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Christian Preachers Allegedly Stopped by Police from Handing out Bible Extracts in Muslim Neighborhood in England:

So reports the Birmingham Post. As is often the case in these incidents, the facts are disputed, but it does seem like even the police department is acknowledging that the police officer didn't act entirely properly:

Two Christian preachers who claim they were stopped from handing out Bible extracts in a Muslim area of Birmingham are calling on police to state clearly their policy on freedom of speech.

Arthur Cunningham and Joseph Abraham, from the Grace Bible Fellowship Church, in Saltley, had been distributing leaflets in nearby Alum Rock when a police community support officer (PCSO) intervened.

The pair claimed the PCSO warned them to leave the area as they were committing a hate crime by trying to convert Muslims.

West Midlands Police has investigated the complaint and said the officer intervened with the best of intentions to defuse a "heated argument".

The force, however, did give the PCSO "guidance" around what constitutes a hate crime after the incident.

But the two Christians claim that residents in Alum Rock still believe they are not permitted to preach in the neighbourhood as the police have not told them otherwise....

The Christians claimed they were warned by the PCSO to leave the area. They alleged he said: "If you come back here and get beat up, well you have been warned."

They also claimed that the Muslim PCSO started ranting at them about George Bush and American foreign policy when he realised that the were from the US. The pair have demanded an apology and damages....

A West Midlands Police spokeswoman said the complaint had been investigated by the force. She said: "The investigation concluded that the PCSO acted with the best of intentions when he intervened to diffuse a heated argument between two groups of men."

The spokeswoman added that following the investigation the PCSO had been offered "guidance around what constitutes a hate crime as well as his communication style"....

The police officer involved is apparently PCSO Naeem Naguthney, who apparently helped found the local branch of the National Association of Muslim Police. On a brighter note, the Birmingham Evening Mail reports:
Fears that no-go areas for Christians were emerging in British towns and cities were expressed recently by the Bishop of Rochester.

Yesterday, members of the Church of England, Catholic and Islamic faiths gathered together in a bid to dispel the fears....

Father Bernard Kelly ... said: "There's been a great deal of work going on around here to bring the community together.

"We have young Muslim children who come to the church at Easter and Christmas and take part in nativities and plays.

"Muslim families have no problem in sending their children to Christian schools here, which I think says a lot about people's views and the way the community is integrated."

Toby Howarth, the Bishop of Birmingham's inter-faith adviser, said: "We are worried the message has been sent out that Alum Rock is a no-go area and Christians are being told to leave.

"We want to dispel this myth and put on record that there are really good relationships here between different faiths."

Mohammed Yaqub, who is helping to form the Alum Rock Residents' Association along with two churches, said: "I don't think there is a problem with Christians and Muslims here.

"It's the first time we have created a residents' association here and that's due to Father Kelly, Christians and Muslims working together."

Mr Yaqub, a Muslim who works as a volunteer for the chaplaincy at Heartlands Hospital, said the preachers who were stopped had "the right to free speech"....

EIDE_Interface (mail):
This one is like red meat for neocons!
6.3.2008 3:15pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
And not for others? You like this stuff, EIDE?
6.3.2008 3:21pm
IB Bill (mail) (www):
I love it when Muslims back up free speech more than the PC thought police.
6.3.2008 3:22pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):

I love it when Muslims back up free speech more than the PC thought police.


Not to say anything kind about the thought police, but it is an open question how representative Muslims like Mr. Yaqub are. There are certainly a substantial percentage who do not support the freedom of non-Muslims to proselytize to Muslims.
6.3.2008 3:28pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Bill. Isn't it a capital crime, or something? Of course, see honor killings and so forth, you don't need sharia law to be the law of the land to have capital punishment for breaking sharia law.
6.3.2008 4:01pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
That's one enthusiastic Muslim copper. Go to Basra and see what happens when they're all like him.
6.3.2008 4:46pm
IB Bill (mail) (www):
Richard: I don't know. I've heard so many conflicting stories about what is and isn't Islamic or sharia law, that I'm just confused. My own experience is that many Muslims think of Christians as sadly misguided about the Trinity, but at least believers in God, and will often appreciate our recognition of God in daily lives. In other words, they plan to kill us last :) (kidding, kidding.)
6.3.2008 4:55pm
martinned (mail) (www):
L.S.,

Not to go against the grain here, but how annoying a bible thumper do you have to be to go and talk about Jesus in a "Muslim neighbourhood"? In most places, Christian proselytising is relatively harmless. They'd be ignored, but that's that. The one place where trouble might ensue is in a place with a lot of religious Muslims. So were they simply looking for trouble, or what?
6.3.2008 6:05pm
David Newton:
Perhaps they were looking to convert people. After all that is what proselytising is all about. If the locals cause trouble then they should be dealt with, under the public order legislation that PCSO tried to stop the two Christians using.

Freedom of speech is just that, freedom. It does not mean that people have to listen to what they say, but it does mean that are free to say it.

Just to let people know, this was not a police officer doing the crushing of free speech. This was a PCSO (Police Community Support Officer). They are not sworn constables, they do not have anything like the same powers as a sworn constable, they do not anything like the same training as a sworn constable, and they do not cost anything like the same as a sworn constable to employ. The last reason is why they were invented.
6.3.2008 6:32pm
whit:

Freedom of speech is just that, freedom. It does not mean that people have to listen to what they say, but it does mean that are free to say it


absolutely. but england (and canada, etc.) don't HAVE or respect the concept of free speech. so, what you say is ... sadly... irrelevant.

one of my eye opening "click moments" in this regards was when i took a course for trainers in hate crimes investigations. many participants were canadian, and the amount of authority that country has in suppressing unpopular/"hateful" speech is simply amazing.

england is just as bad, if not worse.

no rational person could deny that proselytizing is free speech. what is also true is that england doesn't respect free speech, and in fact criminalizes many variations of it.

and has for quite some time, see:race relations act, etc.
6.3.2008 6:47pm
BruceM (mail) (www):
Christians get pissed off when muslims try to spread islam, so who the hell do these people think they are going in to Muslim Land and passing out Bible quotes, trying to convert others. Just leave people the fuck alone about their religion. They don't want you to "save" them any more than you want them to "save" you. And they think their religion is the "right one" every bit as much as you think that of your own religion. Is there any greater example of out of control egotism than religious people trying to convert other religious people to their own religion? Talk about audacity. What's really disgusting is that they think they're doing a lovely thing for the people they proselytize, like it's a huge favor. They get to feel all "good" about themselves because they think they're "Saving" a heathen from eternal damnation. In reality, their religion has the very same chance of being wrong as the religions of the people they are trying to convert!

whit: I deny that proselytizing is free speech, and I'll explain why it's perfectly rational (though you won't like my explanation and will respond by saying it's irrational). Freedom of religion and freedom of speech should mean freedom to believe in whatever you want and to pray how you want and assemble with fellow members of your faith for religious services. It should NOT mean freedom to proselytize. You can be whatever you want, but you have no right to try to convert others. Especially when you're a hypocrite and whine when they try to convert your people. It should be ideological estoppel (my favorite concept) if nothing else. But it's also perpetuating the world's largest pyramid scheme (organized religion). You join, pay your dues, proselytize and get others to join, get your invisible, magical heaven-credits, and then they get others to join, and so on and so forth. Only the people at the top make money - and they make a crapload of it. Meanwhile, the whole thing is based on junk science and is fundamental fraud. If religion were not so damn attractive to people who need that emotional crutch, it would have been outlawed centuries ago.
6.3.2008 7:33pm
Jim Rhoads (mail):
For those who are surprise about the lack of freedom of speech or the free exercise of religion in England and Canada, remember how we achieved those freedoms. By declaring independence from England and shortly afterwards, adopting our Constitution and its first Ten Amendments.

All of these were our political reactions to problems then existing in British (and derivitavely Canadian) law. Some of those problems were never cured.
6.3.2008 7:56pm
Mark Jones:
I'm not Whit, but I find your argument irrational. How is proselytizing any different from trying to convince Republicans or conservatives to become Democrats or liberals (or vice versa)? Other than the fact that you have nothing but contempt for religious beliefs (and presumably somewhat more tolerance for merely secular beliefs)?

I'd find Christians (or Muslims or Buddhists or anyone else) trying to convert me annoying, certainly. But no more or less so than the street corner activists who infest Portland and want to harangue me or convince me to sign their latest initiative petition. In all cases my response is the same--to ignore them and go about my business. If they actively tried to interfere with my passage, that'd be a different and actionable matter. But that's not what's alleged here.
6.3.2008 8:00pm
BobDoyle (mail):
BruceM, what an enlightened and tolerant perspective on free speech. Now let me apply your ideas. I don't like what you say, so STFU!

There, now I am just as enlightened as you!
6.3.2008 8:00pm
whit:
<blockquote>
Christians get pissed off when muslims try to spread islam, so who the hell do these people think they are going in to Muslim Land and passing out Bible quotes, trying to convert others.
</blockquote>

no. SOME christians do. and fwiw, the issue is not whether people get pissed off. here's a newsflash for you. free speech often pisses people off. that's fine. see: voltaire. the problem in this case is the HEAVY HAND OF GOVERNMENT stepping in and restraining speech.

i've had mormons, jehovah witnesses etc. try to proselytize me. MORE POWER TO THEM.

the whole point of free speech is that there is a free marketplace of ideas. as soon as govt. forcefully "protects" people from ideas they might find offensive or threatening to their belief system - we've thrown in the towel. as england has done long ago.

<blockquote>
I deny that proselytizing is free speech, and I'll explain why it's perfectly rational (though you won't like my explanation and will respond by saying it's irrational). Freedom of religion and freedom of speech should mean freedom to believe in whatever you want and to pray how you want and assemble with fellow members of your faith for religious services. It should NOT mean freedom to proselytize. You can be whatever you want, but you have no right to try to convert others.
</blockquote>

what you are saying is ridiculous.

if you don't have the right to speak freely and try to convince others that they are wrong, and you are right, then free speech means nothing.

your anti-religious screed aside, the issue is peopel have a right to try to convince others of anything - that goes for even the MOST offensive ideas like NAMBLA's, or somebody trying to convince you that their invisible man in the sky is the coolest.
6.3.2008 8:02pm
LM (mail):
Given the origins of the Bill of Rights, it shouldn't come as such a surprise that we have a lot more freedom of expression than our European forebears.
6.3.2008 8:03pm
LM (mail):
Just saw Jim Rhoads' post. Sorry for repeating. (Have to remember to refresh old threads before posting!)
6.3.2008 8:06pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
What is the benefit to the UK, and the US for that matter of continued immigration from Muslim countries? Why import trouble if you don't have to?
6.3.2008 8:13pm
martinned (mail) (www):
L.S.,

Just to clear something up: free speech is one thing, looking for trouble is another. There's no question that proselytising is protected speech, under any definition, including the Human Rights Act. But just because it's legal to do what these guys wanted to do, doesn't make it a good idea, and it also makes one wonder whether they'd be entitled to police protection, if necesary.

And to clear another thing up: The US did not invent freedom, generally, or free speech in particular. My country has had both since 1581, which is why people like Descartes and Spinoza lived and published here.
6.3.2008 8:20pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Whether it's a good idea or not is beside the point. It's legal, they can do it. If the local bigots don't like it, they can lump it.
6.3.2008 8:40pm
Brian Mac:

absolutely. but england (and canada, etc.) don't HAVE or respect the concept of free speech. so, what you say is ... sadly... irrelevant.

Rather than comment, why not just post a link to Mark Steyn? At least he's amusing.
6.3.2008 8:47pm
Brian Mac:

Freedom of religion and freedom of speech should mean freedom to believe in whatever you want and to pray how you want and assemble with fellow members of your faith for religious services. It should NOT mean freedom to proselytize.

On reading that, I don't know whether to laugh or cry.
6.3.2008 8:50pm
LM (mail):
BruceM,

So what are you saying, that proselytizing shouldn't be Constitutionally protected? That it should be illegal? Universally decried but legally protected?
6.3.2008 9:10pm
whit:

Just to clear something up: free speech is one thing, looking for trouble is another. There's no question that proselytising is protected speech, under any definition, including the Human Rights Act. But just because it's legal to do what these guys wanted to do, doesn't make it a good idea, and it also makes one wonder whether they'd be entitled to police protection, if necesary.


part of free speech entails looking for trouble. you don't seem to get that. because controversial, unpopular speech necessarily involves trouble - pissed off people, arguments, etc. heck, that's what PROTEST is. do you support the right to protest? to try to change people's minds?

as for the police protection part, my job is to protect people's physical safety, their property and their constitutional rights. you are damn skippy that people who proselytize DESERVE POLICE PROTECTION.

i also see a lot of soft bigotry here. iow, muslims are too sensitive and primitive to handle people questioning their beliefs. that's essentially what all this sensitivity comes down to. a soft bigotry towards muslims.

in my entire career, i have never heard of a jehovah's witness, mormon missionary, or any other proselytizer causing "trouble" or inciting an incident fwiw.

i realize of course that england doesn't have free speech, but in the US - of course they deserve police protection. that's what the police are there for.
6.3.2008 9:13pm
whit:

Rather than comment, why not just post a link to Mark Steyn? At least he's amusing.


do you disagree that england doesn't have free speech? have you READ the race relations act? etc.

or like most trolls, do u just resort to ad hominems when confronted with uncomfortable truth?
6.3.2008 9:17pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"But just because it's legal to do what these guys wanted to do, doesn't make it a good idea, and it also makes one wonder whether they'd be entitled to police protection, if necesary."

So if black people wanted to have a demonstration in a white neighborhood, and the KKK threatened to kill them if they showed would you say the demonstrators were not entitled to police protection?
6.3.2008 9:28pm
BruceM (mail) (www):
Commercial speech can be regulated. That's the law and quite an unremarkable proposition.

I simply acknowledge the fact that religious speech is commercial speech - especially proselytizing. It's no different than people knocking on your door to sell you magazines, knives, vacuum cleaners, tupperware, makeup kits, or Girlscout cookies. Why is selling religion any different?

It's not, except that 95% of humans love their own religions and get off on spreading it to other people (and conversely, hate other people's religions and try to prevent those people from spreading their "False" religions to other people). Religion is treated as a special product to which no standard restrictions on commercial speech apply. False advertising of religion is not only perfectly acceptable, it's constitutionally protected. The Do Not Call list doesn't apply to religions, so they can call those people who opted out, and do so at any time of day. Religions can make any claims they want about their product, no matter how ridiculous, false, fraudulent, dangerous, and unverifiable. Strict product liability doesn't apply to religion, so defective religions that cause their customers to hurt themselves and others have no liability no matter how clear the causation.

There is currently extremely fierce competition among religions to get new customers, especially between the two industry leaders, Christianityâ„¢ and Islamâ„¢, with a combined 70% of total world market share. These two huge Ponzi schemes have made their leaders extremely wealthy, with all of their profits tax free. If we're not even going to TAX these scammers, we're not going to pretend to give a crap about how they advertize their products, thus proselytizing is not only legal, it's proteced as "free speech." What chutzpah.

If proselytizing is protected, we should at least let all other businesses engage in the same unethical marketing. Let Coke and Pepsi send their advertisers to people's homes to tell them they have to switch to their respective product, because the competing product is poisonous, dangerous, and will give you cancer... and that they will be tortured in the afterlife if they don't switch, but rewarded in the afterlife if they do. And they have to go get other people to convert to the True cola....

We would never let any other product get away with the shit religions can do. Lying, theiving, defrauding people all the way to the bank and not even having to pay taxes on the ill-gotten proceeds.
6.3.2008 9:36pm
Sean O'Hara (mail) (www):

Christians get pissed off when muslims try to spread islam,


Can you provide an example of Muslims doing so and being threatened with violence or told by police to stop proselytizing?
6.3.2008 9:42pm
martinned (mail) (www):
L.S.,

@A. Zarkov: I would certainly expect the authorities to balance the interests at stake, when deciding about such things as demonstration permits or limited police resources. Proselytism tends to rub a lot of people the wrong way, while its public benefit is zero. Return question: where do you stand on the Orange Marches in Northern Ireland?

@whit: Soft bigotry, hardly. Just questioning the motives of these "christians". This does not in any way imply that anyone committing an act of violence against them should not be locked up.
6.3.2008 9:43pm
whit:
so your objection is the "commercial" aspect?

so, if individual christians, jews (i realize jews aint into the proselytyzin' thing but bear with me), or whatever decided to proselytize in a "muslim neighborhood" that would be ok with you?

unlike you, i respect free speech - whether religious, NAMBLA (are they "commercial" speech too?), the NRA, NARAL, or whatever group wants to try to convert people to their cause. you, apparently, do not.

i don't know why i, or anybody else is trying to teach you civics and respect for the constitution. apparently your hatred and bigotry towards the religious outweighs your respect for freedom of speech. fair enough.

religion is ultimately a collection of ideas. just like what NARAL, the NRA, NAMBLA, or any of these other groups are "selling".

and religious proselytizers should have the SAME right to spout about their particular flyin' spaghetti monster as anybody else.
6.3.2008 9:46pm
MarkM (www):
Just to clear something up: free speech is one thing, looking for trouble is another. There's no question that proselytising is protected speech, under any definition, including the Human Rights Act. But just because it's legal to do what these guys wanted to do, doesn't make it a good idea, and it also makes one wonder whether they'd be entitled to police protection, if necesary.

The last part of that statement about police protection has rather sinister implications. It means that the most violent and fanatical members of society have effective veto power over speech they don't like. On the other hand, those who simply agree to disagree would have no such veto power and would continue to be offended with impunity. You can see where this is headed, can't you? Anyone who can scrape together a few goons to intimidate those whose message they don't like is rewarded through police apathy.

Whether I am threatened with a prison sentence at the hands of the state or a severe beating by some thug I've offended for engaging in speech, the effect is the same. Free speech cannot be said to exist in any country where either the former or the latter happen with any degree of regularity.
6.3.2008 9:52pm
whit:

Proselytism tends to rub a lot of people the wrong way, while its public benefit is zero


while i wouldn't agree that the public benefit is zero, so what if it is? i would argue the public benefit of NAMBLA-proselytizing is less than zero (except maybe it's greater than zero because it would draw attention towards their nasty cause), but they still HAVE THE RIGHT TO TRY TO CONVERT PEOPLE TO THEIR CAUSE. it's not the govt's job to decide what speech is "worthy" or for the public good.


Soft bigotry, hardly. Just questioning the motives of these "christians". This does not in any way imply that anyone committing an act of violence against them should not be locked up.


i would assume their motives were to convert people to their cause. heck, i don't care if they were a bunch of atheists telling muslims that mohammed was a warmongering false idol and they should worship SCIENCE! (see: south park).

it *is* soft bigotry to treat muslims DIFFERENTLY because of the perception that THEY cannot handle challenges to THEIR religion.

in america (not in england or canada, etc.) there is a right to free speech. there is not a right NOT to be offended by other's views. and in the PUBLIC sphere, it doesn't MATTER what the intention of the proselytizer is. i also find it FAR more nefarious for govt. to be a mind reader into the intent of a proselytizer than for a proselytizer to have bad intent. it's thought crime all over again.
6.3.2008 9:53pm
whit:

The last part of that statement about police protection has rather sinister implications. It means that the most violent and fanatical members of society have effective veto power over speech they don't like. On the other hand, those who simply agree to disagree would have no such veto power and would continue to be offended with impunity. You can see where this is headed, can't you? Anyone who can scrape together a few goons to intimidate those whose message they don't like is rewarded through police apathy.


bingo. this was the point made during the whole muslim-cartoon-seething thang.

NYT was the prime example of this hypocrisy fwiw.

it's ok to dunk a cross in urine because at worst, rudy guiliani gets pissed off (that it's publically funded), and some christians go on tv and say it's bad.

it's ok for people in parades to dress as S&M nuns, because at worst some catholics get pissed off.

but it's not ok to make fun of islam because they get REALLY pissed off and hurt people.

it's the classic perverse incentive. we incentivize violence by rewarding it. those who don't act violently are ok to ridicule and offend. those who act violently though, are protected from ridicule.

and the NYT etc. will make up stuff about sensitivity when in fact - they are just cowards.

there is nothing "edgy" in the US in making fun of christians. it's easy. it's ubiquitous. it's been done and is done a million times. dunking a koran in urine would be edgy. i have yet to see any artist attempt this. i'll stand by.
6.3.2008 9:59pm
martinned (mail) (www):
L.S.,

@MarkM: True, but in practice everything runs more smoothely if some accomodations are made. In many European countries, for example, there are recurring difficulties with demonstrations by Neo-Nazis. Those are, of course, protected speech, but they have the predictable consequence of anti-demonstrations by left-wing antifascists, which are also protected speech. Having them demonstrate in the same place leads to fighting, so instead the are asked to go demonstrate some distance away from each other in such a way that they police can keep a handle on things. They can still say what they want to say, but for the sake of practicality they have to go and say it somewhere else than where they'd like.

On a related note, if memory serves there is ample precedent for the proposition that under US law the police does not, in fact, have an obligation to protect anyone. So I'm not sure if even US law is as principelled as some of the commenters here.
6.3.2008 9:59pm
martinned (mail) (www):
L.S.,

@whit: So if a guy from NAMBLA wants to go door-to-door trying to "convert" people, you think the police should give him an armed escort to protect him against the violence that one might otherwise expect? You don't think that it would be reasonable for the police to tell him to speak at his own risk? You've got to be kidding me. Surely, even in the US the police are allowed to distinguish between an anti-discrimination rally and a NAMBLA demonstration when it comes to allocating scarce police resources.
6.3.2008 10:07pm
BruceM (mail) (www):
Sean O'Hara, I'm sure I could find one if I looked for it. Christians are typically more civilized than muslims, so you typically don't get anti-proselytizing violence. However, when a Muslim public school teacher decides to teach her class a unit on islam (which will be flattering towards the religion and paint it in a good light so it seems attractive, you know - advertising), the Christian parents will be in federal court the following day suing to keep (non-christian) religion out of public schools.

Whit, I distinguish political speech from commercial speech. Political speech is trying to get people to convert to your cause (and money donations might be involved for payments to lobbyists, legislative bribes, etc). Commercial speech is trying to get people to convert to your product. Political speech is about issues, commercial speech is about profits. Proselytizing is the latter. And it's commercial speech regardless of the subjective intent of the individual proselytizer because his motives and the motives of his "masters" (the people who run the religion, its board of directors if you will) are likely different.

so your objection is the "commercial" aspect?

Well, it's the reason why I posit proselytizing is not absolutely constitutionally protected. It should be protected just as much, and certainly not more so, than any other commercial speech. And since religion is a fraudulent ponzi scheme based on false advertising and tax free profits that would violate every state's deceptive trade practices act but for the fact that it's Holy Beloved Religion, speech promoting it should not be permitted.

Say the Girl Scouts went from house to house telling people they have to buy their waxy cookies to go to heaven, they will burn in hell if they don't buy their cookies, the cookies are the body of the creator of the universe, the son of God died to give us these cookies, the cookies are the healthiest food in the world, the cookies will improve the lives of those who buy and eat them, the cookies will make you wealthy, the cookies will bring your family closer together, the cookies will make you lose weight, the cookies are the source of morality, the creator of the universe wants everyone to buy the cookies, families that eat the cookies together will stay together, and the cookies love you. Oh, and everyone has to sell their own GS cookies otherwise they'll burn in hell. Not even the girl scouts could get away with such false advertising. Only religion may.

so, if individual christians, jews (i realize jews aint into the proselytyzin' thing but bear with me), or whatever decided to proselytize in a "muslim neighborhood" that would be ok with you?

Of course not, why would it be? That's precisely what I said I'm against.
6.3.2008 10:17pm
whit:

So if a guy from NAMBLA wants to go door-to-door trying to "convert" people, you think the police should give him an armed escort to protect him against the violence that one might otherwise expect?


no. i never mentioned armed escort. i am saying that if (and when lol) they are assaulted they deserve police protection, and that they have the RIGHT to do so without the cops/state telling them


You don't think that it would be reasonable for the police to tell him to speak at his own risk? You've got to be kidding me. Surely, even in the US the police are allowed to distinguish between an anti-discrimination rally and a NAMBLA demonstration when it comes to allocating scarce police resources.



that has NOTHING to do with the subject or what i said. i said that the COPS should not cite or have the power to PREVENT these people from proselytizing.

i never once said that proselytizers should get free police escorts.

nor should NRA , NARAL,etc.

my point is that the STATE should not be obstructing their free speech

do you not understand the distinction?
6.3.2008 10:21pm
whit:
bruce,

if you are going to make the ridiculous (and false) claim that religion is about product, but politics (and political causes) are about causes, that's just absurd and not worth my time.

NRA is sellin' the 2nd, NARAL is sellin' abortion on demand, christians are selling jesus saves, jews are selling we're still waiting for the messiah, etc.

religion is ultimately about ideas, not products.

if a proselytizer is also selling a product (glow in the dark bibles) then he should be subject to the same advertising reg's that somebody selling "steal this book" should be subject to.

fwiw, i've been proselytized by mormons, etc. and i have never once had them try to solicit money from me for anything. i have had free stuff offered me otoh.
6.3.2008 10:26pm
martinned (mail) (www):
L.S.,

@whit: And I've never said the police should be able to stop anyone proselytising either. I'm glad we cleared that up.
6.3.2008 10:52pm
BruceM (mail) (www):
whit,

I could not disagree more. Christianity, Islam, Scientology, and the rest are all products. The notion that Scientology is a product is fairly well accepted. People think their "real" religions are fundamentally different, though. They're not. Scientology is no more ridiculous (in terms of its dogma) and no less profit-oriented than Christianity. Religions are businesses. They do not form to advance anything other than the spread of the religion and its concept of morality. The NRA is formed so people can gather to advance and oppose various firearm-related legislation.

The people going door to door proselytizing are not going to ask for money. That's not their job. Their job is to convert you. Once you're converted, your money and your wallet will soon be separated. Where do you think the Mormons got all that money to build that huge temple in Salt Lake City? They got it from their loyal customers.
Now I may be willing to consider the notion that religions which do not proselytize and do not try to gain converts (such as Judaism) are different. They're rare and not successful religions (small base of followers).
6.3.2008 10:54pm
Broward:
Eugene,

Geo Washington resisted against which judiciary' prostitution?:

1. Afghanistan
2. China
3. England
6.3.2008 11:13pm
Jim Rhoads (mail):
Bruce:

The only problem with your argument is that the First Amendment to our Constitution gives the "free exercise" of "religion" special protection. It doesn't extend that protection to the sale of "products", religious or otherwise.

As one of my law school professors once taught (admittedly in a Property course, not in Con Law), "it's all a matter of words".

Your argument just doesn't parse.
6.4.2008 12:16am
Cornellian (mail):
"Two Christian preachers who claim they were stopped from handing out Bible extracts in a Muslim area of Birmingham are calling on police to state clearly their policy on freedom of speech."

Is that some kind of Biblical version of vanilla extract, or do they mean Bible excerpts?
6.4.2008 12:50am
MarkM (www):
The NRA is formed so people can gather to advance and oppose various firearm-related legislation.

The NRA isn't the best example for your argument. The head of the NRA, Wayne LaPierre, has one of the highest salaries among those who head up non-profit, public advocacy groups. Just as Christopher Hitchens eviscerates millionaire evangelists, heads of some non-profit advocacy groups are hardly above being considered as primarily sales and marketing professionals.

Martinned, I don't see any source of disagreement as you now say you agree police should not stop anyone from proselytizing. In other words, if a police officer comes across a Christian proselytizing in a Muslim neighborhood, he may not ask the Christian to stop but may either walk away (which would be shoddy police work if he observes a "heated argument" that may escalate going on--why bother having neighborhood police patrols then?) or follow the situation and be prepared to intervene if any laws are broken.
6.4.2008 1:11am
BruceM (mail) (www):
Jim Rhoads: Whether proselytizing cannot be restricted due to freedom of religion or freedom of speech is irrelevant. Both speech and religious beliefs are routinely permissibly restricted. Commercial speech used to not be constitutionally protected at all. Valentine v. Chrestensen, 316 U.S. 52 (1942) (upholding provision of New York City Code prohibiting distribution of
commercial and business advertising matter in public streets). The absolute exclusion of commercial speech from First Amendment protection Valentine was later overturned by Virginia State Board of Pharmacy, et al. v. Virginia Citizens
Consumer Council
, 425 U.S. 748 (1976). But commercial speech is and remains a less protected form of speech, and laws regulating it are subject to less judicial scrutiny than other speech-regulating laws. All the subsequent cases giving commercial speech First Amendment protection concerned commercial speech about (accurate) facts about the product, such as price, on the notion that consumers should have the right to make informed decisions. Even so, a Puerto Rico law banning the truthful advertising of legal gaming was upheld by the SCOTUS in 1986. Then, in 1989, in Board of Trustees of the State University of New York v. Fox, the SCOTUS upheld a ban of commercial speech on campus and, further, held that the government need not use the "least restrictive means" to regulate commercial speech. At the turn of the millennium, decisions about cigarette advertising made it clear that truthful commercial speech about lawful activities enjoys qualified protection from government regulation.

Likewise, for activities done in the name of religion, we all know that "my religion says I should use drugs" is not an affirmative defense to prosecution, and "my religion says I can't work on mondays and tuesdays" is not going to permit one to atually have a 3-day work week. As such, insofar as proselytizing is commercial speech (and I contend that it most certainly is), it receives far less First Amendment free speech protection than noncommercial speech. Particularly noncommercial religious speech. A pastor speaking to his congregation about the Bible in church is pure religious speech, and should be highly protected under the First Amendment. Even if the pastor says to pass around the colletion tray. That's incidental to the religious speech.

However, when people go around talking to strangers, trying to convert them to Christianity so that they will go to church - where they will be handed the aforementioned collection tray - it is fundamentally commercial speech. The topic is not "religion" in general; the topic is converting to and joining a particular religion. Keep in mind, this always inures to the financial benefit of the religion and the "spiritual" (i.e., emotional/psychological) benefit of the proselytizer. Door to door proselytizers are no different than any other door to door salespeople. They are both trying to acquire new customers for the business they represent, and they both earn a benefit each time they score a new customer. The only difference between them is the proselytizers, under current law, are permitted to lie and threaten and make false representations about the product they are touting, whereas the other door to door salesperson may not do so with respect to their products.

As such, I think it is quite basic that proselytizing is commercial speech. The goal is to get people to join a group, where they (a) will pay money to the group and (b) should become proselytizers themselves, adding one more level to the pyramid scheme. Proselytizing is commercial speech because the purpose is to financially benefit the religion.

Contrast that to volunteers going door to door trying to get people to join (or just give money to) a political group like the NRA or ACLU. The goal is to get people to donate money to the group whether it be in membership fees or up-front donations. But that money is not for the primary use of the group itself; rather, that money is to be used to lobby legislatures and influence public policy in accordance with, and to effect, the group's mission statement. The money maybe used to pay lobbyists, fund the preparation of amicus briefs, etc. These political groups are non-profits. Religions are most certainly NOT non-profits, they are very much for-profit.

And that is the key distinction between the commercial nature of proselytizing and the non-commercial nature of political speech, even if both result in monetary payments.
6.4.2008 1:30am
BruceM (mail) (www):
MarkM: I do think it makes non-profit orgs look bad when they have directors making huge salaries, such as LaPierre. However, such groups can rightfully pay their employees salaries, and they would argue that LaPierre has special talents, knowledge, contacts, and influence that give him a special ability to effectuate the goals of the NRA. Thus, he is worth the high salary. In other words, his high salary is just an investment in furtherance of the NRA's goals and its mission statement.

It's not an unreasonable or otherwise implausible argument. But it does look bad, at least on first glance, especially if ALL the directors, officers, and administrators are making a killing. As I recall, the Red Cross is guilty of doing that, as all its top employees make incredibly large salaries.
6.4.2008 1:37am
yankev (mail):

that religions which do not proselytize and do not try to gain converts (such as Judaism) are different. They're rare and not successful religions (small base of followers).
If you measure success in numbers.

Judaism teaches that Judaism is not necessarily suited for everyone, that that the righteous of all peoples (Jewish or not) have a share in the world to come, and that it is more difficult for a Jew than a non-Jew to earn a share in the world to come.

Judaism has been around for several thousand years longer than the other western religions, inspired several hugely "successful" (using your numeric criteria) imitations who claim to be its successor, fulfillment or completion, and have survived numerous catastrophes over the millenia, any one of which might have been thought to end the existence of a people or a religion. I guess it all depends how you measure success.
6.4.2008 9:57am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
It is, as somebody said regarding the slippery slope, a ratchet. You can go, but you can't come back.

We have police-enforced speech codes and other speech codes mean you can't talk about it without being either officially sanctioned or called a meanie by the chattering classes, or both.

Suppose these guys went back? The cops can't afford to impeach their own earlier actions, so they won't protect them, nor will they exert much effort to running down any assailants.
6.4.2008 11:50am
Ryan Waxx (mail):

I simply acknowledge the fact that religious speech is commercial speech


Except it isn't. Period. It isn't even close. End of story.

The rest of your argumentation is like a walking advertisement for why slippery slopes are real... they are real because there are people like you busily trying to use them to move on to the next freedom to knock down.
6.4.2008 2:54pm
Jim Rhoads (mail):
Bruce M:

You lost me pal. None of that argument goes to Religion as a "product" to which my point was addressed.

The notion that proselytizing (or evangelizing in the lingo of preachers and missionaries) is "commercial speech" is an interesting, but in the end futile, position that has not found much (if any) support among federal judges.

I give you an "A" for creativity and persistence, though.
6.4.2008 4:59pm
BruceM (mail) (www):
Jim you're looking for me to cite precedent for why my position has been accepted. It hasn't. I'm not even claiming that proselytizing has been treated as commercial speech. I believe it SHOULD BE, but it currently is not. The reason it is not treated as commercial speech is simple - Christians wouldn't put up with restrictions on their "right" to badger, annoy, pester, and harass people of other faiths in order to "save" them.

If you truly can't take a step back and see that religion = big business (forget about proselytizing for a moment), then you're really close-minded on the issue. Insofar as religion is big business (the most profitable industry on the planet), what it provides to the customer-sheep is its product. Or maybe "service" is more accurate since "product" typically refers to a physical item sold per unit.

Sure, some religious leaders get into the biz more out of a desire for power and control over other people rather than for pure green dollars. But having the flock of sheep give money is a huge part of getting them to submit to the shephard; they go hand in hand. At the end of the day, though, religions are for-profit businesses. How can that even be disputed?
6.4.2008 9:00pm