Sunday, February 22, 2009

Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Relgion

Obama to GOP Leaders: "You can't listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done."

Limbaugh: "Is it your intention to censor talk radio through a variety of contrivances, such as 'local content,' 'diversity of ownership,' and 'public interest' rules - all of which...are the death knell of talk radio and the AM band?"

The issue of freedom of speech is not merely political. Freedom of speech is grounded in the metaphysical anthropology of self-determination that is rooted in Christology as the prototype of anthropology(Gaudium et spes #22). The "I" of Christ masters his human will to obey to death. Self-determination is the precise locus of human freedom whereby man takes possession of himself and thus is able to transcend himself and express this determination and transcendence in speech.

If you shut down freedom of speech, you shut down freedom of religion, which is tantamount to shutting down man as image of God with the inherent right to communicte that truth. And since the being of the "I" is the supreme locus of reason's encounter with beingt (Fides et ratio #83), to prohibit the self-transcendence that is speech, you prohibit the truth and light that reason yearns for. Reason needs the activation of the believing subject to access being in its fullness. As Christ became transfigured when he prayed to the Father, so all acting believers radiate the light of being that reason seeks. When that action of faith as self-transcendence is lacking, reason “wilts”[1] under the burden of endless facts from data-bases. It lacks the consciousness that gives "meaning" to facts.

Reason needs faith as anthropological act of self-transcendent to experience answers to its ontologically grounded tendency toward the absolute. This is the reason for insight and invention in the Christian West which has been the cradle of the scientific, political and economic development.

This is the major reason for the non-development of Islamic society. The God of Islam is so utterly transcendent, that He is even beyond reason. Consider Benedict XVI’s remarks at Regensburg: “for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality.” And John Paul II said: In Jesus Christ, “God has gone too far! ... Precisely because He called God His Father, because He revealed Him so openly in Himself, He could not but elicit the impression that it was too much… Man was no longer able to tolerate such closeness, and thus the protests began.

“This great protest has precise names – first it is called the Synagogue, and then Islam. Neither can accept a God who is so human. ‘It is not suitable to speak of God in this way,’ they protest. ‘He must remain absolutely transcendent; He must remain pure Majesty. Majesty full of mercy, certainly, but not to the point of paying for the faults of His own creatures, for their sins”

Consider also the suppression of freedom by the dictatorship of the proletariat in the Soviet Union until such time as there would be plenty to go around. The suppression precluded any possibility that there would be plenty of whatever since its source was precisely the freedom that was suppressed.

The remarks of President Obama below smack of precisely of that tactic: please curtail your freedom of speech and fall in line with me since I won and I have the power. This is a serious practical situation that demands that we all work together as I say. There must be no dissent. Curtail your freedom of speech. (And, once that is done, we will have curtailed your freedom of religion… and your reason).

Exhibit A: President Obama

WASHINGTON -- President Obama warned Republicans on Capitol Hill today (January 23, 2009) that they need to quit listening to radio king Rush Limbaugh if they want to get along with Democrats and the new administration.

"You can't just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done," he told top GOP leaders, whom he had invited to the White House to discuss his nearly $1 trillion stimulus package.

One White House official confirmed the comment but said he was simply trying to make a larger point about bipartisan efforts.

"There are big things that unify Republicans and Democrats," the official said. "We shouldn't let partisan politics derail what are very important things that need to get done."
That wasn't Obama's only jab at Republicans today.

While discussing the stimulus package with top lawmakers in the White House's Roosevelt Room, President Obama shot down a critic with a simple message.

"I won," he said, according to aides who were briefed on the meeting. "I will trump you on that."

The response was to the objection by Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) to the president's proposal to increase benefits for low-income workers who don't owe federal income taxes.

Exhibit B: Rush Limbaugh

“I have a straightforward question, which I hope you will answer in a straightforward way: Is it your intention to censor talk radio through a variety of contrivances, such as "local content," "diversity of ownership," and "public interest" rules -- all of which are designed to appeal to populist sentiments but, as you know, are the death knell of talk radio and the AM band?
‘You have singled me out directly, admonishing members of Congress not to listen to my show. Bill Clinton has since chimed in, complaining about the lack of balance on radio. And a number of members of your party, in and out of Congress, are forming a chorus of advocates for government control over radio content. This is both chilling and ominous.

“As a former president of the Harvard Law Review and a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, you are more familiar than most with the purpose of the Bill of Rights: to protect the citizen from the possible excesses of the federal government. The First Amendment says, in part, that "Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press." The government is explicitly prohibited from playing a role in refereeing among those who speak or seek to speak. We are, after all, dealing with political speech -- which, as the Framers understood, cannot be left to the government to police.

“When I began my national talk show in 1988, no one, including radio industry professionals, thought my syndication would work. There were only about 125 radio stations programming talk. And there were numerous news articles and opinion pieces predicting the fast death of the AM band, which was hemorrhaging audience and revenue to the FM band. Some blamed the lower fidelity AM signals. But the big issue was broadcast content. It is no accident that the AM band was dying under the so-called Fairness Doctrine, which choked robust debate about important issues because of its onerous attempts at rationing the content of speech.

“After the Federal Communications Commission abandoned the Fairness Doctrine in the mid-1980s, Congress passed legislation to reinstitute it. When President Reagan vetoes it, he declared that ‘This doctrine… requires Federal officials to supervise the editorial practices of broadcasters in an effort to ensure that they provide coverage of controversial issues and a reasonable opportunity for the airing of contrasting viewpoints of those issues. This type of content-based regulation by the Federal Government is … antagonistic to the freedom of expression guaranteed by the First Amendment… History has shown that the dangers of an overly timid or biased press cannot be averted through the freedom and competition that the First Amendment sought to guarantee.’

“Today the number of radio stations programming talk is well over 2,000. In fact, there are thousands of stations that sir tens of thousands of programs covering virtually every conceivable topic and in various languages. The explosion of talk radio has created legions of jobs and billions in economic value. Not bad for an industry that only 20 years ago was moribund. Content, content, content, Mr. President is the reason for the huge turnaround of the past 20 years, not ‘funding’ or ‘big money,’ as Mr. Clinton stated. And not only the AM band been revitalized, but there is competition from other venues, such as Internet and satellite broadcasting. It is not an exaggeration to say that today, more than ever, anyone with a microphone and a computer can broadcast their views. And thousands do.
“Mr. President, we both know that this new effort at regulating speech is not about diversity but conformity. It should be rejected. You've said you're against reinstating the Fairness Doctrine, but you've not made it clear where you stand on possible regulatory efforts to impose so-called local content, diversity-of-ownership, and public-interest rules that your FCC could issue.
“I do not favor content-based regulation of National Public Radio, newspapers, or broadcast or cable TV networks. I would encourage you not to allow your office to be misused to advance a political vendetta against certain broadcasters whose opinions are not shared by many in your party and ideologically liberal groups such as Acorn, the Center for American Progress, and There is no groundswell of support behind this movement. Indeed, there is a groundswell against it.

“The fact that the federal government issues broadcast licenses, the original purpose of which was to regulate radio signals, ought not become an excuse to destroy one of the most accessible and popular marketplaces of expression. The AM broadcast spectrum cannot honestly be considered a "scarce" resource. So as the temporary custodian of your office, you should agree that the Constitution is more important than scoring transient political victories, even when couched in the language of public interest.
“We in talk radio await your answer. What will it be? Government-imposed censorship disguised as "fairness" and "balance"? Or will the arena of ideas remain a free market?”

Remarks of Cardinal Ratzinger on the Conditions of Freedom:

“The modern idea of freedom is thus a legitimate product of the Christian environment; it could not have developed anywhere else. Indeed, one must add that it cannot be separated from this Christian environment and transplanted into any other system, as is shown very clearly today in the renaissance of Islam;

the attempt to graft on to Islamic societies what are termed western standards cut loose from their Christian foundations misunderstands the internal logic of Islam as well as the historical logic to which these western standards belong, and hence this attempt was condemned to fail in this form. The construction of society in Islam is theocratic, and therefore monist and not dualist; dualism, which is the precondition for freedom, presupposes for its part the logic of the Christian thing.

In practice this means that it is only where the duality of Church and state, of the sacral and the political authority, remains maintained in some form or another that the fundamental pre-condition exists for freedom. Where the Church itself becomes the state freedom becomes lost.

But also when the Church is done away with as a pubic and publicly relevant authority, then too freedom is extinguished, because there the state once again claims completely for itself the justification of morality; in the profane post-Christian world it does not admittedly do this in the form of sacral authority but as an ideological authority – that means that the state becomes the party, and since there can no longer be any other authority of the same rank it once again becomes total itself. The ideological state is totalitarian; it must become ideological if it is not balanced by a free but publicly recognized authority of conscience. When this kind of duality does not exist the totalitarian system in unavoidable.

“With this the fundamental task of the Church’s political stance, as I understand it, has been defined; its aim must be to maintain this balance of a dual system as the foundation of freedom. Hence the Church must make claims and demands on public law and cannot simply retreat into the private sphere. Hence it must also take care on the other hand that Church and state remain separated and that belonging to the Church clearly retains its voluntary character.”

[1] John Paul II, “Fides et ratio” #5.
[2] John Paul II, “Witness to Hope,” Knopf (1994) 40-41.
[3] J. Ratzinger, “Church, Ecumenism and Politics – Theology and the Church’s Political Stance,” Crossroad (1988) 162-163.

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