Speaking of free expression …

June 19, 2009

CFI’s Campaign for Free Expression is less than a whole day old, and already generating plenty of feedback. (Check out https://centerforinquiry.org/news/the_center_for_inquiry_launches_campaign_for_free_expression/  ). As executive director of the Council for Secular Humanism, my special patch of this multi-pronged campaign is a website, www.pleaseblock.us . That’s right, “Please block us.” Its purpose is to recognize and link to the most vivid and controversial examples of free expression we can find, including—but by no means limited to—items some might consider blasphemous. From repressive national regimes to puffed-up institutions with onerous speech codes, we invite any who might feel impelled to block access to our site to do so. Fair warning: we WILL tell the world.

It’s gratifying to see that from the moment we went live, people “got it.” Here’s a declaration I received from Barry Greenstein, a humanist activist in the greater Philadelphia area. No two ways about it, Barry “gets” what pleaseblock.us and the Campaign for Free Expression are all about:

  “I oppose hate crimes legislation. This is not because I support hate groups or violence. I don’t, but I like the idea that a person can be criminally charged for their thoughts even less. That to me is a whole different order of violence.

“We already have laws against murder, rape, assault and battery. We have laws concerning conspiracy, extortion, and financial and sexual exploitation. Our laws aren’t always perfect, but we do not legally define crimes by the motivation behind them. To enact hate crime legislation is, in my opinion, far too close for my comfort to defining a legal category for what George Orwell called  ‘thoughtcrime.’ While the intent behind hate crimes legislation is well meaning, I do not think that enforcing social stigmas already associated with hate and violence is or should ever be the duty of the courts.

“Please stand with me and oppose hate crimes legislation. Ending hate is possibly the greatest challenge humanity can ever take upon itself, but defining hate or any state of mind as illegal is no solution.”

—Barry Greenstein