Tag Archives: freedom of conscience

Censorship, like charity, should begin at home, but, unlike charity, it should end there. — Clare Boothe Luce

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Freedom to Read week begins this year in Canada on February 26th and runs through March 4th. As a librarian, I support the right to intellectual freedom and stand firmly opposed to censorship. As to what is censorship, I find the following definition of what constitutes censorship formed by the American Library Association the most comprehensive and inclusive:

Censorship is the suppression of ideas and information that certain persons—individuals, groups or government officials—find objectionable or dangerous. It is no more complicated than someone saying, “Don’t let anyone read this book, or buy that magazine, or view that film, because I object to it! ” Censors try to use the power of the state to impose their view of what is truthful and appropriate, or offensive and objectionable, on everyone else. Censors pressure public institutions, like libraries, to suppress and remove from public access information they judge inappropriate or dangerous, so that no one else has the chance to read or view the material and make up their own minds about it. The censor wants to prejudge materials for everyone. (American Library Association)

The key point in this definition is the fact that “the censor wants to prejudge materials for everyone.” Continue reading

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“You have not converted a man because you have silenced him.” ― John Morley, On Compromise

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There has been a great deal of heated discussion recently concerning an organization called GLAAD. GLAAD was founded in New York City in 1985 “… to protest against what it saw as the New York Post’s defamatory and sensationalized AIDS coverage, GLAAD put pressure on media organizations to end what it saw as homophobic reporting.” (Wikipedia) In 2012 GLAAD founded the Commentator Accountability Project (CAP). GLAAD maintains the purpose of CAP is to give a public airing of what various anti-gay commentators are saying and have said when they are not speaking through the mainstream media. Critics in the United States, generally those anti-gay commentators singled out in CAP and their supporters, accuse GLAAD of trying to impose censorship, that is, to stifle 1st Amendment guarantees of freedom of expression and freedom of religion. As a gay man, the anti-gay commentary GLAAD brings to light concerns me. I agree it needs to be challenged. However, censorship is an issue that resonates with me also, as I am a librarian and as such have a mandate to uphold intellectual freedom and freedom of expression. Continue reading

Conservatives believe in the ties that bind us. Society is stronger when we make vows to each other and we support each other. I don’t support gay marriage in spite of being a conservative. I support gay marriage because I am a conservative. — David Cameron

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Mika and I are supporters of the Conservative Party of Canada. While we support the government led by Prime Minister Harper, we do not have membership in the Conservative Party of Canada, nor do we donate money to the Party. Neither do we agree with every position taken by the Conservative government and where instances of wrongdoing are exposed, we think those responsible should suffer the consequences. You may find odd that a gay couple identifies as conservative, but in our outlook and values we find ourselves moderate centre-right politically. We value personal liberty, religious liberty (freedom of conscience), intellectual freedom, equality of opportunity and the pursuit of happiness. In our opinion, the Conservative Party of Canada under the leadership of Prime Minister Stephen Harper currently best represents these values. Continue reading

To go against conscience is neither right nor safe. I cannot, and I will not recant. Here I stand. I can do no other, so help me God. Amen. — Martin Luther

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Freedom of conscience is a cornerstone in Western Civilization. However, history demonstrates that freedom of conscience often carries a high price. The quotation listed as the title of this post is attributed to Martin Luther (1483-1546) who was said to have spoken these words at the Diet of Worms on April  18, 1521. What he really said is as follows:

Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.

What brought him to make this declaration was his protest against abuses in the Church, particularly the sale of indulgences, written down in his “95 Theses” in 1517. Prior to his appearance at the Diet of Worms, his “95 Theses” was forwarded to Rome where a number of sentences upon examination were condemned as heretical. After ignoring a warning from Pope Leo X, Luther was excommunicated on January 3, 1521. Excommunication in 16th century Europe meant proscription. You were made an outlaw, that is, you no longer had the protection of the law, it was forbidden for anyone to offer you food and shelter and you could be killed on sight without consequence. As it was the responsibility of civil authority to enforce the law, Luther was offered the chance to recant at the Diet of Worms which was the general assembly of the estates of the Holy Roman Empire with Emperor Charles V presiding. He refused, in doing so putting his life on the line. He was offered protection from Prince Frederick III, Elector of Saxony, and continued his efforts which led to the Protestant Reformation. Continue reading