Jesus warned his followers: "Do not judge lest you be judged yourselves. For in the way you judge, you shall be judged; and by your standard of measure, it shall be measured to you." (Matt. 7:1-2).
Wise words, but often forgotten. Maybe it's human nature, but the more a group or belief has been persecuted in its past, the less tolerant it is once it gains the upper hand. You might think that a formerly oppressed group would appreciate the struggles of minority opinions and sympathize with its ex-oppressors, but rare is the new boss who doesn't commit the worst sins of the old boss. The Reign of Terror following the French Revolution is the rule; the Amish practice of forgiving their aggressors is the exception. By embracing intolerance toward dissent, the formerly oppressed group loses its moral authority, and betrays the purpose of its struggle. As Gandhi put it: "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." The principles of the French Revolution soon transformed into the unbounded aggression of Napoleon, and set back the cause of democracy in Europe for generations.
Freedom to express stupidity
The freedom to peacefully express one's prejudice, ignorance, and hatred is the foundation of a free society and an integral part of the modern Western democratic theory advocating tolerance of all opinions -- including the stupid and despicable ones.
But that tradition is changing. As the number of individuals supporting equal rights for racial and religious minorities, women, and homosexuals has grown, these enlightened individuals' intolerance for those holding more traditional views has intensified. Although a generation or two ago, it was widely believed that miscegenation and sodomy were sins against nature, to be punished criminally, the wheel has turned, and such views are incomprehensible to many in the younger generations. With this lack of understanding, we risk committing the same crimes that our elders committed not that long ago, with disturbing results.
Excellent work -- but you're fired
For example, in Iceland a school teacher, Mr. Snorri Óskarsson, a fundamentalist Christian and a Bethel Church member was fired recently for daring to express and elaborate on his blog about his personal belief -- stated in the Bible, the text of his religion, and by the way, that of the Icelandic Lutheran state church -- that homosexuality is a sin.
According to Mr. Óskarsson, school authorities informed him that "by writing and expressing publicly in a hurtful manner your opinions about homosexuality and transsexuals you have committed violations in a manner that justifies reaction on behalf of the authorities," the writings being "against laws, rules, resolutions and school policy." In the same breath Mr. Óskarsson was thanked for his excellent work for the school.
I won't discuss the governmental schizophrenia (I'm probably committing a PC violation here) inherent in the above statement, from a government in a country that supports a Lutheran state church at great expense. If the government considers the official word of the state religion a violation of state law then perhaps it's time that the state examine the wisdom of supporting a state religion.
I should note that I'm not a member of the Icelandic Lutheran state church or any other religion and despise ideologies or people that discriminate or, to quote the Icelandic Penal Code, "who... by means of ridicule, calumniation, insult, threat or otherwise assault a person or group of persons on account of their nationality, colour, race, religion or sexual inclination."
"Dying to be raped"
In determining the beneficiaries of state protection from hurtful or insulting speech, the government's decision-making has been discriminatory and arbitrary.
Earlier this year another Icelandic teacher (B) was in the news for comments he made on his blog about defendants in a case stemming from the Pots and Pans Revolution of 2009 following which nine people were prosecuted for assaulting Iceland's Parliament. V commented that the defendants should be caged or guillotined, kicked and stoned."
B: "And sexually harass the broads. Don't forget that."
V: "In fact the male portion of the rabble is probably also feminists, but such shemales should receive especially cruel and inhumane treatment."
B: V's "comments [that all feminists should be sexually harassed] are worthy of attention but the problem is that most feminists' appearance is such that it will be difficult for even the most robust of men to harass them."
On Facebook last year, regarding a news story about a woman threatened with rape, B commented: "These broads are hysterical... Deep down she's dying to be raped."
Feminists, women, and political protesters need not apply
According to news stories the teacher was reprimanded, but the dean was not "worried about his work... the school's most popular teacher."
One of the nine defendants prosecuted (by the government), a former student of the teacher B, complained to school authorities (which previously had been informed of the teacher's encouraging the organization of white militia groups to beat up Pots and Pans Revolution protesters) about the teacher's remarks. The school replied that it "regretted" that the student was "dragging his old school into a personal feud between him and [B]...The school takes no position in this case other than to remind its staff... to demonstrate restraint in their speech and behavior... "
Banning speech does not cure hatred
It is obvious what groups the Icelandic government does not consider worthy of its protection against "hurtful" or "insulting" speech: women, feminists and their supporters, and political protesters. Hurtful or insulting speech about homosexuality and transsexuals, on the other hand, is such a serious violation that it justifies loss of employment.
It is ironic that members and supporters of one minority group that has suffered so much prejudice and discrimination should now be ready to take up witch-hunting against another.
Laws and bans against hurtful or insulting speech do not cure hatred. They hamper discussion about the real problem -- the roots of hate and discrimination -- and create suppression and fear. Experience has shown that such laws are arbitrarily used; they are passed with the best of intentions and executed with the worst of results.
Whose "disgusting nature"?
On the Internet Mr. Óskarsson's loss of his job -- which he had performed impeccably for over a decade -- for speaking his mind was widely celebrated. However, the moral authority claimed by the witch-hunters who allegedly feared for their children's welfare in Mr. Óskarsson's classroom was noticeably absent from their comments:
- "Incredible evil of this guy"
- "simple google-search for 'snorri of betel' or 'snorri óskarsson' brings to the forefront his disgusting nature... Snorri is a creep"
- "You know what, I'll... never be tolerant if [it means] allowing a prejudiced gaybasher to teach in a public school."
- "I personaly believe that snori in bedel should be sterilized and insured that he not gain access to children, and mentallydelayedpeople, who possibly could believe this filth" (sic).
"You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly enough to take the speck out of your brother's eye." (Matt. 7:5).