Who’s The Victim?: Claims Of Persecution, Loss Of Free Speech Rights, And Other Right-Wing Nonsense

[I]f you think there has not been a chilling effect on the free speech of Christians in recent years then you are painfully out of touch. Here is an article–complete with external references–giving several examples. (And, as always, when there is a chilling effect on free speech there are many other examples that will never be known due to self-censorship). – Comment On Discussion In FB Group United Methodists For Truth

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You are taking the words of a few and using them to misrepresent a much larger whole that does not take stock in those things. By doing this, all that happens is you take those who are more moderate in their approach and push them toward the right. You have not allowed for any opinion that is contrary to yours and because of that force people to choose a “side”. That is going to take the majority of the UMC which is most likely somewhere in the middle of two poles and force them to choose. If history is any indication, that will result in most of those going toward the conservative “side” and harm the idea of full inclusion. – Comment, Closed FB group Progressive Methodists, directed at me.

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Of course, there is a plan and conspiracy to take over the Churches for the Leftist agenda. Karen Booth documents that in her excellent work. Bottom line: follow the money.

By accident I once sat in a meeting with a bishop and his joint cabinet when they were coached by Tex sample to be power brokers. He described in detail how to break the evangelical coalition and advance the socialist agenda in the UMC. It’s right out of Alinsky and I’ve watched it play out for 40 years.

It split the Episcopal Church and I hope it will split the UMC, too. The Anglicans are ready to gather up any stray sheep that need a loving, orthodox fold.

John Wesley, BTW, called homosexuality a “vile practice.” – FB comment in closed group United Methodists For Truth

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I wonder if IRD sells these on their website?

I wonder if IRD sells these on their website?

CORRECTION: FOR SOME REASON, IN THE ORIGINAL POST I KILLED OFF TEX SAMPLE, WHO IS QUITE ALIVE AND WELL, THANK YOU VERY MUCH. I REGRET THE ERROR AND HAVE CORRECTED IT.

 

This is kind of an addendum to yesterday’s post. The conversation I reported carried on well in to yesterday evening, demonstrating that, if nothing else, some folks have nothing better to do than engage in pointless arguments on the internet. Most folks who read news and political stories online see this kind of thing a whole lot: folks on the right are so quick to proclaim themselves the victim; they insist their free speech rights are infringed; they relate anecdotes that they insist prove there is a conspiracy not only to silence conservative (or “traditional”) voices, but perhaps eradicate them.

And I will admit guilt in doing a little bit of “guilt by association” when I linked yesterday’s post on Facebook. By claiming that the voices I quoted yesterday were in fact the constituency both of groups like the IRD and individuals who support our current UMC status quo, I was making a claim that might be construed as slandering those who would try to distance themselves from such comments as those I quoted yesterday. Yet, isn’t it the case that when an individual, or group of individuals, write things that agree with views expressed by particular individuals and groups, some kind of association can be made? Is such “slander” really playing guilt-by-association? Only if the people protesting my doing so do not, in fact, hold the beliefs they have expressly insisted they do hold, or the groups to which they pledge their allegiance do not hold the views they have claimed to hold. I will always insist that if people are insulted when others say things in more coarse and hurtful ways that nevertheless agree with their own views, the problem is not mine for pointing it out. The problem is with them, their views, and how they line up with those of others.

Now, to claims of victimhood. Let’s begin with the claimed denial of First Amendment rights to freedom of speech. The intent of the Amendment is to make it unconstitutional for the states of the federal government to arrest people for saying something. It has absolutely nothing to do (a) with discussions between persons, or interactions between individuals and private organizations; (b) whether or not individuals, groups, or businesses who operate for the public welfare, with the expectation that goods or services are offered to the public without prior restraint (that whole “restraint of trade” thing). In such cases, it is perfectly acceptable for the state, in whatever form, to insist on particular behaviors and actions that persons, acting in their roles not as individuals but as persons engaged in a particular vocation or action for the general public, not to allow their personal predilections or beliefs to create barriers between themselves and the public. When a person owns and operates a business, they do so not as themselves, but under state laws of incorporation, or under laws regulating limited liability partnerships or privately held businesses. As such, they are not Jim or Mary Jane. They are, in fact, So-and-so’s Photography Studio, or The Bakery, or a member of the staff, a doctor or nurse, of The Hospital. There are already protections for particular types of businesses – Kosher and Halal delicatessen’s say, or Roman Catholic Hospitals – that allow them to operate under the religious practices of their particular beliefs. Just because, say, I as a Christian disagree with the religious beliefs of a Mormon – or even a Presbyterian! – does not mean that, were I a butcher or baker or candlestick maker, I could insist that I do not wish to do business with them. I’m not me when I’m practicing my profession. I represent a business operating for the general public, which means I serve the public without prior restraint.

As for the alleged “chilling” of free speech rights, every example cited in the link above comes from FoxNews, World Net Daily which is famous for spreading conspiracy theories and already debunked claims from the far-right, or some other news source of less than sturdy reputation. If people are really “afraid” their speech might get them in trouble with state authorities, the best way to check if that’s true or not is, well, to speak. Indeed, if all these things had happened as claimed, wouldn’t it seem obvious that any report of them would be punished? That the reports would be removed? Perhaps I’m missing something here, but I have yet to see any site, right-wing or left-wing, disappear because of state interference or silencing.

As for conspiracy-mongering – the ultimate in persecution! – let me just note that, in the last quote cited above, I cannot imagine someone just showing up to a UMC cabinet meeting and being allowed to stay if they were not invited. That just doesn’t happen. Furthermore, I cannot imagine Tex Sample saying or doing any of the things alleged about him. That just wasn’t who he was. Which means, of course, the story is made up. Do I know the story is untrue? This is a case of inference. I have not asked the person to offer any proof – what year did this happen? what conference? who was the bishop? – that would satisfy criteria that might verify such a thing. All the same, I would guess if I did the answers I would receive wouldn’t satisfy me. Why? Because the truth or falsity of such claims aren’t nearly as important as the ongoing narrative of the persecution of right-wing, or “traditional”, Christians by the treacherous, false “liberal” church. For some reason, despite holding the reins of power in our denomination for over forty years, the real power-brokers are some weird cabal of secret “leftists” who are organized and powerful and really run things, despite all the empirical evidence to the contrary.

And none of this is new, or interesting. These rhetorical strategies and moves are not unique to conservatives in the United Methodist Church. Whether religious or secular, the structure of the arguments and the claims made are all the same. When calling it out, some folks insist that others treat their arguments seriously. Except, of course, it’s all been written before, all been heard before, and I, for one, see no reason to treat them any more seriously than the countless times they’ve been trotted out in other forums, under different names but always the same words, the same strategies, the same rhetorical shifts, accompanied always by claims of victimhood as they insist that not taking them seriously is a violation both of their religious and free speech rights. It’s tiresome. I just kinda wish I could rejoin that group and let them know all this.

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About gksafford

I'm a middle-aged theologically educated clergy spouse, living in the Midwest. My children are the most important thing in my life. Right behind them and my wife is music. I'm most interested in teaching people to listen to contemporary music with ears of faith. Everything else you read on here is straw.
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