Friday, December 24, 2010

The pedophile's book is free speech

Do not think there is any support in this blog post for the disgusting pedophile this post is about. But sometimes, our most important freedoms in a community are articulated in the defense of someone who has done something terribly wrong.

By now, many may be aware that Philip Greaves II has written a book called, “The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure: a Child-lover’s Code of Conduct.” The book has been called an instruction manual for abusing children. He claims it is a book meant to help men “avoid taking action that would cause them to be arrested.” In the book, he says, it discusses how men “can go about to improve their own lives.” But, apparently, it isn’t how to stop abusing minors, to seek help or to turn themselves in if they have had sex with a minor. It is how to keep their action legal. News articles state that he has sold 14 books.

Greaves, responding to a request from the sheriff department of Polk County in central Florida portraying themselves to be an interested person, sent a copy of his book from his Colorado home. Apparently in Colorado there aren’t any laws that would allow Greaves to be arrested. But, in Florida, the obscenity laws make it a crime to distribute material of an obscene nature depicting minors engaged in conduct that is harmful to them. In the book, Greaves writes about two encounters, real or not, about sex between a man and a 9 and 13 year old boy.

The author claims that it is a freedom of speech issue through his lawyer. Although, news articles about the arrest, Greaves himself has never taken that stand. Perhaps he will now. At Greaves’ arraignment, his lawyer claimed that the book is just words, not action. The prosecutor in the case, says that not only are the scenes in the book obscene, but that words can turn into action.

This case is certainly a speech issue. No right is absolute, so when action harms someone else, it needs to limited. In this case, the words in the book themselves do not harm anyone. The sheriff’s claims that the scenes depicted in the book are obscene is not enough to warrant arrest.

But, the sheriff’s claims that words can turn into action does have some merit. This is especially true because the words are about an illegal activity that is particularly repulsive to the culture. If someone using the book as a guide turn the words into action, it could do great harm to a minor, his family and the community.

It will be a tough case to find a path between protected speech and the sensibilities of the community. As an example, it is well understood that we do have freedom of speech unless we incite a riot. At that point, the speaker can be held accountable for the actions of the rioters.

But, what of a radio talk show hosts that may say someone needs to take action against a politician? Conservative talk radio hosts have been vilified by the liberals over the risk that their words will incite someone to attack a disliked politician. In their defense, conservatives have said that words are just words and the action of someone is their own responsibility. But, the sheriff of Polk County, a republican and a supporter of conservative causes, says that words have the chance to cause action and Greaves should be held responsible even before the action happens.

The subject of Greaves book is disgusting. It is not fiction which could be brushed aside. It is not a research paper that reports on how to treat pedophiles. It isn’t a legal advice book written by a lawyer to help people resolve their legal issues. It is a book, as even the title states, that guides pedophiles in their love relationships with minor children.

This book needs to be stopped. But, finding the very thin line between free speech and this view on the subject matter is difficult to impossible at best. Better to error on the side of free speech than censorship. At the very least, the community now has a better understanding of the issue because of this book. This knowledge can now be used to help prevent a very repugnant crime.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The wall of separation

Yes, correct, the phrase, “separation of church and state” is not in the Constitution.

The phrase, “right to privacy” doesn’t exist in the Constitution either. “The right to a fair trial”, “separation of powers,” “state’s rights” and “federalism” aren’t in the document as well. Who would deny that we don’t have a right to privacy or a right to a fair trial. All of these expressions are metaphors used to explain constitutional principals.

Politicians often create glib expressions and statements to support their point of view. One of the newest is “since the phrase wall of separation between church and state isn’t in the Constitution, the authors didn’t intend to keep religion out of government.” If that is true, the authors could have written a more direct statement in the First Amendment in support of religion and its role in the newly formed government.

The phrase “separation of church and state” is thought to have been first written by Thomas Jefferson. It was in a letter written to the Danbury Baptists who agreed with the founders that the Constitution was a guide to the civil government of the country. Their leader, Roger Williams, used the phrase before Jefferson. Williams believed that there needs to be a “wall of separation” to describe the relationship between church and state. He and many living at the time know well the corruption that follows when the civil government of a community has too close of a relationship with any with religion. Thomas Jefferson echoed this belief in his letter.

Religion is only mentioned in the Constitution twice. Both times it is to limit the role of religion. Of course, there is the First amendment that expressly states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” It is to be read that government is not to make any law that establishes or prevents any religion. That means that government is to stay entirely out of religious activity.

The second time is in Article VI. The third paragraph states that:

“The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

An oath is to be taken supporting “this Constitution” not a deity and that no “religious test shall ever be required” to hold any office or public trust in the Federal government and all the states. Powerful words that can only be interpreted one way, that everyone who is involved in the government; elected or not, at the federal or state level; must be true to the Constitution and not a deity.

It is a dangerous game if we allow religion to have a say in government. Let’s stay true to the Constitution and keep religion as a matter of personal worship.

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