Opponents say real goal is crackdown on Christians, members of other faiths
By Bob Unruh
A resolution pending in the United Nations in one form or another since 1999 is being pushed again by the Islamic nations that originally proposed the plan they called “Defamation of Islam,” which would ban criticism of the beliefs of Muhammad worldwide.
The proposal, sought by the 57 members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, now has be renamed “Defamation of Religions,” but officials with Open Doors, an international Christian ministry operating in many of those Islamic states, is warning about its potential impact.
Now, lobbying for the resolution has resumed among decision-makers at the U.N., according to Lindsay Vessey, the advocacy director for Open Doors who traveled this week to New York in opposition to the plan.
If fully implemented, the resolution would ban “criticism” of religions worldwide.
But Vessey told WND the real agenda was revealed by the original title of the resolution, “Defamation of Islam,” which would “criminalize people who criticize a religion.”
U.N. human rights provisions always have focused on individuals, but the concept of protecting a religion would give authoritarian governments virtually unrestrained power to attack individuals whose message they don’t like, she said.
“It would legitimize national blasphemy laws in countries that are actually going to persecute religious minorities, such as Pakistan and Afghanistan,” she told WND.
Vessey said Open Doors is working with other organizations to reach out to delegates of many nations to explain the dangers and build opposition. The group also is promoting a petition opposing the plan on its website.
Open Doors President Carl Moeller recently published a commentary describing what could happen under the proposal.
“The United Nations is once again on the verge of introducing a resolution that goes against everything the world body supposedly stands for. A successful resolution would actually undermine the religious liberty and personal safety of Christians and members of other faiths,” he wrote.
In fact, he said the resolution would “silence words or actions that are deemed to be against a particular religion, and that religion is Islam. While the stated goal seems relatively innocuous – blocking defamation of people’s deeply held religious beliefs – in practice the statement is used to silence those whose only crime is to believe in another faith, or no faith at all.”
He said the OIC as the driving force behind the plan and noted, “The OIC’s goal is anything but peaceful.”
He cited a comment from Leonard Leo of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, who described the resolution as an attempt to create a “global blasphemy law.”
“From the right to worship freely to the ability to tell others about Jesus Christ, the Defamation of Religions Resolution (previously called the ‘Defamation of Islam’ resolution) threatens to justify local laws that already restrict the freedom of Christians [and other religious minorities],” Moeller said.
When such laws are adopted locally, he said, they are used to bring criminal charges against individuals for “defaming, denigrating, insulting, offending, disparaging and blaspheming Islam, often resulting in gross human rights violations.”
In August, Muslim extremists rampaged for several days through the Christian community in Gojra, Pakistan, he said. Seven Christians were killed, 19 injured and more than 100 homeslooted.
The violence was sparked by “an unsubstantiated rumor of ‘blasphemy.’”
The U.N. resolution will make such cases more numerous and worse when they occur, he said.
Vessey said the move was an effort on the part of the U.S. to advocate for free speech in a way that would defuse the threat of “defamation” proposals. However, critics of the resolution said even that would be a failure.
Steven Groves of the Heritage Foundation told WND the issue is not about free speech at all but about installing international precedents to stifle any criticism of Islam – the same goal as the defamation proposal.
Referring to the plan to “protect” speech, Groves said it would conflict with the First Amendment, which “protects free speech and expression, even when speech is offensive or insulting. Moreover, a religious ‘speech code’ would disrupt the assimilation of religious minorities that has occurred throughout U.S. history and could breed resentment rather than understanding among America’s religious communities.”
Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice as well as the European Centre for Law and Justice, which has been involved in fighting “defamation of religion” plans at the U.N., said the “free speech” resolution itself “incites discrimination.”
“The proclamation of the Gospel in Muslim countries has been called incitement of religious discrimination,” he told WND. “The U.S. backing of this is a mistake. The Universal Declaration of Human rights protects free speech.
“I am very concerned the U.S. is co-authoring something like this,” he said.
The U.N. General Assembly has approved a “defamation of religions” resolution in each of the three sessions from 2005 to 2007. The text always has been similar, and it always has had major support from Islamic nations with opposition from Western democracies, including the U.S.
“‘Incitement’ and ‘hatred’ are in the eye of the beholder – or more precisely, in the eye of those who make such determinations,” he continued. “The powerful can decide to silence the powerless by classifying their views as ‘hate speech.’ The Founding Fathers knew that the freedom of speech was an essential safeguard against tyranny: the ability to dissent, freely and publicly and without fear of imprisonment or other reprisal, is a cornerstone of any genuine republic. If some ideas cannot be heard and are proscribed from above, the ones in control are tyrants, however benevolent they may be.”
Eugene Volokh, who teaches free speech law, criminal law, tort law, religious freedom law and other subjects at UCLA, and also founded the Volokh Conspiracy weblog, said that the First Amendment protecting speech in the United States isn’t so secure all of a sudden.
“If the U.S. backs a resolution that urges the suppression of some speech, presumably we are taking the view that all countries – including the U.S. – should adhere to this resolution,” he said.
“If we are constitutionally barred from adhering to it by our domestic constitution, then we’re implicitly criticizing that constitution, and committing ourselves to do what we can to change it,” he said.
The administration, he opined, would “presumably be committed to filing amicus briefs supporting changes in First Amendment law to allow such punishment, and in principle perhaps the appointment of justices who would endorse such changes (or even the proposal of express constitutional amendments that would work such changes).”
The 57 member nations of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference have lobbied for the “anti-defamation” plan, which is based on the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam, since 1999. The Cairo declaration states “that all rights are subject to Shariah law, and makes Shariah law the only source of reference for human rights.”
The U.S. State Department also has found the proposal unpalatable.
“This resolution is incomplete inasmuch as it fails to address the situation of all religions,” said a statement from Leonard Leo. “We believe that such inclusive language would have furthered the objective of promoting religious freedom. We also believe that any resolution on this topic must include mention of the need to change educational systems that promote hatred of other religions, as well as the problem of state-sponsored media that negatively targets any one religion.”
By Chelsea Schilling
A street preacher is accusing police of violating his constitutional rights after officers arrested him for not having a parade permit while he spoke out against homosexuality on a public sidewalk in Manchester, Ga.
Chris Pettigrew and Pastor Billy Ball and of Faith Baptist Church in Primrose, Ga., were arrested multiple times Aug 24 after they held signs on a public street corner telling people to repent and declaring homosexuality a sin.
They held signs that stated:
Repent ye, and believe the gospel. Mark 1:15
The sodomite lifestyle produces vile affections, ungodly lust, reprobates
Repent or burn
Three gay rights: AIDS, hell, salvation
“There were four of us to begin with. We weren’t preaching with any amplified sound,” Pettigrew told WND. “Basically, as soon as we got out of the cars and started toward the sidewalk, Manchester city police officers showed up and asked us if we had a parade permit.”
He continued, “We did not have a parade permit, and we informed them that we had no plans for obtaining a parade permit because we weren’t in a parade.”
Pettigrew said officers from the Manchester Police Department were initially cordial when they told him he must have a permit to stand on the sidewalk with his sign.
“We simply said, ‘We can’t do that. It’s our constitutional right to free speech. We’re not impeding any kind of traffic. We’re peaceably assembled, so we’re going to do what we came to do,’” he said.
At that moment, another officer arrived, joined the others and told the men they must obtain a permit to remain on the sidewalk.
Displeased with their answer, Pettigrew said, “they handcuffed us and took us to the city jail in Manchester.”
Later, while Pettigrew and his comrades remained in jail, Pastor Ball and another man arrived at the street corner to share his message.
So, police arrested Ball.
Meanwhile, officers issued Pettigrew a citation, returned his belongings and ushered him out of jail.
“So we went back to the corner because it’s America, and there was no sense in arresting us the first time,” Pettigrew said. “We weren’t going to let them bully us into going home.”
He continued, “By the end of the day, I had been arrested three times, and my pastor was arrested four times – simply because we wouldn’t go away.”
By dark, his group had grown to 11 men – including four who had driven from North Carolina and South Carolina to stand on the sidewalk and support the original four who had been arrested.
“By that time they had ceased arresting us, with the exception of my pastor, who was arrested late in the evening,” Pettigrew said.
“We had some people who came down simply because we were being arrested.”
With a tone of frustration, Pettigrew said, “We’re sick and tired of people telling us what we can and can’t do. It’s not constitutional.”
When WND contacted Manchester police and asked why Pettigrew had been arrested, a lieutenant who would not provide his name replied, “I can’t make any comments on that over the phone.”
Pettigrew said one young man who was arrested with his group was contacted by the police department and told charges would be dropped if he brought the citation back.
He maintains that his group always obeys the law “as long as it doesn’t interfere with constitutional rights.” However, he believes authorities detained his small group based on its message against homosexuality.
“If I were holding a sign that said, ‘Two large pizzas for $5,’ I don’t think I would have gotten a second look from police. I firmly and adamantly believe we were singled out and arrested because of the content of our speech,” Pettigrew said.
“If they arrest us for proclaiming the word of God, what will they arrest us for next?” he asked. “We need to get the word out that the rights of the American people are quickly being taken away, and nobody even knows it.”
Google’s blog hosting service, Blogger.com, admits that in the name of “free speech” some of its blogs are “offensive, harmful, inaccurate,” but when one of its clients blogged in opposition to a transgender rights bill, Google drew the line.
A day before the Massachusetts Legislature plans to review a controversial gender identity bill, Blogger.com blocked the blog of MassResistance, an organization that exposes the increasingly open agenda of the homosexual movement in Massachusetts, with a warning that some of the content may be “objectionable,” requiring readers to confirm their intent to visit.
Screen shot of content advisory and permission requirement prior to accessing the MassResistance blog
“Some readers of this blog have contacted Google because they believe this is objectionable,” the warning reads. “In general, Google does not review nor do we endorse the content of this or any blog. For more information about our content policies, please visit the Blogger Terms of Service.”
MassResistance blogger Amy Contrada, however, writes that the only potentially “objectionable” items on the blog are photos taken in public settings and her group’s politically incorrect viewpoints.
“We publish only facts, ‘uncomfortable truths,’ not rumors or personal attacks,” Contrada writes on her blog. “And obviously, our photos reveal the ugly truth. Then, we identify those public figures who are twisting the law to enable public perversion and subversion of our youth and culture.”
“We’ve had that blog on there since 2005,” said Brian Camenker, president of MassResistance, “and only when we started posting on the new transgender bill before the Legislature did this happen.
“If you look at Google’s policy on hate speech, they do state you can’t include hate against people for their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Camenker told WND. “But the things we write are all factual; we don’t advocate beating anyone up. On the other hand, there are an enormous number of blogs against religious people that are clearly vile and hateful, particularly during the Proposition 8 battle in California. Some of that content was hideous, and it’s still up.
“Nothing on our site could be construed as ‘hate,’” Camenker said.
The website’s content policy further states, “It is our belief that censoring this content is contrary to a service that bases itself on freedom of expression.”
MassResistance, however, told WND that Google’s actions speak louder than the words in its policies.
“Google seems to have a double standard,” Camenker said. “It hosts a large number of gay activist sites that are vile and vicious, particularly against religious people, yet they put up an ‘objectionable content’ warning on our blog. How do they define what’s offensive?”
Contrada told WND that as more and more states – and even the federal government – look to pass “hate speech” bills and laws protecting the undefined labels of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” Americans will be shocked, both by what they see displayed on the public streets and by what they can’t say in the public square.
“I’ve been anticipating this for quite a while now,” Contrada said. “Obviously Google is a private enterprise at this point, but their actions represent a trial balloon for government censorship of undefined ‘hate’ speech. And just like the gender identity bills, nowhere is it clearly defined what the terms mean. What will be classified as ‘hate?’
“MassResistance’s blog has pointed out this can of worms, and I think that’s one of the reasons it draws ‘objections’ from transgender activists,” Contrada said. “This act of censorship is just a harbinger of what may come.”
Camenker also said that as Google becomes more technologically entrenched in every aspect of communications, he fears how content will be monitored in the future.
“It’s Orwellian,” Camenker told WND. “With Google controlling operating systems, blogs, Web searches, and software, it can get pretty bad. It could happen to anyone with a company as powerful as Google.”
WND contacted Google for comment on its content advisory and permission confirmation on the MassResistance blog, but a representative merely pointed to the site’s page on “flagging” a blog:
“The Flag button isn’t censorship and it can’t be manipulated by angry mobs,” the Google page reads. “Political dissent? Incendiary opinions? Just plain crazy? Bring it on.
“When someone visiting a blog clicks the Flag button in the Blogger Navbar, it means that person believes the content of the blog may be potentially offensive or illegal,” the Google help page continues. “We track the number of times a blog has been flagged as objectionable and use this information to determine what action is needed. This feature allows the blogging community as a whole to identify content deemed objectionable.”
WND has reported on Google’s history of being frequently criticized for its content policies and one-sided political slant, including the following actions:
- Issuing a statement publicly opposing Proposition 8, California voters’ attempt to constitutionally define marriage as between one man and one woman
- Restricting Christian advertising on the issue of abortion, until a lawsuit compelled Google to amend its policy
- Rejecting an ad for a book critical of Bill and Hillary Clinton while continuing to accept anti-Bush themes
- Rejecting ads critical of Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., while continuing to run attack ads against former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas
- Allowing the communist Chinese government to have the search engine block “objectionable” search terms such as “democracy”
- Ignoring major American patriotic and religious holidays, while honoring Remembrance Day in Australia, Canada, Ireland and the United Kingdom, the Chinese New Year, Valentine’s Day, Halloween and other observances.
In addition, the company came under fire for an editorial decision giving preferential placement to large, elite media outlets such as CNN and the BBC over independent news sources, such as WND, even if they are more recent, pertinent and exhaustive in their coverage.
MassResistance told WND it is currently in the process of backing up its blog content and transferring the blog to a different host service.
Editor’s note: Once a reader confirms he or she wishes to access the MassResistance blog, the content warning no longer appears in subsequent visits to the blog.
Lawsuit filed after speech met with: ‘Ask God what your grade is’
By Bob Unruh
A student at Los Angeles City College has filed a lawsuit against the institution after a professor called him a “fascist b——” and told him to “Ask God what your grade is” following the student’s speech about morality.
The case has been filed by the Alliance Defense Fund on behalf of Jonathan Lopez after his encounter with Professor John Matteson in a speech class.
The lawsuit alleges Lopez was participating in a class assignment to give a speech on “any topic” from six to eight minutes.
“During the November, 24, 2008 class, Mr. Lopez delivered an informative speech on God and the ways in which Mr. Lopez has seen God act both in his life and in the lives of others through miracles. In the middle of the speech, he addressed the issues of God and morality; thus, he referred to the dictionary definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman and also read a passage from the Bible discussing marriage,” the ADF explained.
At that point, the professor interrupted him and refused to allow him to finish his speech, ADF said. Matteson then called Lopez a ‘fascist b——” and dismissed the class.
Later, the professor left an evaluation form on Lopez’s backpack without a grade, instructing him to “Ask God what your grade is.”
Professor’s grading of student’s speech
The professor also warned on the evaluation form, “proselytizing is inappropriate in public school.”
Yet several weeks earlier, Matteson has announced to the class, in connection to the California vote Nov. 4 in support of a constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between one man and one woman only, that, “if you voted yes on Proposition 8, you are a fascist b——.”
A spokeswoman for the school said she had consulted with the school’s legal counsel, and since they had just been notified of the case, they would have no comment.
David French, a senior counsel with the ADF, however, was critical of the school’s actions.
“Public institutions of higher learning cannot selectively censor Christian speech,” he said. “This student was speaking well within the confines of his professor’s assignment when he was censored and ultimately threatened with expulsion.”
The threat reportedly came when Matteson saw Lopez talking to the college’s dean of academic affairs and then said , “he would make sure he’d be expelled from school.”
“Professor Matteson clearly violated Mr. Lopez’s free speech rights by engaging in viewpoint discrimination and retaliation because he disagreed with the student’s religious beliefs,” said French. “When students are given open-ended assignments in a public speaking class, the First Amendment protects their ability to express their views. Moreover, the district has a speech code that has created a culture of censorship on campus. America’s public universities and colleges are supposed to be a ‘marketplace of ideas,’ not a hotbed of intolerance.”
The ADF earlier had written to academic dean Allison Jones about the case, asking for a resolution.
The letter argued the First Amendment protects religious speech and the government may not suppress speech on public campuses. It also cited the professor’s refusal to grade the speech as viewpoint discrimination.
Jones responded that the situation was a concern to the school but told the ADF that two other students also had objected to the content of Lopez’ speech. She also said she had started a “progressive discipline” procedure in the case, but because of the “privacy” of the professor, she would not share information about it.