Do We Want it Both Ways?



August 27, 2008

An ARPA Canada Thought Provoker

In his editorial “Religious Free-Speechers Try to Have it Both Ways” that appeared recently in the Calgary Herald, Rob Breakenridge tries to argue that conservative Christians are being inconsistent in our political action. On the one hand, we decry human rights commission for clamping down on free speech in cases like that of Pastor Boissoin or Ezra Levant. But on the other hand we urge restrictions on media that we find morally offensive, such as the CRTC’s recent approval of a “Canadian” pornographic channel.

Is Breakenridge right? Are we all for liberty for ourselves but OK with restrictions when it comes to others? If we believe that our political action flows from our Biblical wordview, we better be consistent. Christian author and long-time political activist Tim Bloedow has prepared this response to Breakenridge’s article:

Dear Editor,

Rob Breakenridge (“Religious free-speechers try to have it both ways,”
August 26) is correct when he says that “Religious free-speechers try to
have it both ways,” but he uses a bad example. A good example would be when
a Christian organization tries to use a human rights commission against
someone who offends them.

Mr. Breakenridge’s example of CFAC’s opposition to the CRTC’s granting of a
license to a pornographic TV station is comparing apples to oranges for at
least two reasons. Firstly, the CRTC is a government agency, so the
situation in question is one where the civil government becomes the enabler
for the pornographic company. And the CRTC picks and chooses between
competing applicants, so it approves “Northern Peaks” and turns down the
application from Fox News. This is not a framework of liberty.

The controversies surrounding Human Rights Commission cases these days, such
as those involving Ezra Levant, Maclean’s and Rev. Stephen Boissoin, involve
the non-state-regulated, non-state/taxpayer-subsidized freedom to speak and
articulate beliefs and viewpoints without threat of state interference. For
genuine conservatives there is a fundamental philosophical difference
between such a scenario and that of the CRTC’s granting of a license to a
pornographic TV program.

Even more importantly, the great Western, Judeo-Christian tradition of free
speech is to defend just that – free speech. Today, just about everybody
treats freedom of speech and freedom of expression as synonymous concepts.
Even many Christians foolishly do. But the great Western free speech
tradition was not intended to defend the right to publish and display
pornography or to be gratuitously ignorant or to burn flags or to market
decapitation videos.

The noble and democratic Judeo-Christian tradition of speech freedom was
intended to provide a realm of liberty for the debating of ideas. It was to
provide a realm of peace and liberty in which people who held differing
views could debate them verbally and rationally instead of trying to chop
their enemies’ heads off or slipping poison into their goblet.

It is worth noting that the demand for greater freedom for pornographic
viewing and violent media is taking place at the same time that we are
seeing a decline in people’s interest in freedom of speech. Government
sanction for more pornographic and violent media is being realised at the
same time as our governments are clamping down on genuine freedom of speech.
These dynamics by themselves are compelling evidence that the impulse for
these two things come from very different places.

And they do. It is not philosophically inconsistent to be a strong opponent
of “pornographic freedom” while also vigorously championing speech freedom.
It may be inconsistent if your starting point is libertarianism and a view
which does not recognize a qualitative difference between speech freedom and
crass or carnal impulses. But libertarianism is by definition relativistic,
so libertarians would be hard-pressed to require others to either accept
their philosophical starting point as objectively true or concede to being
logically inconsistent.

It may be Christian to recognize a qualitative distinction between speech
freedom and pornographic freedom (although I suspect many non-Christians
would also affirm this point), but Mr. Breakenridge has failed to make the
case for his claim that it is logically inconsistent.

Tim Bloedow

Tim Bloedow is the author of “State vs, Church: What Christians Can Do to Save Canada from Liberal Tyranny,” and now “No Sacred Ground: ‘Human Rights’ Thought Police Clamping Down on Christians.” No Sacred Ground explores the dangerous thinking of Canada’s “human rights” establishment in the context of Ontario’s ruthless assault on Christian Horizons, a highly acclaimed Christian social service organization for disabled people. The OHRC decision is a threat to public Christianity in Canada and it poses risks to disabled people. You will have a much better understanding of the “human rights” mentality after reading “No Sacred Ground.” You can learn more and order the book at


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