Hooray For Canada!

Ya gotta love it! The border guards between Canada and Michigan refused admission into Canada of pastor Terry Jones and his fellow passengers. The story begins with a couple of tasty paragraphs:

Stephanie Sapp said fellow pastor and her husband Wayne Sapp, along with Jones, were turned back at the Michigan-Ontario border after being detained for several hours. Jones, who leads Florida’s tiny Dove World Outreach Center, and Wayne Sapp, were scheduled to attend Freedom Showdown, an inter-faith debate Thursday evening outside the Ontario Legislature.

Stephanie Sapp said Jones was denied entry because of a fine he got in Germany almost 20 years ago for using the title “doctor” there (he had received an honorary doctorate in theology from a Californian university in 1993). Also, both men had been charged with breaching the peace at a planned rally in Detroit last year.

I’ll overlook the fascinating question of why the man wanted to be addressed as “doctor” after holding an honorary doctoral degree from “a California university.” (But I do wonder what on earth they were thinking??) The Germans had it right: they should have fined him for impersonating a respectable person. And I would defend anyone’s right to “breach the peace” in the name of conscience. But bear in mind that this is the man of God who ordered the burning of the Quran not long ago precipitating a riot in the streets of Kabul, Afghanistan. He is apparently not the sharpest knife in the drawer.

But I love to think the Canadians have it right to refuse admission of this man into their country. I’m all for freedom of speech (which he claims he is being denied), but there are certain people who simply shouldn’t be allowed to open their mouths in public. Defending a person’s right to spread hatred is pushing the first amendment to its limits. Hate speech is designed to drive people apart and start riots; that sort of thing coming from a professed man of the cloth is doubly reprehensible. However, we cannot pick and choose what a person is allowed to say, though (speaking for myself) there are times when I would like to!!

In this regard, one can sympathize with those in the Middle East who wondered why this country doesn’t refuse to allow films such as “The Innocence of Muslims” that promote racial hatred and which has recently led al-Qaida to declare a “holy war” against the United States and Israel. One can understand, if not sympathize with, those who were outraged at the insults heaped on the founder of Islam. Our notion that free speech is a basic human right is not one that is shared by every other culture. But our defense of free speech is vital to what this country means and we were right to allow the film to be shown in spite of the fact that it stirred up hatred and violence in the Middle East.

We must protect any person’s right to say anything as long as it doesn’t directly result in harm to another person. Determining just what this might be before the person speaks or writes is a problem. One must try to determine the person’s intent, which is not always clear. And the intention of the film-maker in this case was to increase sympathy for the Christians living in Egypt, not to spread hatred — or so he says. Whenever speech is prohibited there is always the danger of censorship which, like any form of repression, is anathema to a free country. Thus, while I may applaud the Canadians for doing what I would love to do myself — namely, refuse to allow Terry Jones entry into the United States — I must admit that he has a right to his opinions no matter how hateful and stupid they might be. It’s the price we pay I suppose.

12 thoughts on “Hooray For Canada!

  1. This echoes a similar discussion I heard on NPR about our freedom of speech and the rest of the world’s idea of the freedom of dignity. They discussed it after our ambassador was killed as a result of an offensive cartoon made of the prophet Mohammed. I, like you, am all for freedom of speech, but I really connected with the idea of freedom of dignity. We should be careful that what we say doesn’t impinge on another’s dignity. I guess it’s just good old fashioned respect and courtesy. Great post, as always!

    • Dignity, courtesy, respect…. All these concepts are culturally relative. There are precious few rules that apply across the board.

      Do Ministers, Priests and Imams all deserve my respect? Why? Should I treat everyone with dignity even if I despise them? Should I treat everyone with respect even if they clearly don’t deserve it?

      Living in the Bible Belt south tickles the heck out of me. There isn’t an Obama sign within miles of me. Last wednesday a person I have known for years, a high school guidance counselor, told me she would NEVER vote for Obama because he is a Muslim. Nine out of ten conversations seem to be about how Romney is right and AT LEAST 47% of Americans are deadbeat “takers” who only vote Democratic because they are too lazy to work for a living. And the blacks (except they don’t use that word)… all they want is to have more children they won’t work to pay for.

      In case you are wondering where I am going, or, how this relates…. 39% of the people in the county I live in live off a government check….. Overwhelmingly white. 70% of the children are born to single mothers…. Again overwhelmingly white. But, it’s the South you see. NEVER will you hear….. “I see you are pregnant AGAIN with no husband and no job!” Instead it’s all about being dignified and courteous and treating people with respect and smiling and saying…. “Oh my Lord children are such a blessing.” Until they are out of earshot. Then they are lazy sluts.

      So, wouldn’t it be better to just let-er-rip and quit pretending? Choose to be rude rather than a hypocrite?

      • I assume you are asking a rhetorical question. If I were to answer I would say “no.” Courtesy and fellow-feeling are two of the very few things that help keep things together. And respect for others, in my book, is a corner-stone of morality.


      • Things “keeping together” and morality appear to be in short supply. Respect for others usually doesn’t mean “others”. Perhaps it’s just my age, but, all the nice words and thoughts seem to have no connection to the hard truth of what goes on. Perhaps there are just too many rats in the cage for anything but Bedlam.

      • …”ARISTOTLE WAS a cynic. Sure, the Bible exhorts to “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” but he knew better. “The friendly feelings that we bear for another,” instructed his Ethics, “have arisen from the friendly feelings that we bear for ourselves.”

        Two thousand years later, in 1739, Hume spelled out what the pagan thinker intuited: “I learn to do service to another, without bearing him any real kindness; because I foresee, that he will return my service, in expectation of another of the same kind.” Hume’s Edinburgh neighbor, Adam Smith, penned an often quoted phrase in this vein in The Wealth of Nations: “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. Nobody but a beggar chooses to depend chiefly on the benevolence of his fellow citizens.”…

        From: [The New Republic] “Does Biology Make us Liars?” Thought you might enjoy it. It was an interesting read.
        All the best
        Mrs. N.

  2. Free speech and hate speech are complex issues for me. I hate some of the things that people are allowed to say, but appreciate their freedom to express those things. But it sure is a stretch for me…very interesting post.

  3. Great post Hugh. I think Jenni says it best. It is complex, but it is truly a slippery slope to try and define when something hateful causes harm. Yet, at the end of the day, our country supports the freedom of idiots to shout at the wind. I do think we need to shine as many spotlights on people who spew garbage. Ann Coulter’s latest book theme is that racism no longer exists in America. Reread the last sentence for impact. Bill Maher had her on as his first guest to let the conversation about her book show how inane it and her points are. My wife said Whoopi Goldberg did the same on The View a few weeks ago. Thanks, BTG

    • How will anyone know when a person like Ann Coulter becomes demented (officially, I mean)??!! It is indeed a complex issue. Many thanks for the comment!


  4. there were several parts in this post that triggered a smile.. the first one prepped me for what was coming! “… but there are certain people who simply shouldn’t be allowed to open their mouths in public..”
    you should have a radio talk show! z

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