Catholics Beware: The Attack on Free Speech is Growing Stronger
We must be very sober about this. Seldom if ever before have we witnessed the kind of suppression of views that is currently underway—and continues to grow.
Hate is a strong word. It means “to regard with extreme ill-will, have a passionate aversion to, treat as an enemy” (source: Online Etymology Dictionary, etmyonline.com). True hatred is ugly. One should exercise care in attributing hatred to others because it identifies a dangerous level of passion in them and can poison reputations. Doing so can even amount to libel or slander.
Sadly, the words “hate” and “hatred” are bandied about today in a very careless manner. Mere disagreements or differing views about issues (not even about persons) are called “hate speech” and people who espouse them are called “haters.” Using such a term to describe a person speaks to his or her psychological state. As such, it is a form of ad hominem argumentum, an argument that seeks to discredit the person rather than address the issue. In effect, the charge is an attempt to shame or discredit rather than to debate the issues at hand openly and honestly.
One of the greatest and most prized things about our country has been our dedication to free speech and open, honest discussion and debate about issues and policies. Unfortunately, that has been eroding over the past few decades.
The erosion began with the concept of “political correctness.” Irritating though that often was, there was still the notion that being “incorrect” was not a crime. Political correctness is now devolving into something more pernicious; many views seem to be politically required under pain of social and economic exclusion—sometimes even legal sanction. If you espouse a view that is not the politically required one, the increasing effect is not merely to be scorned, but to be dragged into court, sued, decertified, and/or banned from social media/websites. The legal, economic, and social consequences can be steep and swift. It is today’s version of the “McCarthyism” of the 1950s.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) recently included a number of Catholic and evangelical organizations on its list of “hate groups.” For example, the Ruth Institute (a Catholic organization) is included on the SPLC’s “hate map.” What makes them a hate group? They do not hold the numerous politically required views associated with LGBTQ interest groups (e.g., same-sex “marriage”).
As Catholics, this should alarm us because it touches on religious liberty. Many of today’s politically required views run counter to our moral and doctrinal teachings. These teachings have not changed for thousands of years; until about twenty years ago these positions were held by most Americans. We Catholics sincerely believe them to be revealed by God Himself and firmly rooted in both the Bible and Natural Law.
The Ruth Institute promotes standard Catholic views and seeks to reconcile and bring healing to all who have suffered the effects of the sexual revolution. Frankly, that’s just about all of us. Jenifer Morse (founder of the Ruth Institute) is quick to remind us that to some degree most of us have been both victims of and participants in this revolution. The Ruth Institute would have us all take an honest look at the issues of our time related to the sexual revolution: adultery, fornication, homosexual acts, abortion, addiction to pornography, sexually transmitted diseases, divorce, single parenthood, sexual abuse, sexual confusion, and transgenderism. The result has been broken hearts and broken lives; the effects on our children have been substantial. There is no special venom reserved for those on the LBGTQ spectrum. There’s plenty of error to go around and much soul-searching is needed. We’ve all made a mess (even if only by our silence) and we’ve all suffered from it.
Placing the Ruth Institute on a “hate map” is a terrible injustice; it is a rash judgment and borders on slander. The effects were immediate: the plug was pulled on its banking and fund-raising services without warning and without any investigation into the allegations of “hate.”
These sorts of injustices continue to multiply in our culture of politically required views. Catholics and others who share our biblical and natural law perspective on these moral questions are in increasing danger that our views will be criminalized. I have written before on the five stages of religious persecution: stereotyping, vilifying, marginalizing, criminalizing, and persecuting (through the force of law and increasingly through severe or even violent suppression). Using the term “hate” as a weapon against traditional Christians and our views is an attempt to vilify and demonize us, to incite anger against us. This has ushered in an environment in which increasing numbers of Americans feel justified not only in marginalizing us, but in actively working to eliminate us through legal, social, and economic means.
We must be very sober about this. Our country has not always perfectly exemplified free speech and open, honest discussion, but seldom if ever before have we witnessed the kind of suppression of views that is currently underway—and continues to grow. The mere announcement of a speech by someone who does not agree with the politically required views brings violent disruptions and threats in an attempt to force its cancellation. Colleges, once sanctuaries of free speech, now routinely suppress speech so as to “protect” their students, who deem very ordinary views “hurtful” or “hateful” “triggers” and “micro-aggressions.” All Americans should be alarmed at what is happening to free speech and the right to air views, no matter how unpopular.
This environment is ripe for religious persecution because many of our Catholic and biblical views are the very ones being called “hateful” and which are not in conformity with the politically required ones.
Jesus warned, They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming where everyone who kills you will think that he is offering service to God (John 16:2). Regardless, we cannot fail to preach the Gospel. Echoing St. Paul, we must say, I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:6).
I speak out because I love, not because I hate. I think this true of almost everyone I know in the Church. We care deeply about our land and every person in it. Only God’s truth brings salvation and true freedom. We speak in love, and because Love Himself compels us. We cannot, in love, gainsay the truth or tamper with what God has taught. As St. Paul says so beautifully, We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God (2 Corinthians 4:2).
Amen. May it ever be so, come what may.