Free expression basics, and LDS newsroom meme

“If [the media] convince enough voters that that is negative campaigning, for me to call Barack Obama out on his associations,” Palin told host Chris Plante, “then I don’t know what the future of our country would be in terms of First Amendment rights and our ability to ask questions without fear of attacks by the mainstream media.”

(see here)

Here’s a simple misconception about free expression: the right of free speech doesn’t include some sort of protection from criticism. In fact, this is a key component of how free expression works: When you say something that’s wrong or bad, instead of being censored for it, other people get to exercise their freedom of speech to express their opinions about what you said.

Now, I’m willing to give Palin the benefit of the doubt that she was just making an honest (if stupid) mistake about how free expression works. But the folks of the LDS newsroom? They knew exactly what they were doing.

So here’s my version of the LDS newsroom meme, from here, here, here, and here.

It is disturbing that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is being singled out for speaking up as part of its democratic right in a free election. Members of the Church in California and millions of others from every faith, ethnicity and political affiliation who voted for Proposition 8 exercised the most sacrosanct and individual rights in the United States — that of free expression and voting.

It is disturbing that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would single out the protesters on Temple Square for speaking up as part of their democratic rights of free speech and peaceful assembly.

But seriously folks, free expression 101: your right of free speech doesn’t guarantee you protection from having other people tell you that what you freely said was wrong. You know it, and I know you know it, so please cut the B.S.

As for being singled out, as I said in the comments here, I think it’s probably true that the forces of “no on 8” deliberately used the message of “It’s the Mormons who are behind this!” in order to discredit the “yes on 8” movement. But the LDS church doesn’t have a moral leg to stand on calling them out on it if they won’t speak against bigotry in general. If you’d like the hate to stop, then step one is to stop dishing it out.

However, I honestly think this complaint about being singled out is just another rhetorical game (like the complaint about free expression above) to hinder constructive, civil discussion. They’re not actually opposed to bigotry and intolerance on principle, they just want to be able to pin it on the other side in order to render the term “bigotry” meaningless. Pretending that all sides are motivated by bigotry and hate is a very convenient way for the LDS church to sidestep having to answer this charge.

On top of that, not all of this being “singled out” is unfair. The Mormons really did do the lion’s share of the organizing and bankrolling of this proposition. Really, the brethren should be ashamed to issue a press release complaining that the Mormons shouldn’t be singled out because it was a broad-based coalition of churches. What is this, kindergarten? The Mormons who organized for proposition 8 are grown-ups who should know that “they did it too!” isn’t an excuse. If they’re actually proud of what they did and not ashamed, they should own up to it, like grown-ups, and not try to push it on somebody else.

While those who disagree with our position on Proposition 8 have the right to make their feelings known, it is wrong to target the Church and its sacred places of worship for being part of the democratic process.

You’re kidding me, right? This doesn’t deserve a response, but I’ll take a stab at it anyway: If you open up a grocery store in the middle of your chapel, you can hardly complain that people are disrespecting your “sacred places of worship” by shopping there.

Once again, we call on those involved in the debate over same-sex marriage to act in a spirit of mutual respect and civility towards each other. No one on either side of the question should be vilified, harassed or subject to erroneous information.

Given the erroneous information put out by the “yes on 8” campaign, this statement is shockingly disingenuous. The claim that they would like to debate this subject in “a spirit of mutual respect and civility” is equally disingenuous. All of their rhetorical games are calculated to break down the common understanding of reality that makes civil discourse possible. This entire press release is designed to polarize.

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chanson

C. L. Hanson is the friendly American ExMormon atheist mom living in Switzerland! See "letters from a broad" and the novel ExMormon for further adventures!!

12 thoughts on “Free expression basics, and LDS newsroom meme

  1. p.s.: I’m still trying to translate this one into plain English:

    it is wrong to target the Church and its sacred places of worship for being part of the democratic process.

    It seems to be “How dare you tell us we’re wrong — we’re a church for God’s sake!”

    Reality check: you guys chose to participate in the “democratic process.” The protesters are doing nothing more than participating in the democratic process as well. If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen…

  2. Right on, chanson. Also, there is a difference between voicing your opinion and actually taking away the rights of others. One of these groups is not like the others; only one has taken this fight beyond the level of free expression, by actually taking away the rights of other people. The LDS church is truly not the victim here. It really irritates me to watch them spin themselves as martyrs. Enough with the doublespeak; take a little responsibility for your own actions!

  3. The LDS church exercised its constitutional right to abandon their normal position of political neutrality and to get involved in a highly controversial issue. Now the protesters are exercising their constitutional right to express their disapproval of the churches involvement. So, what is the problem?

    Politics is dirty business. You can’t expect to stick your hand in and not get soiled.

  4. Exactly. They engage in politics as a church, then turn around and claim that it’s not okay for other people to respond to their organization in the political arena (since they’re a church). Then, of course, they couch this claim in double-speak since — if stated clearly — it would be laughable.

  5. I LOVE this post. You get right to the kernel of the issue.

    I hadn’t really realized it until you laid it out… LDS newsroom is just playing a game. They have no intention of having any kind of discourse. That was never the point.

  6. Thanks MoHoHawaii!!

    That’s what’s so infuriating about this press release. They have the gall to end with “Once again, we call on those involved in the debate over same-sex marriage to act in a spirit of mutual respect and civility towards each other,” when the entire press release is focused on questioning whether their opponents have any right to engage them in political discoures at all!

  7. chanson, I enjoyed this post, even if I am a bit late in commenting. I particularly loved this line:

    If you open up a grocery store in the middle of your chapel, you can hardly complain that people are disrespecting your “sacred places of worship” by shopping there.

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