried under this Kiwi law.

Anonymous said...

Peter, are we sure that blasphemy laws do not have at least a tiny place in late modern states? Nowadays disrespect to God is chiefly insult from one strongwilled faction-- political, social, cultural-- to opponents of another persuasion. So the here-and-now policy question before the fair-minded is not What Would Voltaire Have Done? It is whether such comprehensive insult in the body politic should be protected from the civil law or indeed by the civil law.

Personally, I have never seen how liberal principles that reasonably protect the expression of views on the public business can be stretched to protect insult against parts of the public itself. Someone petitioning for lower taxes or pleading in court must be protected; someone flinging a racial epithet, a misogynistic insult, or blasphemy does not seem so entitled.

And as it happens, Presidents Obama and Trump have given us a *natural experiment* in what happens in democratic societies whose states protect hate speech as though it were policy speech. The chief effect seems to be a deep irrational polarisation in which citizens are too trapped in their partisanship to think freely about what their opponents and even non-partisans say. On this bright morning in a midwestern state carried by Trump, Thomas B. Edsall's analysis seems spot on--

"Over the past 50 years, overarching and underlying conflicts about morality, family, autonomy, religious conviction, fairness and even patriotism have been forced into two relatively weak vessels, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. The political system is not equipped to resolve these social and cultural conflicts, which produce a gamut of emotions, often outside our conscious awareness. Threatening issues — conflicts over race, immigration, sexuality and many other questions that cut to the core of how we see ourselves and the people around us — cannot be contained in ordinary political speech, even as these issues dominate our political decision-making.

"It is Trump’s willingness to violate the boundaries of conventional discourse that has granted him immunity to mainstream criticism. Pretty much everything he does that goes overboard helps him. He is given a free hand by those who feel in their gut that he is fighting their fight — that he is their leader and their defender. As the enemy of their enemies, President Trump is their friend."

Churches with BoBo* constituencies have an understandable institutional temptation to favour repeal as a PR opportunity to convince their members and societies that they are up-to-date, non-judgmental, accepting of pluralism, etc. But because scripture condemns destructive speech throughout the NT, might we not infer that it is contrary to the moral law? We cannot actually advise a debased way of being human as public policy. And if legalising blasphemy and similar insult is also legalising the paradigm of Trump, how is that progressive?

At least in the US, a few generations of liberals are facing an inner conflict between a cherished ethos of uninhibited orality and its political effects on material and social equality. Those who stand with the poor probably cannot also defend blasphemy and other hate speech. For Christians, scripture has made the right choice very clear, but some find it difficult. Our political experience suggests that, if these indecisive ones wish to remain relevant, then they must propose new arrangements for democratic governance to which their opponents, who are winning handily under the old arrangements, might also agree. Everything considered, it might be easier and indeed wiser for progressives to accept an old blasphemy law or a new hate speech law as part of the necessary self-discipline of democracy.

I cannot see how explaining that to even a church of BoBos could be harmful in the long run.

* BoBo = Bourgeois Bohemian(s); < David Brooks, BoBos In Paradise. Persons who have prospered in capitalist societies but have adopted the counter-cultural outlook of their late modern critics.

Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman
A difficulty with retaining any law exists once it is recognised that securing a conviction under that law is problematic. Is it not the case in the modern Western world that such convictions are problematic, your fine points above notwithstanding!?

BrianR said...

"Personally, I have never seen how liberal principles that reasonably protect the expression of views on the public business can be stretched to protect insult against parts of the public itself. Someone petitioning for lower taxes or pleading in court must be protected; someone flinging a racial epithet, a misogynistic insult, or blasphemy does not seem so entitled."

Rubbish, brother - rubbish on stilts. The US Constitution has it right and those craven western states - and liberals in the US - that are chipping away at free speech with laws against insults, "hate speech" etc are destroying freedom by invoking censorship - all in the name of public safety, of course. The left once stood for freedom against the censorious right; now the left is censorious and wants to shut down debate and free speech by invoking the "pain" selected protected groups may feel. Look at the travesty of intellectual enquiry that US universities have become in the use of coercive violence and threats against opinions the left doesn't like.

Anonymous said...

Peter, the medieval statutes on usury are likewise seldom enforced and we all have credit cards, but financial regulation is enforced minute by minute, and our only regret is that it was not still better enforced before 2008. We have not outgrown human nature itself, but the modes of regulating its excesses vary with the times.

Brian, I do not dislike free speech absolutism, but I cannot find it in scripture-- I do find several stern rebukes of bad speech-- and I cannot avoid finding therein a duty to the poor that requires a polity that works. If you can deliver me from the dilemma of choosing between the joys of unbounded speechifying and a more perfect union rendering justice, please do. But this is how it all looks on the ground.

When I was much younger, I disliked fuddy-duddy politicians who at least publicly conformed to a moral and social consensus to which they surely did not belong and probably did not believe. The free speech absolutism of such Supreme Court justices as Brandeis and Douglas then seemed in every way more interesting, less hypocritical, etc. And it held the promise of a politics in which politicians were instead shining exemplars of the ideas in which they believed. Be careful what you ask for.

Today, the old fuddy-duddies are the politicians we admire. They were the true professionals who negotiated a moderate welfare state, civil rights for racial minorities, a degree of environmental protection, steady support for science and the arts, and a vast expansion of higher education. They did most of this with the support of both of this nation's major political parties.

The present politics does not need description further than to say that, alas, politicians are indeed shining exemplars of the ideas in which they believe. And partisans who agree with them are having a wonderful time, much as sports fans enjoy watching their favourite teams. But political civility has been lost, and with that has been lost much of our capability for reality-based governance. The poor to whom we have a duty are suffering because the reality of their condition is either not very entertaining or entertains a rather base constituency.

In retrospect, I recognise that what then seemed to be hypocrisy was a necessary vocational sacrifice of personal self-expression to the public business. Just because they did not scorn the values of their opposition, the politicians of that generation did not embitter the other party, and so they were more effective in the political arts of negotiation and compromise.

What then does free speech absolutism get wrong? It understands speech only as production for exchange to consumers in a state of privacy, and is blind to other effects that speech can have on the body politic at large. The open mic that you prefer makes most sense where ideas are sold as a commodity to be consumed. I might possibly go to hear Ann Coulter at Berkeley, if I were there and she could speak.

But the anonymous posters along my neighbourhood streets that say "Make Racists Afraid Again" are another matter. Although from the left, they simply embitter the public in ways that ultimately hurt the poor. Their speech is not the sort of thing that American judges confronted with Lady Chatterley's Lover were thinking about. Racism is wrong, of course, but as a Christian, I do not see how I can defend those posters.

To the contrary, Romans 13 suggests that I must defend at least the minimal integrity of the state. In America today, that appears to mean rescuing the state to again serve as the forum, not for the entertainment of partisans enjoying their hatreds as sports fans do, but for the equitable and aware transaction of public business that affects real lives about which God cares.

Bowman Walton

BrianR said...

The Bible doesn't have free speech absolutism because it's addressed to believers, not the 'corpus mixtum' of the state. Our British-American tradition of free speech isn't Voltairean but Lockean, via the 1689 Bill of Rights, the Zwenger case and many others.
It is largely the left that have fouled the waters of political discourse in the past 20 years or so. Political correctness - the self-righteous policing of other people's language - is a project of cultural Marxism; 'hate speech' is an invention of the left intended to chill debate; while the extreme ranting against Bush ('Bushitler' etc) and even calls for his assassination form Hollywood sorts created the climate of 'incivility'. The use of violence on American campuses to drive out speakers hated by the left is simply the escalation of their anti-liberal, anti-democratic outlook.
If we want a return to 'the old days', then the left will have change its violent rhetoric - and maybe discover Catholicism again. You see, that was the underlying factor to the consensus (if it was) of the 1950s and 60s: the Democrats in the US and Labour in the Anglo world had a significant Catholic element in it social thought. But once the left adopted abortion and feminist politics, the Catholic element in its social thought began to be sidelined and it became increasingly secular in outlook. Meanwhile, Catholics (or at least the laity) began moving to the right.

Anonymous said...

Brian, I enjoy your comment, as usual, but if it has a sign pointing to a way out of the dilemma mentioned above, I have not found it.

And for that purpose, does it matter whether political civility crumbled first on its left face or on its right one? (My conservative friends are always pointing the finger to say "They started it!," much as Adam pointed at Eve in Eden. Doing so must make them feel much better about something but the flaming sword does not care.)

In America, did the left become less Catholic, or did Catholics move to the left of the social magisterium as they moved up the social scale? On the US Supreme Court, apart from one Jew, both the left wing and the right one have been Catholic. Anyway, Catholics seem to be as polarised as the rest of us, and along the same lines.

Bowman Walton

Bowman Walton

BrianR said...

Lack of civility in political speech really doesn't bother me much any more than a kid who swears; censorship, threats of violence, rioting and acts of violence and destruction - as you had when Trump was elected and we've seen in campuses in the US to intimidate and drive out unapproved opinions - do concern me a lot. I don't care if a lot of students in Florida make themselves look ignorant and stupid by their rude behaviour; I do care if people are threatened and attacked or driven out of their jobs for their opinions and beliefs. That is the real issue. And who is doing this now? The left.
The problem lies in so-called higher education: never before have the standards and achievements of STEM and Medicine been so high (a lot of this on the strength of imported brain power); never before have the 'humanities' been so degenerate and culturally captive. The humanities once meant something in the universities; now they have become a bad joke.
But that is the difference between knowledge and ideology.
As for Catholicism, I wasn't thinking of the SCOTUS but rather its sidelined status in the Democratic Party. Catholic teaching on bioethics and sexuality is despised by the left but they still need some way to keep the Hispanics in the tent. The race card - and screaming 'Raaacist!' - is the preferred method.

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter,

Fr Ron's response is hard for me to follow. He seems to be irritated that I question whether a priest in one diocese can be a bishop in another solely ( and not with any obvious logical nexus ) because we Romans had a liking for multiple (anti)(pseudo)(real) Popes. Furthermore Fr Ron is thereby defending a position he would usually oppose ie the intrusion of one diocese into another. As for my use of "we", I like many lay people grow tired of high minded reasons (on your side as well as ours - not to mention the ever complicated Orthodox ) as to why we cannot focus on the great commission. I used to think this was a Catholic imposed hurdle until I looked at evangelical and Orthodox websites that get lost in Greek grammar and philosophy at the expense of the potentially lost. Do you really care whether, for example, justification without works is a major issue? Is filoque procedit an eternal concern? I doubt that those desperate to meet our Lord care. Importantly the Lord does care.


Father Ron said...

Sorry to have offended you, Nick. However, with your constant questioning of Anglican transgressions againt 'Sacred Tradition', you do rather lay yourself open to a little tit-for-tat dialogue - involving the follies of your own Church.

However, to get back to the real subject matter of this thread; I am, naturally from my perspective, in totaL agreement with Peter in his criticism of this preposterous situation in the Church of England. Here we have a 'rebellious priest' - egged on, I suspect, by his elderly conservative Evangelical Vicar in the C.of E. parish of Jesmond in the diocese of Newcastle, England; agreeing to be an episcopal wild-plant of the schismatic faux-Anglican Church of South Africa.

This really is weird, and needs immediate action by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, in order to nip in the bud this attempt by Con/Evos in other counrtries to take over the historic Church of England. The fact that this particular action outsmarted both GAFCON and its handmaiden AMiE to ordain the first outsider bishop in an act of egregious subversion of the C.of E. is hilarious - if it were not so embarrassing for the Archbishops, who have been less than careful in their relationship to GAFCON.

It really is nothing less than the first surrogate tippy-toeing into GAFCON's obvious determination to impose its outdated theology on the other Provinces of the Anglican Communion.

BrianR said...

"Do you really care whether, for example, justification without works is a major issue? Is filoque procedit an eternal concern? I doubt that those desperate to meet our Lord care."

Well, an iota of difference in the homoiousion / homoousion did make a lot of difference as Arianism persisted for centuries after Athanasius. Less is obviously at stake in the filioque controversy.
But your larger question about ecclesial turf wars while the rest of the world goes to hell in a shopping cart ('Tesco ergo sum') is fair. Bryden is right. If episcopacy means anything, it means missionary work. 98% of the English population isn't in an Anglican church of a Sunday. 90% are probably not in any church at all. In 10 years' time about 25% of young people in Britain under 25 will be Muslim. Who is reaching them with the Gospel? And very many evangelical Anglicans are tired of the culture wars or the 'sex wars' consuming their time and energy. Because liberals in aging, declining churches still want to push the envelope, is that a reason why evangelicals should depart, Peter? Should the C of E die as Tec is doing?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Nick, Ron and Brian
Am a bit too tired after our Clergy Conference to respond to all the details of the points made above!
A couple of things stand out, though!
(a) Nick: Doesn't Justification through Works matter as an issue when preaching the gospel, since what we think about that will shape what we say? (But in general I agree we must take great care not to make specks of issues into logs which block out the Light).
(b) Brian: better theologians than me keep saying that Faith and Order go together. Jesmond preaches the gospel (Faith; good!) but seems a bit wonky on ordination/canons (Order; mot so good). At the very least their wonkiness on Order raises questions about what non-Christians hearing their gospel would make of them as a community of faith out of sync not only with the CofE but also with GAFCON. So many differences and (at the least, informal) splits: it is not a great witness, is it? (And, worrying about the lack of gospel by liberals ... is that in danger of heading in the two wrongs do not make a right direction?)
(c) Ron: there are indeed interesting histories when we look them up re competing bishops/popes. Perhaps we are ourselves in such an historical moment? It didn't end up all bad for Rome, they got back on track eventually!

Anonymous said...

"I like many lay people grow tired of high minded reasons (on your side as well as ours - not to mention the ever complicated Orthodox ) as to why we cannot focus on the great commission. I used to think this was a Catholic imposed hurdle until I looked at evangelical and Orthodox websites that get lost in Greek grammar and philosophy at the expense of the potentially lost. Do you really care whether, for example, justification without works is a major issue? Is filoque procedit an eternal concern? I doubt that those desperate to meet our Lord care. Importantly the Lord does care."

God help me, Nick, I am completely focused on fulfilling the Great Commission at rather large scale. For that purpose, I have cared rather a lot about precisely justification and the filioque.

To be clear about what the gospel is, I have spent more time than I would have liked studying "justification without works." To many, reportedly including some desperate to meet the Lord, it seems to be one thing to hear that you have been forgiven whether transformed or not (eg "German Luther," John Piper), and another thing to hear that you have been included so that you might be transformed (eg Tom Wright), and still another thing to hear that faith is Christ within you releasing you from the power of sin (eg St Irenaeus, "Finnish Luther," Campbell).

Can those desperate to meet the Lord find him only in the scriptures, or also in the ecumenical councils, or also in the witness of the saints? To find out, one must study the Holy Spirit's use of each medium, and that leads straight to the controversy about the filioque. Eastern adherents to the conciliar text allege that those in the West who depart from it necessarily fall into either subjective individualism or reifying authoritarianism. To a neophyte, that is the difference between either being armed with the Bible and a certain suspicion, and being referred to an authoritative bureau that definitively explains the Bible. In contrast, the conciliarists would refer our neophyte to elders who live the Bible following their exemplars in an informal tradition of witness in the Spirit (eg Philokalia). Someone hungry to meet the Lord could well care about which gate to the Kingdom is open to him.

Yes, there are always some verbal pugilists around punching away for their team, much as little boys brag that their father can beat up any other around. Ego... But I am pleased to report that my surroundings are mostly free of such weakness and ignorance. Whether I agree with them or not, those I hear debating these matters believe that the Great Commission is itself at stake in the way we understand them.

Bowman Walton