Tuesday, September 29, 2009



Fred Phelps wins one

We read:
"A federal appeals court ruled Thursday that a fundamentalist Kansas church's protest outside the funeral of a Westminster Marine killed in Iraq is protected speech and did not violate the privacy of the service member's family, reversing a lower court's $5 million award.

The ruling from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., held that the signs and writings of the Westboro Baptist Church, which included anti-gay and anti-military messages, are protected by the First Amendment. The Topeka-based congregation has protested at military funerals across the country

"Notwithstanding the distasteful and repugnant nature of the words being challenged in these proceedings, we are constrained to conclude that the defendants' signs and [what it has on its Web sites] are constitutionally protected," Circuit Court Judge Robert B. King wrote in the majority opinion.

Source

Like most people, I think Phelps is a nutcase but I am heartened to see that America's free speech protections are strong enough to protect even his crazy talk. I think it is only weak and fragile socities that have to fear speech. He would have been locked up years ago in Britain or Europe. One British guy got 4 and a half years in jail for denying the holocaust recently. Only Muslims are allowed to do that in Britain.

63 comments:

Anonymous said...

So anti-gay speech is now protected? What about the phony hate-crime laws that were invented to protect the little darlings?

Stan B said...

Speech is always protected, unless it's uttered during the commission of another crime.

I can call you all sorts of racial or sexual epithets, and there's not a darn thing you can do about it.

If I'm simultaneously beating your brains out with a baseball bat, suddenly my opinions can be used to prove motive, and thus the Hate Crimes rules come into effect.

Apparently, you're more dead if I yell "faggot" at you while I beat you to death than if I just do it quietly.

Use the Name, Luke said...

I would think that the central principle at play is that Phelps and his merry band of miscreants' harassment of the family at a funeral, not free speech issues. So apparently harassment is no longer a crime? Does that also mean that responding to harassment is no longer a crime too?

Guaranteed, if the courts refuse to protect a family at a funeral from harassment, someone else will eventually.

InFides said...

Hello Good Gentles All!

Hello Luke!

As I understand it the protesters were standing on the sidewalk, a public place. (If I am wrong on thlis let me know as it is a central fact in the argument.) The funeral home and cementery can prevent trespass but a citizen cannot trespass on a public sidewalk.

Free speech does not have to be polite or even palatable. It is not harassment to speak one's mind in this manner, despite the execrable nature of what they are saying.

I wonder if the signs make any sort of defamatory statements? That might be an area to explore.

The court looks to be on very solid constitutional ground.

Pax,

InFides

Bobby said...

The irony is that the day Phelps dies nobody's gonna be protesting at his funeral.

Anonymous said...

"The irony is that the day Phelps dies nobody's gonna be protesting at his funeral."

There will be a lot of celebrating.

Anonymous said...

So perhaps the people at the funeral should just walk over and start beating the hell out of them. Then Phelps and his ilk can be charged with inciting a riot.

Anonymous said...

The who Phelps family needs to go away somewhere and die. He is supposedly a preacher, yet his protests do nothing to advance the gospel. In fact they do the opposite.

J. Birch said...

The solution to Mr. Phelps and his group of cretins requires us to return to the simple yet effective ways of the past. To wit;

A tree.
A horse.
A rope.

BTW, note that this soulution is also cost effective and environmentally friendly.

InFides said...

Hello Good Gentles All!

"So perhaps the people at the funeral should just walk over and start beating the hell out of them. Then Phelps and his ilk can be charged with inciting a riot."

Not so. Those who commit the assault will simply be charged with assault and battery and they will be convicted. Merely offensive speech is not a legal justification for beating the speaker. BTW, under no circumstances would the court buy into the 'incitement to riot' argument. Be careful. By advocating people assault these offensive people you are probably much closer to a charge of incitement to riot than they are.

Pax,

InFides

Anonymous said...

By advocating people assault these offensive people you are probably much closer to a charge of incitement to riot than they are.

Maybe. But in this case if the father had gone over to Phelps and punched him in the face, the doctrine of "fighting words" would probably apply.

No one - and I mean no one - would find that people screaming and holding signs that say "Thank God for Dead Soldiers" toward a father that is burying his son would not cross the line.

As the SCOTUS noted in Caplinsky, "It has been well observed that such utterances are no essential part of any exposition of ideas, and are of such slight social value as a step to truth that any benefit that may be derived from them is clearly outweighed by the social interest in order and morality."

The First Amendment is designed to protect the exchange ideas - even though those ideas may be offensive. I do not believe that "Thank God for Dead Soldiers" promotes and exchange of any idea and is there only to incite the passions of others.

Maverick said...

There rights to demonstrate this way my be fre speech, but as a Veteran I took an oath to "...protect the Country from all enemies both foreign and domestic." When these poeple burn and stomp on the US Flag and instruct their children to do it, I interpret that to be an attack on the country and at that point they are enemies and do not have the privilage of those protected rights of AMERICANS. And by such deserve to have their butts beaten, children excepted.

Bobby said...

I think a buffer zone should be placed between the protesters and the grieving family. I'm all for free speech, but would free speech allow a rock concert to take place next to a cemetery at an hour where people are burying their dead?

The truth is Phelps is desperate for attention, after years of signs like "God Hates F-gs" the people started tuning out, so he had to turn against his own country, the soldiers, etc.

InFides said...

Hello Good Gentles All!

Hello Anonymous!

"Maybe. But in this case if the father had gone over to Phelps and punched him in the face, the doctrine of "fighting words" would probably apply."

Big time N-O! SCOTUS has ruled on fighting worfds and this in no way applies. The last SCOTUS ruling on fighting words was in the 1940's and SCOTUS upheld the doctrine and yet ruled against the defendant. In other words, SCOTUS ruled that the doctrine exists but it has NEVER upheld its use. The courts will not accept the notion that the proper response to words is fists. They fully recognize the total breakdown that would ensue if they ever let people get away with the argument "He said something I disliked so I hit him."


"No one - and I mean no one - would find that people screaming and holding signs that say "Thank God for Dead Soldiers" toward a father that is burying his son would not cross the line."

Actually they have ruled exactly thus. You might want to revisit the relevent SCOTUS and lower court rulings regarding this matter. The courts are not with you (and neither am I, BTW) on the idea that words are to be answered with physical violence.


"As the SCOTUS noted in Caplinsky, "It has been well observed that such utterances are no essential part of any exposition of ideas, and are of such slight social value as a step to truth that any benefit that may be derived from them is clearly outweighed by the social interest in order and morality.""

But this ruling in no way can be used as a justification for a fighting words defense. If you attack those people you will wind up on the wrong end of a losing defense in court.


"The First Amendment is designed to protect the exchange ideas - even though those ideas may be offensive. I do not believe that "Thank God for Dead Soldiers" promotes and exchange of any idea and is there only to incite the passions of others."

Your opinion, not supported by any court precedent. If you want to gamble on winning in court you may but if you will be advised by me you will leave those people alone and do not attempt to encourage others to commit violence against them. The ice you are on could not be thinner.


Hello Maverick!

"There rights to demonstrate this way my be free speech, but as a Veteran I took an oath to "...protect the Country from all enemies both foreign and domestic." When these poeple burn and stomp on the US Flag and instruct their children to do it, I interpret that to be an attack on the country and at that point they are enemies and do not have the privilage of those protected rights of AMERICANS. And by such deserve to have their butts beaten, children excepted."

If you took an oath to defend the constitution then you are morally obligated to defend those people if they are attacked. If your understanding of your oath obligates you to defend only those with whom you agree then your oath is, at best, hypocritical and, at worst, disloyal to the constitution you claim to defend.

I am not defending what these people are doing. It is profoundly wrong and absolutely in opposition to Christian doctrine.

But for anyone to suggest or encourage people to commit an act of physical violence because of what they are saying is, in many respects, worse than what they are doing.

Does anyone really want to live in a society where physical violence is considered an acceptable response to mere words?

Pax,

InFides

Anonymous said...

The last SCOTUS ruling on fighting words was in the 1940's and SCOTUS upheld the doctrine and yet ruled against the defendant.

This is factually wrong. The SCOTUS has had cases involving the "fighting words" doctrine since the 1940's.

In other words, SCOTUS ruled that the doctrine exists but it has NEVER upheld its use.

Factually wrong as well. You are confusing ruling on a specific case with upholding the use of the fighting words doctrine. The SCOTUS has had many cases that it has turned down review of and thereby upheld the fighting words doctrine. What you have seen in the cases where the SCOTUS has reviewed cases is that the language used in the law convicting people was too broad or did not truly fall into "fighting words."

Here are but a few of the lower court rulings on "fighting words" that have been allowed to stand:

* Flashing a sexually suggestive sign repeatedly to a young woman driving a car (State v. Hubbard, Minnesota Court of Appeals, 2001).
* Yelling racial slurs at two African-American woman (In re John M., Arizona Court of Appeals, 2001).
* Repeatedly yelling the words “whore,” “harlot” and “Jezebel” at a nude woman on the beach (Wisconsin v. Ovadal, Wisconsin Court of Appeals, 2003).
* Calling a police officer a “white, racist motherfucker” and wishing his mother would die (State v. Clay, Minnesota Court of Appeals, 1999).
* Calling a police officer a “fucking asshole” in a loud voice and attempting to spit on the officer (State v. York, Maine Supreme Judicial Court, 1999).

if they ever let people get away with the argument "He said something I disliked so I hit him."

This is a strawman argument as that is not the doctrine.

But this ruling in no way can be used as a justification for a fighting words defense.

I hate to tell you this, but that IS the ruling for a "fighting words" defense.

Your opinion, not supported by any court precedent.

Sorry, but it is supported by many decisions. In fact, when freedom of speech is challenged, you will find that the Court often cites that the First Amendment is to protect the free flow of ideas.

Use the Name, Luke said...

InFides,

They may have been standing on public property, however, their harassment extended beyond where they were standing through the use of signs and sound. I sincerely doubt that public property is valid defense from harassment laws. In fact, it seems likely to me that even a person engaging in harassment from within his own house can be found guilty of such.

If the father of a dead soldier walked up to Phelps during his disgraceful acts and punched him square in the nose, and I found myself in the jury at the father's trial, I would not vote to convict him. Phelps has no sense of decency or respect. Furthermore, he is dragging the name of Christ through the mud with his hateful attitude.

Anonymous said...

"Furthermore, he is dragging the name of Christ through the mud with his hateful attitude."

Phelps is just an extrapolation of the conservative movement.

Anonymous said...

Happy Blasphemy Day, everyone!

InFides said...

Hello Anonymous!

Excellent analysis!

However, if you look you will see that all those cases involved face to face confrontations and verbal abuse directed at a specific individual and not people on the sidewalk and away from those they were protesting.

I do not believe that this situation involves a direct confrontation. As you say they would have to walk over to the persons in question and make comments directed specifically to them. There is a need for fear or a direct face to face confrontation and this does not appear to apply.

Furthermore, the cases involve verbal abuse and not what appears to be religious or political speech. The cases are not the same. One cannot abuse, threaten or defame the dead. Their signs spoke to the soldier, not his family or firends.

Lastly, the protestors are not adressing their comments specifically to the people in question but to the actions and their opinions of them i.e., "Thank God for dead soldiers."

If you will look at all your citations they are all personal and threatening and directly face to face.

An excellent analysis but it does not fit the facts of this case. The citation I used from the 1940's was the last time SCOTUS heard a case (that I recall) with facts not unlike those of this situation.

Religious speech is core first amendment speech.

"you will find that the Court often cites that the First Amendment is to protect the free flow of ideas."

Which is what these people were doing. I do not like their ideas but that is what they were doing as the court found in its decision.

Hello Luke!

"They may have been standing on public property, however, their harassment extended beyond where they were standing through the use of signs and sound."

I have never heard of this being used successfully as a defense. If it were valid then anyone could claim harrassment and shut down all public demonstration.


"Phelps has no sense of decency or respect."

True but exercising core speech does not require that as a precondition to speak.

I respect all of you who are so angry and offended by this man's actions. I am as repulsed as anyone. But, my disgust notwithstanding, I have to accept that his repellent ideas have as much right to be in the marketplace of ideas as anyone else's.

I dislike islam intensly. If my son were martyred for Christ and muslims protested outside his funeral saying "allah loves dead christians," would I be justified in attacking them? No. Would I have the urge to strike them? Yes. Would I have legal standing to do so? No. It is as simple as that.

Pax,

InFides

Bobby said...

I agree with Infides, free speech isn't protecting the right to say what everyone else agrees upon. Free speech protects the popular and the unpopular, the responsible and irresponsible.

Would it be ok for gays to attack Fred Phelps if he shouts "God Hates F-gs?" If gays did that, we'd be accusing them of being politically correct. So why then encourage the same behavior if Phelps attacks our military with hateful signs?

To his credit, Phelps has never engaged in actual violence during his protest, he has never bomb anything or shot anyone. Is he a horrible man? Yes. Should counter protesters shout stuff at him? Yes. But committing actual violence against him would destroy the very freedoms this country was built on.

Anonymous said...

However, if you look you will see that all those cases involved face to face confrontations and verbal abuse directed at a specific individual and not people on the sidewalk and away from those they were protesting.

I agree with what you are saying here. That is why I said if the father had gone over to them, the fighting words doctrine would then be relevant.

Their signs spoke to the soldier, not his family or firends.

Actually this is not true. There were signs that said something along the line of "your son fought for fags." That brings the father into the conflict.

Remember, the standard is not who was defamed but whether the words were so inflammatory and so beyond the realm of and exchange of ideas that a normal person would react.

An excellent analysis but it does not fit the facts of this case. The citation I used from the 1940's was the last time SCOTUS heard a case (that I recall) with facts not unlike those of this situation.

Quite simply, you are wrong. The Court has heard several cases with facts similar to this and have decided on the Constitutionality of the statutes used in the case. The SCOTUS has passed on reviewing other cases where the convictions on fighting words was upheld.

Which is what these people were doing.

No, they weren't.

I do not like their ideas but that is what they were doing as the court found in its decision.

You are shifting the goalposts here. While the court found in this case that the signs were protected, part of their reasoning was that the father and family were so far away that the signs remained just signs. My point was, and still is, that there comes a point where the sign's message and intent go from a general idea to a specific form of speech not covered by the First Amendment.

Use the Name, Luke said...

I have an idea. Maybe someone could make one of those sound projectors (created for crowd control) available to funeral homes where Phelps plans to protest. Then when his group shows up, they could be "treated" to hymns (such as "Wonderful Grace of Jesus").

Oh, and Anon 11:41, thank you for proving my point even though your assertion is dead wrong.

Anonymous said...

InFides,

I believe that you should read the actual opinion the 4th Circuit Court issued on this case.

The Court basically addresses two events upon which Phelps was found to be liable. The first is the protest at the funeral. The Court found that trial judge had erred in his jury instructions. Whether he did or not is debatable and is certainly an issue for appeal. Where the Court jumps the shark is that they acknowledge that there were signs that could be seen to be directed at the father directly, a reasonable person would not take them that way.

There is a problem with that analysis in that the members of the jury, all "reasonable people" did take the signs to be directed at Snyder.

I dislike it greatly when a Court, who was not present at the trial and did not see all the evidence, interjects its own opinion from on high over the opinions of a jury.

Secondly is the issue of "the Epic," which was a writing on the Westboro web site.

In the writing, there are very specific and damning accusations against the father and how he raised his son. Once again, the standard the court uses is the "reasonable man" standard. They jury found the accusations to be directed at the father and made with the intent to injure the father. The court overruled the jury and said that the writings were protected because they were "non-verifiable facts."

Think about that for a second. Think about what that means. It means that I can write what I want about you, your private life, and your professional life if what I write is seen by a judge, (and not a jury) as "non-verifiable facts."

I can write "InFides has sex with donkeys," and the court is saying that is protected. I can say you beat your wife, and it is protected.

This is a step back from what has been thought before. It is a new standard in the law that the Fourth Circuit is setting up here.

It is one that cannot be maintained.

Snyder says that he will appeal the case to the Supreme Court and I hope he does. There are so many issues here that they truly need to look at how far lying about someone with the intent to injure and cause emotional stress can go.

InFides said...

Hello Good Gentles All!

Hello Anonymous!

"The SCOTUS has passed on reviewing other cases where the convictions on fighting words was upheld."

Be careful. SCOTUS refusing a case does not constitute an imprimatur. It can be construed as nothing more than silence. The lower court rulings stand not because they were affirmed by SCOTUS's silence but because SCOTUS did not speak. Silence constitutes mere assent and not judicial affirmation.

This is the point I was alluding to in the 1940's case when last SCOTUS accepted such case. They held the doctrine valid but did not find sufficient cause for the defense. This case has less justification than the one on which SCOTUS ruled.


"You are shifting the goalposts here."

Not my intention. If I have done so it is entirely inadvertent. My apologies.


"While the court found in this case that the signs were protected, part of their reasoning was that the father and family were so far away that the signs remained just signs."

My point. I am speaking to this exact case.


"My point was, and still is, that there comes a point where the sign's message and intent go from a general idea to a specific form of speech not covered by the First Amendment."

Possibly. But we can not argue that this is so here. Even given the sign's mention of the son it still does not rise to a level sufficient to justify physical assault; if for no other reason than that the son is dead. The dead can not be defamed or insulted. The father does not have standing sufficient to assault and batter someone over a sign like this. The basis in law is just not there. The courts dislike answering words with violence and unless the words are very targeted, "in your face," and reasonably construable as a direct verbal assault they are very reticent to support this type of defense. The mention of the son is, at best, an oblique verbal assault (I am not saying it is) and as such simply can not fall under the doctrine of 'fighting words.'

Since an appeal is mentioned it will be interesting to see how the court rules if they accept the case. I am happy to bet they will not support the damage award. Since the court will not rule on fighting words we can only speculate how they would have ruled.

However, as this is clearly core first amendment speech I am fairly certain the court would not support in this SPECIFIC case, the case to which I am speaking. I can accept that something may cross a line but this is not such a case.

My concern is that several people have advocated violence as a means of responding to these people and such violence will not be defendable in court for THIS case.

My further concern is that people seem anxious to defend only the speech they approve.

While Phelp's may not understand Christianity I can say that Jesus said to love and pray for one's enemies. He said that everyone loves those about whom they care. But what does that do for you? Even the worst people love their own. Love one's enemies and heap coals of fire upon their heads.

I support these people's rights not their message.

I pray and hope that, by the Grace of God, they will come to understand the evil they do. That is God's commandment to me to do that.

I also support these people because they have first amendment rights equal to my own. That is the constitution's commandment to me to do that.

I must complement you on your argument. It is extremely well considered and your use of precedent is not at all unreasonable.

Pax,

InFides

Anonymous said...

Silence constitutes mere assent and not judicial affirmation.

Actually, it doesn't. The Justices are bound by precedent to take upon any case in which there is a breach of the Constitution. In essence, you are saying that that the Court abdicates its primary responsibility in allowing lower court rulings to stand. That isn't the case. The case stands or falls on its own merits. If the Court refuses to grant cert, it is because there is nothing there to review.

However, as this is clearly core first amendment speech I am fairly certain the court would not support in this SPECIFIC case, the case to which I am speaking. I can accept that something may cross a line but this is not such a case.

Sorry, but while I may agree that the signs did not cross the line, the Epic did. It contained parts that were targeted at the father. The Fourth Circuit said those parts were protected and I do not believe under any judicial standard they are.

If they are, as others have pointed out, it gives people such as Phelps more protection under the First Amendment than the rest of the people enjoy.

That is certainly grounds for granting of cert by the SCOTUS.

My concern is that several people have advocated violence as a means of responding to these people and such violence will not be defendable in court for THIS case.

In this case, you are probably right. I would be interested in seeing if a jury would nullify any actions toward them though.

My further concern is that people seem anxious to defend only the speech they approve.

While I agree with you in most cases, I do believe that there are expressions which do cross the line. There are expressions that add nothing to the exchange of ideas - no matter how unpopular those ideas are.

BTW - it is interesting to note that Phelps and his crew have tried to sue groups such as the Fallen Angels who will shield families such as Snyders from the protests by parking semi trucks in the line of sight. Phelps sued under the unusual idea that he had the right to protest and that the right to protest extended to being guaranteed that his protests were seen by the target.

There used to be a video on YouTube of Pehlps protesting across from Walter Reed Hospital in Washington. The protesters were on the sidewalk with their usual hatred of soldiers signs when a couple of bikers on Harleys pull up in the street and start reviving their engines.

You cannot hear the protesters and they get VERY angry about it. The two bikers just sit there, their engines roaring as the people get in their face. Eventually, the protesters get so frustrated that they walk away. The bikes drive off.

Phelps later claimed that the bikers' acts were unConstitutional.

What is good for the goose is good for the gander.

InFides said...

Hello Good Gentles All!

Hello Anonymous!

I posted before your last post was there. I am extremely intrigued by your last post. It is very, very interesting.


"I believe that you should read the actual opinion the 4th Circuit Court issued on this case."

I did thought only in cursory manner. Mea culpa.


"The first ... a reasonable person would not take them that way."

I speak to this in my previous post.

"There is a problem with that analysis in that the members of the jury, all "reasonable people" did take the signs to be directed at Snyder."

"I dislike it greatly when a Court, who was not present at the trial and did not see all the evidence, interjects its own opinion from on high over the opinions of a jury."

The reasonable man theory does not mean that the jury is reasonable but that some abstract reasonable man is reasonable. The court is ruling according to this standard. Whether the jury was reasonable is not something about which the court cares.


"Secondly is the issue of "the Epic," which was a writing on the Westboro web site.

In the writing, there are very specific and damning accusations against the father and how he raised his son. Once again, the standard the court uses is the "reasonable man" standard. They jury found the accusations to be directed at the father and made with the intent to injure the father. The court overruled the jury and said that the writings were protected because they were "non-verifiable facts.""

A most excellent point. I am speaking to whether an assault at the protest could be defended by the doctrine of 'fighting words.' I am sure it could not. The fact that a web site says something bad is not germane because the web site was not at the protest.


"It means that I can write what I want about you, your private life, and your professional life if what I write is seen by a judge, (and not a jury) as "non-verifiable facts."

I think you might want to reread the law of defamation.


"This is a step back from what has been thought before. It is a new standard in the law that the Fourth Circuit is setting up here.

"It is one that cannot be maintained."

The article said ".. wrote on the church's Web site that Snyder's parents "taught Matthew to defy his creator.""

This is not a proveable fact. The court is correct on that. This is an opinion about how they raised their son. This can hardly be considered an actionable assertion and it certainly can not be used to justify a physical assault.

This is a very interesting point that you raise. It does not rise to the same level of damage that an accusation of bestiality does but it does seem as though it may cause some sort of reputational damage, IF it is something people who hear this might reasonably believe. I suspect the court is arguing that a reasonable man would not believe that this accusation of improper child rearing is credible.

I find your argument very compelling. I will have to think about this very carefully. If they are not out of bounds they certainly have chalk all over their shoes.


"There are so many issues here that they truly need to look at how far lying about someone with the intent to injure and cause emotional stress can go."

Very well said, sir. I too would welcome some sort of guidance in this case. I am afraid that the court will hedge or demur and nothing will really be solved at all.

The danger is that there is a clear overlap of core first amendment speech with some sort of defamation. Free speech generally wins but there are certainly exceptions.

Pax,

InFides

Anonymous said...

The reasonable man theory does not mean that the jury is reasonable but that some abstract reasonable man is reasonable. The court is ruling according to this standard. Whether the jury was reasonable is not something about which the court cares.

Actually, that is not true. While it is true that there is no definition of "reasonable," the proof of what is reasonable is from the community, and not judges who are not from that community.

A most excellent point. I am speaking to whether an assault at the protest could be defended by the doctrine of 'fighting words.' I am sure it could not. The fact that a web site says something bad is not germane because the web site was not at the protest.

We are not talking simply about "fighting words" here. As I am sure you know, "fighting words" did not enter into this case as there was no retribution from the father. We are now addressing why the case was overturned by the Fourth Circuit.

I think you might want to reread the law of defamation.

I think you are missing the point. The Fourth Circuit used a different standard for this case - one of "verifiable facts."

This is not a proveable fact. The court is correct on that. This is an opinion about how they raised their son. This can hardly be considered an actionable assertion and it certainly can not be used to justify a physical assault.

First, I would not say that it was a justification for physical retribution. Once again, we are talking about what the site said.

According to the decision, The Epic then discusses Matthew’s life: "Twenty years ago,little Matthew Snyder came into the world. . . . God created him and loaned/entrusted him to Albert and Julie Snyder."
J.A. 3790. The Epic states that the Snyders "had a DUTY to prepare that child to serve the LORD his GOD — PERIOD! You did JUST THE OPPOSITE — you raised him for the
devil. You taught him that God was a liar." Id. at 3791. The Epic also focuses on Matthew’s upbringing, asserting that "Albert and Julie . . . taught Matthew to defy his Creator, to divorce, and to commit adultery. They taught him how to support the largest pedophile machine in the history of the entire world, the Roman Catholic monstrosity. . . . They also, in supporting satanic Catholicism, taught Matthew to be an idolater." Id. After interspersing additional excerpts from the Bible, the Epic refers to Matthew’s service in the military, noting that he fought for
the United States of Sodom, a filthy country that is in lock step with his evil, wicked[,] and sinful manner of life, putting him in the cross hairs of a God that is so mad He has smoke coming from his nostrils and fire from his mouth! How dumb was that?
Id. The Epic then links Matthew’s death to the Defendants’ protest activities, stating: God rose up Matthew for the very purpose of striking him down, so that God’s name might be declared throughout all the earth. He killed Matthew so that His servants would have an opportunity to preach His words to the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis,the Maryland Legislature, and the whorehouse called St. John Catholic Church at Westminster where Matthew
Snyder fulfilled his calling.


cont....

Anonymous said...

cont...

(character length kicked in.)


While some of the writing is indeed rhetoric, there are many things said which are more of an attack on the parents of Matthew Snyder. They are lies. They are said with malice, which goes above the standard for defamation of a public individual, much less a private individual such as Daniel Snyder.

Once again, the court overrules the jury who said that the attack from the website was defaming and that reasonable people would find it as such.

Once again, this is affording people more protection than is allowed under the First Amendment. As stated earlier, I cannot write "Infides has sex with animals" and then say "it is clear that what I wrote cannot be verified and because Infides doesn't live on a farm, no one would take me seriously."

The damage is already done. The attack, without basis, has been made.

What the court is saying is not that "truth is a defense," but rather "defamation based on lies is free speech." That cannot be allowed to stand. It is contrary to hundreds of years of legal precedence.

InFides said...

Hello Good Gentles All!

Hello Anonymous!

"Justices are bound by precedent to take upon any case in which there is a breach of the Constitution."

No they are not. They are bound only to accept those cases they accept. The court will usually accept a case when there are clear issues or if two competing circuits render opposite opinions.


"In essence, you are saying that that the Court abdicates its primary responsibility in allowing lower court rulings to stand."

No I am saying that determine what cases they see fit to hear. They are not bound by the constitution to hear anything. In fact, SCOTUS's case load has been getting smaller and smaller. Many people have been commenting on it.


"If the Court refuses to grant cert, it is because there is nothing there to review."

Frequently the court will allow a lower court ruling to stand because it is not sure what it wants. It may be waiting to see if other courts agree and render similar rulings. If the ruling conflict then the will certainly intervene.

It is simply untrue to suggest that by refusing a case that SCOTUS have rendered any sort of ruling or judgement about it. Silence is silence.


"Sorry, but while I may agree that the signs did not cross the line, the Epic did."

The epic was not at the protest. (BTW, I am not conceding it did but in any case they would not be justified in striking those people.) Fighting words requires an immediate response. One cannot go home think about it and then get riled up later.


"If they are, as others have pointed out, it gives people such as Phelps more protection under the First Amendment than the rest of the people enjoy."

How is it more?


That is certainly grounds for granting of cert by the SCOTUS.

Agreed.


"In this case, you are probably right. I would be interested in seeing if a jury would nullify any actions toward them though."

Juries certainly have the right to rule as they see fit. If they were to support the assault I am wondering what the judge might say.


"BTW - it is interesting to note that Phelps and his crew have tried to sue groups such as the Fallen Angels who will shield families such as Snyders from the protests by parking semi trucks in the line of sight."

I was not aware of this. I fully commend and support the Snyder's actions.


"Phelps sued under the unusual idea that he had the right to protest and that the right to protest extended to being guaranteed that his protests were seen by the target."

I have the right to speak. You have the right not to listen. I am surprised any lawyer would even accept the case. The ruling is a foregone conclusion. The right to speak does not include the right to demand to be paid attention and heard.


"There used to be a video on YouTube of Pehlps protesting across from Walter Reed Hospital in Washington. The protesters were on the sidewalk with their usual hatred of soldiers signs when a couple of bikers on Harleys pull up in the street and start reviving their engines."

If they do not violate any noise ordinances then they are doing nothing wrong. I fully support the bikers. BTW, I have always wanted a full dressed hog but could never afford one. If I ever win the lottery...


"You cannot hear the protesters and they get VERY angry about it. The two bikers just sit there, their engines roaring as the people get in their face. Eventually, the protesters get so frustrated that they walk away. The bikes drive off."

Excellent. Everyone behaved legally and positions made clear and answered. Beautiful!


"Phelps later claimed that the bikers' acts were unConstitutional."

Extremely poor argument and completely wrong. They would never prevail in court.


"What is good for the goose is good for the gander."

Very well said and entirely true.

Pax,

InFides

InFides said...

Hello Good Gentles All!

Hello Anonymous!

I am enjoying the argument very much. Sorry I keep missing your latest post.


"While it is true that there is no definition of "reasonable," the proof of what is reasonable is from the community, and not judges who are not from that community."

I can not accept this statement. The court clearly disagrees.


"We are not talking simply about "fighting words" here. As I am sure you know, "fighting words" did not enter into this case as there was no retribution from the father."

True. My original post was to argue that if they did attack those people that this could not be justified under the dictrine of fighting words and I assert and continue to assert that it would not be.

"We are now addressing why the case was overturned by the Fourth Circuit."

My bad. We have jumped onto a different track. I am happy to offer my thoughts on this aspect of the case.


"I think you are missing the point. The Fourth Circuit used a different standard for this case - one of "verifiable facts.""

Based on the abstract reasonable man theory. It is funky, I admit that, but not out of line when one considers core first amendment speech.


"First, I would not say that it was a justification for physical retribution. Once again, we are talking about what the site said."

But the site was not at the protest. Are we still talking about fighting words or other aspects of the case? I am confused. This could be because my posts are lagging your responses. My fault.


"The Epic then discusses Matthew’s life: "Twenty years ago, ... "

"... the Epic refers to Matthew’s service in the military, noting that he fought for the United States of Sodom ..., The Epic then links Matthew’s death to the Defendants’ protest activities, stating: God rose up Matthew ... "

While some of the writing is indeed rhetoric, there are many things said which are more of an attack on the parents of Matthew Snyder."

Soaring rhetoric and certainly way out of line.

"They are lies. They are said with malice, which goes above the standard for defamation of a public individual, much less a private individual such as Daniel Snyder."

True but, and this was my original concern, they are by no means sufficient to justify a physical attack.


"Once again, the court overrules the jury who said that the attack from the website was defaming and that reasonable people would find it as such."

But this is also religious speech and this is where things get hazy. An argument from a religious perspective carries a level of deference that non-core first amendment speech does not. I do not like this at all but I can understand the court's position.


"Once again, this is affording people more protection than is allowed under the First Amendment."

Only if other people saying similar things were not equally protected. perhaps the Snyders should start a web site of the own. It would be a slam dunk to refute the Phelp's perverted understanding Christian doctrine.


"As stated earlier, I cannot write "Infides has sex with animals" and then say "it is clear that what I wrote cannot be verified and because Infides doesn't live on a farm, no one would take me seriously."

Show me the religious or political core first amendment component of that statement. Not all speech is core first amendment speech. This is a vital part of the court's argument.


What the court is saying is not that "truth is a defense," but rather "defamation based on lies is free speech."

Religious speech based on lies is free speech. A very different argument than yours. BTW, an argument I am not entirely sure accept. You are making excellent arguments.

I certainly understand your dislike of this abuseive speech. The issue is how to control core speech within the limits set by the constitution.

Pax,

InFides

Anonymous said...

It is simply untrue to suggest that by refusing a case that SCOTUS have rendered any sort of ruling or judgement about it. Silence is silence.

Silence is setting and allowing the precedent of the lower court to stand.

You have the right not to listen. I am surprised any lawyer would even accept the case.

This seems to indicate that you aren't aware that Phelps and five of his children are lawyers. Phelps has been disbarred, but his children still have licenses.

I can not accept this statement. The court clearly disagrees.

That is the point. For hundreds of years the standard has been what the average person would think, know or do. It is thought process that goes back before the founding of the country. Now the court has substituted its judgment as a standard for that of the people. It appears to be a new standard that is contrary to precedence.

But the site was not at the protest. Are we still talking about fighting words or other aspects of the case? I am confused. This could be because my posts are lagging your responses. My fault.

We are talking about the case itself. The judgment against Phelps was reversed. The case against Phelps was based upon the protest AND the writings on the web site.

True but, and this was my original concern, they are by no means sufficient to justify a physical attack.

But more than enough to sustain a judgment against the Westboro Baptist Church and Phelps.

Show me the religious or political core first amendment component of that statement.

Sorry, did I mistake your religious beliefs that sex with animals is acceptable? (just kidding.) It almost seems that you are saying that a person that couches an libelous, lying attack on someone is acceptable if the person couches that argument in "religious tones."

This was not only a general discussion of a group of people. The Epic also targeted toward Snyder and was written with great malice.

Religious speech based on lies is free speech.

I just want to make sure I understand what you are saying here.

I think we can agree that Christianity is, like all religions, based on "truth." While we may disagree on the truthfulness of the tenants and beliefs of a religion, the fact that a person steps outside of the core religious belief of truth means that the speech itself can no longer be considered "religious."

You cannot claim "religious speech" when violating the tenants of the religion.

The issue is how to control core speech within the limits set by the constitution.

We have a system in place. When the courts overstep their boundaries and jurisdiction and substitute their opinions from their glass house on top of the mountain, the system breaks.

Clearly Phelps has the right to say what he wants. The issue is the consequences of that speech.

I have the right to say libelous things about you, and you have the right to avail yourself of the courts to seek a judgment for that speech.

Anonymous said...

"I think we can agree that Christianity is, like all religions, based on "truth."

In this case, truth = superstition

Anonymous said...

In this case, truth = superstition

Please learn to read before making statements demonstrating your ignorance.

InFides said...

Hello Good Gentles All!

Hello Anonymous!

A most excellent post.

I realize that in making my arguments I am speaking in such a manner that I am very close to making no sense at all. Thank you for keeping on track.

Consider the following two statements:

A. InFides supports child molesters.

This is libel.

B. (1)Because InFides is a staunch Catholic and (2)a supporter of the Catholic church and (3)because the Catholic church had pedophile priests and (4)because some bishops and other clerics did not punish those pedophile priests and even helped to hide their crimes then (5)InFides is a supporter of child molesters.

In the first example (A) there is a statement. Factually incorrect.

In the second statement there is an argument some of which is true and some of which is possibly not.

1 and 2 I will stipulate.
3 and 4 are objective facts that can be established and thus entered into evidence.
5 is a false conclusion based on unrelated premises in 1,2,3,4.

This is not libel. This is debate.

In reading some of the 'arguments' offered on the site I can see how, despite the abusive language, poor arguments and horribly flawed understandings of Christiian doctrine that this can be considered an argument. just a really badly framed one.

"While we may disagree on the truthfulness of the tenants and beliefs of a religion, the fact that a person steps outside of the core religious belief of truth means that the speech itself can no longer be considered "religious.""

I am not sure I can accept that. Christians have been arguing for cnturies what the doctrines and meaning of the Bible are. The Catholic church has had many such gatherings in order to estabvlish what are the proper doctrines of faith.

Even now some people are arguing that Christianity allows for homosexual marriage. While I disagree with them they are entitled to the debate.

The Phelps are way wrong on their interpretation of Scripture and how to behave in Christian manner but they can interpret as they see fit.

"You cannot claim "religious speech" when violating the tenants of the religion."

This assumes that all parties agree what those tenets are.

BTW, I am curious to know how did the Phelps latch onto this family and their son?

Pax,

InFides

Anonymous said...

"I realize that in making my arguments I am speaking in such a manner that I am very close to making no sense at all."

That usually happens with "staunch Catholic(s) and (2)a supporter of the Catholic church"

Celebrate reason.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure I can accept that.

Let me rephrase this.

The "truth" to which I refer is not the validity of the tenants of the faith, but the core value that lying and bearing a false witness.

You cannot lie about someone and then say you are acting within the tenants of your faith.

Anonymous said...

"You cannot lie about someone and then say you are acting within the tenants of your faith."

Why not?

InFides said...

Hello Good Gentles All!

Hello Anonymous!

"That usually happens with "staunch Catholic(s) and (2)a supporter of the Catholic church"

Celebrate reason."

Tsk, tsk, tsk. My failures as a person are by no means an indictment of the belief in God or the tenets of the Catholic Church.

Most of the 'reasonable' people in science, mathematics, et. al. believed and believe in God and many were and are Catholics.

If you wish to understand the error of your statement about the Church then read Ludwig Ott's book on the foundations of Catholic dogma. The first chapter deals with God generally (not Christ) and, I am sure, even you would have to admit, that clear thought and logic are well used.

BTW, ad hominems are the last argument of a scoundrel.


Hello Anonymous!

"The "truth" to which I refer is not the validity of the tenants of the faith, but the core value that lying and bearing a false witness.

You cannot lie about someone and then say you are acting within the tenants of your faith."

This statement presumes that they believe they are lying. If they truly believe what they are saying is proper under Christian dogma and truthful then they violate nothing related to their beliefs.

Pax,

InFides

Anonymous said...

This statement presumes that they believe they are lying. If they truly believe what they are saying is proper under Christian dogma and truthful then they violate nothing related to their beliefs.

I am doubtful that mens rea is within the Bible (speaking strictly about Phelps now.)

It doesn't say "its okay to bear false witness against someone if you don't know you are." Its specific. Don't do it.

InFides said...

Hello Good Gentles All!

Hello Anonymous!

"I am doubtful that mens rea is within the Bible (speaking strictly about Phelps now.)"

True but we still do not have Phelps' mens rea established. I am not sure we can establish it in law.

BTW, the Church does not hold people accountable for things they do not know.

For example, there are certain days of the year when fasting and no meat eating are required of the faithful. If, however, I forget, an honest mistake, then the Church says that no sin is committed.

Interstingly the reverse is also true. For example if I commit a venial sin but I believe it to be a mortal sin and do it anyway then it is a mortal sin. This is because I deliberately offended God and His justice by doing the sinful act.


"It doesn't say "its okay to bear false witness against someone if you don't know you are." Its specific. Don't do it."

But if I do not know that I am lying then I am not lying. If I believe I am telling the truth then I am so far as I am concerned. It must be this way. How can know if I am lying if I do not know I am lying?

Pax,

InFides

Anonymous said...

True but we still do not have Phelps' mens rea established. I am not sure we can establish it in law.

We don't have to establish it. That is the point. He cannot lie - either by design or accident - and then claim refuge in religious doctrine.

BTW, the Church does not hold people accountable for things they do not know.

DANGER WILL ROBINSON!!

We are heading into a religious discussion and that would be waaaaaaay off course here. Just let me say that there is a difference between God and the church. God does hold men accountable for there sins whether known or unknown otherwise there is no need for salvation.

As a side note, are you really trying to say that as long as I don't think sleeping with another man's wife is wrong, or unaware that she is another man's wife, that the sin of adultery has not been committed? You are going to have a tough time selling that one.

But if I do not know that I am lying then I am not lying.

But you are bearing a false witness. Whether you are doing so is based not on your knowledge of the truthfulness of the statement, but whether the statement is true or not.

This is a critical difference between the church and English common law where one must know that one is lying.

Anonymous said...

"As a side note, are you really trying to say that as long as I don't think sleeping with another man's wife is wrong, or unaware that she is another man's wife, that the sin of adultery has not been committed? "

Ask Sen. John Ensign; he is a good Christian and knows quite a bit about that subject.

InFides said...

Hello Good Gentles All!

Hello Anonymous!

"We don't have to establish it. That is the point. He cannot lie - either by design or accident - and then claim refuge in religious doctrine."

No so.

If I lie deliberately and with knowledge of the deceit - perjury and a sin before God.

If I say what I am sure is the truth but I am merely mistaken (mis-identification of a suspect for example) then it is bad testimony but not perjury and not a sin before God.


"God does hold men accountable for there sins whether known or unknown otherwise there is no need for salvation."

Perhaps you are conflating original sin with sins of commission?

But if a man is acting on his best understanding with no malice or bad intent then God will not punish him.


"As a side note, are you really trying to say that as long as I don't think sleeping with another man's wife is wrong, ..."

Heavens no. What I am saying is if you genuinely do not know it is wrong then how can you think it is wrong. If I eat meat today and I do not know that I am not supposed to eat meat then how have I sinned?

" or unaware that she is another man's wife,"

If I believe she is single and she tells me she is single then I have had premarital sex but I am innocent of having sex with a married woman.

BTW, she must know she is married so she is in huge trouble because she committed adultery, she lied and she led an innocent man into a grievous sin.


" that the sin of adultery has not been committed?"

Yes, by her.

" You are going to have a tough time selling that one. "

Some courts are with me. If a girl absolutely looks to be of legal age and she tells me she is of legal age (perhaps even shows me a fake ID) and I have sex with her I am not guilty of sex with a minor. Many jurisdictions accept that I am innocent of statutory rape. BTW, some jurisdictions are not so forgiving so be sure of the law.


"But you are bearing a false witness."

No I am not. Let me give you an example. I walk around the corner at just the moment where I see Smith strike Jones. I testify that Smith appeared to start the fight. It turns out that moments before I walked around the corner Jones had started the fight by trying to strike Smith first. Have I borne false witness by saying that I saw Smith start the fight? Of course not. I told the absolute truth as I saw it. My testimony is wrong but I have done nothing legally or morally wrong. God will not fault me for saying I think Smith started the fight.


"This is a critical difference between the church and English common law where one must know that one is lying."

Maybe a protestant thinks this but under Catholic doctrine if have no knowledge and am truly innocent of knowledge that the act is sinful then there is no sin.

It would be profoundly unjust for God to say, "Although you had no knowledge of the sin and no way to gain such knowledge, still your action was sinful and I condemn you for it."

If a 5 year old finds a loaded gun and kills his little brother with it did he sin? He fired the weapon. He killed his brother. Do you think God would say he is guilty of a crime even though he had no way of knowing what he was doing?

You will no doubt say but we are not 5 years old.

If I am driving down the street and someone walks out from behind a parked truck and I kill him have I sinned? I broke the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill.' I struck the pedestrian. I killed him. I have committed no sin. Would it be fair for God to say 'Even though you can not see through solid objects and thus had no way to know what the pedestrian was going to do, still you killed him and I condemn you for it.'

Pax,

InFides

Anonymous said...

"Do you think God would say he is guilty of a crime even though he had no way of knowing what he was doing?"

God would just give him leukemia and then service the next number.

Use the Name, Luke said...

InFides,

The Bible does give a direct answer to your last hypothetical.

"But if anyone suddenly pushes a person without hostility or throws any object at him without malicious intent or drops a stone without looking that could kill a person and he dies, but he was not his enemy and wasn’t trying to harm him, the assembly is to judge between the slayer and the avenger of blood according to these ordinances. The assembly is to protect the one who kills someone from the hand of the avenger of blood. Then the assembly will return him to the city of refuge he fled to, and he must live there until the death of the high priest who was anointed with the holy oil.

If the one who kills someone ever goes outside the border of the city of refuge he fled to, and the avenger of blood finds him outside the border of his city of refuge and kills him, the avenger will not be guilty of bloodshed, for the one who killed a person was supposed to live in his city of refuge until the death of the high priest. Only after the death of the high priest may the one who has killed a person return to the land he possesses. These instructions will be a statutory ordinance for you throughout your generations wherever you live.
"
(Numbers 35:22–29 HCSB)

So even if someone kills another accidentally he still pays a price—"House arrest" in a city of refuge. If he fails to live up to that restriction, then he is considered guilty and can be put to death. That certainly sounds like he is guilty of sin—even if committed accidentally—to me.

Use the Name, Luke said...

Psalm 19 also talks about unintentional sins:

"Who perceives his unintentional sins? Cleanse me from my hidden faults. Moreover, keep Your servant from willful sins; do not let them rule over me. Then I will be innocent, and cleansed from blatant rebellion."
(Psalms 19:12–13 HCSB)

Consider that we can sin and not realize it until later. Does that mean that we didn't sin until we realize that it was sin? I don't think so.

Paul also argues that no man has an excuse for sin, even those who haven't heard the law:

"For God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth, since what can be known about God is evident among them, because God has shown it to them. From the creation of the world His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse."
(Romans 1:18–20 HCSB)

"So, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, instinctively do what the law demands, they are a law to themselves even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts. Their consciences testify in support of this, and their competing thoughts either accuse or excuse them on the day when God judges what people have kept secret, according to my gospel through Christ Jesus."
(Romans 2:14–16 HCSB)

In fact, as he's discussing this very point, he goes on to make a statement that I think applies directly to Fred Phelps:

"You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? For, as it is written: The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you."
(Romans 2:23–24 HCSB)

InFides said...

Hello Good Hentles All!

Hello Luke!

"So even if someone kills another accidentally he still pays a price—"House arrest" in a city of refuge. If he fails to live up to that restriction, then he is considered guilty and can be put to death. That certainly sounds like he is guilty of sin—even if committed accidentally—to me."

He is responsible for his actions. Something I fully accept. If I cause harm, even accidentally, I should make up for it.

I am speaking to whether I will burn in hell for it. I think not.

I put the question to you squarely:

If you accidentally kill someone through no fault of your own should you burn in hell for it?


"... people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth, since what can be known about God is evident among them ..."

Beautiful verse. But look at what it says. The words 'supress the truth' imply that you know what it is. If you know the truth and behave against it you are in big trouble. I am speaking to those who do not know.

I agree that Phelps has problems in his theology. And if in his heart he knows he is wrong he will answer for it.

My original point is that if he believes he is following scripture then he belives he is telling the truth. We know he is not but he thinks he is. That is my point.

"So, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, instinctively do what the law demands, they are a law to themselves even though they do not have the law."

In other words, we are made by God to know and follow Him and people who have not received the Word are inclined to follow His law instinctively.

" They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts."

It is in our nature to want to know and follow God.

" Their consciences testify in support of this, ..."

Deep down we generally know what is right. Have you ever seen even a very young child do something and clearly show he knows it is wrong and yet he has not yet been taught that it is wrong formally?

"... and their competing thoughts either accuse or excuse them on the day when God judges what people have kept secret, according to my gospel through Christ Jesus."

If I know inside what is wrong and yet I do it anyway my own conscience accuses me. My 'competing thoughts' show that I know I have done something wrong.

All your examples require me to know. If I absolutely do not know then how can I be held liable?

Are those who have never heard the Word (ancient Hawaiians for example) doomed to suffer eternal damnation and punishment for something they can not under any circumstances have possibly known?

God is just.

Pax,

InFides

Anonymous said...

If you accidentally kill someone through no fault of your own should you burn in hell for it?

If your actions were sin, yes.

My original point is that if he believes he is following scripture then he belives he is telling the truth. We know he is not but he thinks he is. That is my point.

Whether he believes what he is doing is right or not is irrelevant. What matters only is what he does.

As proof of this, return to the time of the crucifixion. Christ is on the cross and about to expire when he says in Luke 23:34 Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.

If, as you put forth, "they" are innocent of any sin because they didn't know what they were doing was wrong, then there is no need for any forgiveness. Yet Christ asks God to forgive them.

If there is nothing to forgive because they "didn't know what they were" doing, then why the need for forgiveness?

Clearly the only answer can be that despite their "ignorance" of their sin, they were still guilty of the sin.

Are those who have never heard the Word (ancient Hawaiians for example) doomed to suffer eternal damnation and punishment for something they can not under any circumstances have possibly known?

Yet the Bible says there are none who have not seen, and none who have not heard, so they are without excuse.

God is just.

Moreover, God is not in the box that we as men try to put him into. Simply because you or I do not understand or see how he revealed Himself to others does not mean that it did not happen.

InFides said...

Hello Good Gentles All!

Hello Anonymous!

"If your actions were sin, yes."

Let me rephrase my point.

You are driving down a hill. Through entirely no fault of your own your brakes fail. Despite your best efforts to stop you plow into an intersection at the bottom of the hill and kill someone.

You are saying that God will condemn you to burn in hell for that?


"Christ is on the cross and about to expire when he says in Luke 23:34 Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."

You are confusing some things. They were killing Jesus unjustly and that is something for which they will answer.

They were also crucifying the Son of God. That they did not understand. His own saw Him and rejected Him. They did not know Him.


"If, as you put forth, "they" are innocent of any sin because they didn't know what they were doing was wrong, then there is no need for any forgiveness."

They are guilty. Are you suggesting that they did not know they were killing an innocent man?

I am speaking to true ignorance on the part of the person. You are are arguing that they knew but claimed they did not, hardly the same thing.

Consider this. We are both certain the Phelp's are wrong on their interpretation of Scripture. What if it turns out they are right? Are you saying that you deserve to burn in hell despite your best, honest, true and faithful efforts to fulfill God's law on earth? Would you not have a problem being condemned? Would you simply say, 'Oh well,' and accept your eternal punishment?


"Yet the Bible says there are none who have not seen, and none who have not heard, so they are without excuse."

I have never heard any Christian say that people from the opposite side of the planet who could not have possibly known are to suffer for an ignorance of the Word that they had no possible way to correct.

Consider this. If indeed the ancient Hawaiians are to burn for their not knowing the Word Who put them where they were? You are specifically saying that God placed the ancient Hawaiians in a place that guaranteed their eternal damnation and gave them no way out. At a minimum that is pretty viscious of God to do that. It is profoundly unjust for God to place people in a situation not of their own choosing and then condemn them to hell for it.

"Moreover, God is not in the box that we ... how he revealed Himself to others does not mean that it did not happen."

If He did then He did. I am saying if a person is truly, genuinely unaware and has no way to find out then he can not be condemned for his uncorrectable ignorance.

We can certainly know that God's justice is perfect because all aspects of God's nature are perfect.

If you can explain to me how someone burning for something over which he had no control and no knowledge is just then I will listen to the argument.

Ask yourself this:

If you can be held liable to hell for things you do not and can not know then how do you live the kind of life God wants you to live? If you have no way of knowing you are offending God then how do you avoid doing so? If by my actions I am to be condemned and yet I can not know what I am doing is wrong then how do I know what to do? If I read the Bible and I try my best to understand and live according to God's word but I got some things wrong but I tried my best to get it right that I should burn for that?

The righteous man sins seven times a day. We all commit sins unknown to us as sins but known to God. What we do not know we do not know. How can God hold us accountable for it?

What is the point of worshipping a God who is so capricious and arbitrary that you really do not know what will happen to you after you die and can take no action with any certainty that you are acting correctly and that you will not burn despite your best efforts to please Him?

God wants us to be with Him. He wants us to be saved.

Pax,

InFides

Anonymous said...

You are saying that God will condemn you to burn in hell for that?

And I ask you again, is there a sin in your scenario?

They are guilty. Are you suggesting that they did not know they were killing an innocent man?

I am not suggesting it, Christ said it.

This addresses your central point and shows it to be false. Knowledge that you are committing wrong does not mean that one has not sinned.

I have never heard any Christian say that people from the opposite side of the planet who could not have possibly known are to suffer for an ignorance of the Word that they had no possible way to correct.

I have never heard any Christian contradict the Word of God and say that there are those who have not heard.

Consider this. If indeed the ancient Hawaiians are to burn for their not knowing the Word Who put them where they were?

I do not have to consider it because the Word of God tells me your premise is false.

It is profoundly unjust for God to place people in a situation not of their own choosing and then condemn them to hell for it.

Thankfully God did not do that. Once again, there are none who have not heard.

If you can explain to me how someone burning for something over which he had no control and no knowledge is just then I will listen to the argument.

I don't have to explain a hypothetical which did not happen. There are none who have not heard.

The righteous man sins seven times a day.

Why would you only quote half the sentence in that verse? Why would you only make half of the point in that passage? Did you deliberately leave out that the righteous man not only falls seven times a day, but he rises from that sin? Why would you leave out the rising from the sin?

We all commit sins unknown to us as sins but known to God. What we do not know we do not know. How can God hold us accountable for it?

You make the assumption that the sin is unknown to the person. Clearly the Bible disagrees with you on that. We know when we sin. We simply choose to ignore the fact that we are sinning.

InFides said...

Hello Good Gentles All!

Hello Anonymous!

"And I ask you again, is there a sin in your scenario?"

Interesting point.

Thou shalt not kill.

I killed the person I ran down with my car.

Is that a sin?

I suspect we are talking past each other.

Sorry, I did not deliberately mean to leave out the rest of the quote in order to shade my point. That was simply the part that said what I wanted to say.


"You make the assumption that the sin is unknown to the person."

I am not assuming it I am saying that if it IS unknown then it is not known.


"Clearly the Bible disagrees with you on that. We know when we sin. We simply choose to ignore the fact that we are sinning."

So if I eat meat on required day of abstinence because I did not know it was required I know this? If I do not know this how do I then know it?

As I say I think we are talking past each other.

So the ancient Hawaiians are doomed because they never heard about Jesus and are thus condemned to burn in hell?

Pax,

InFides

InFides said...

Hello Anonymous!

One quick scenario:

I meet woman who says she has never been married. All I can find about her show this is true.

In fact this woman has left her husband without even divorcing him. She changed her name. She never tells me any of this.

I marry her. We live together for the remainder of my life. I never discover that I am committing adultery with this woman. I go to my grave thinking I am the only man she has ever married.

I only find out the truth when I am before God.

I know for an absolute fact that adultery is a mortal sin.

Am I going to burn in hell for what I have done?

Pax,

InFides

Anonymous said...

Thou shalt not kill.
I killed the person I ran down with my car.
Is that a sin?
I suspect we are talking past each other.


First off, the actual commandment is "thou shalt not murder."

Secondly, you keep trying to say that the person determines whether there was a sin or not. That is not true. Whether God says it is a sin is the issue. Once we know that it is a sin, the case is closed. There is no Biblical support for any other thought process.

In fact, in the OT, there were sacrifices for sins of commission, sins of omission, and sins that you weren't aware of. Yet God still required a sacrifice to cover those sins.

If, as you say, the sin that is committed is not actually a sin, then why does God require a sacrifice for it?

I am not assuming it I am saying that if it IS unknown then it is not known.

Here's the problem. You are postulating things which cannot happen. I presume that you believe God created the heavens and the earth. Now assume that you are debating with a person that says "but what if God didn't create the world and Kermit the Frog did so why aren't there more pigs to date in the world?"

Your response is going to be that the hypothetical is not possible and that is what I am saying here.

So if I eat meat on required day of abstinence because I did not know it was required I know this?

There is no law or sin dealing with the eating of meat on any day. So there is no sin there.

So the ancient Hawaiians are doomed because they never heard about Jesus and are thus condemned to burn in hell?

We are talking past each other because you are not looking at the Bible which says there are none who have not heard.

You are making the conclusion that the ancient Hawaiians are "doomed" based on a hypothesis that is contrary to the Word of God.

You are free to argue that you don't believe the Word, and I will accept that as your opinion. However, if you believe the Bible is the Word of God, then you have to accept that the ancient Hawaiians have heard the Word of the Lord.

The question basically comes down to whether you believe in the Word or not.

Use the Name, Luke said...

InFides,

Your example of the brakes failing is different than what we're talking about because of one crucial point: actions we can control.

Notice that in the examples the Bible gives, the person performs an action that they have control over (pushing someone, throwing something, dropping a stone). Then even if they did not intend death, the action they chose still resulted in death.

In your example, the choice of action is taken out of the equation. You're now along for the ride. There may be many points along the line where choices can be brought back into play (for example, failing to check the brakes when they had acted up previously, which is negligence) but the discussion here turns on that critical point of making a choice.

If you choose an action which God calls wrong, that's a sin, whether intended to be sinful or not. But if an event happens to us, then it is not a sin.

Consider the case of the man who was born blind. The disciples assumed that his blindness was the result of sin, but Jesus told them otherwise. So being blind wasn't a sin because it happened to him. That's not to say that he didn't sin, just that what happened to wasn't sin, just what he chose to do.

"So the ancient Hawaiians are doomed because they never heard about Jesus and are thus condemned to burn in hell?"

No. The ancient Hawaiians are sinners who deserve death for their sins. That they haven't received the cure for that sin does not negate that they did commit the sins which demand punishment.

Think of it this way: How many ancient people died of infections because they didn't have antibiotics? Millions if not billions. Was it the lack of antibiotics that killed them? No, it was the infection that killed them.

Here's a couple of things to keep in mind.

First, mere knowledge about Jesus is not sufficient to save:

"You believe that God is one; you do well. The demons also believe—and they shudder."
(James 2:19 HCSB)

Second, it's trusting in God that saves:

"So the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness, and he was called God’s friend."
(James 2:23 HCSB)

Third, the Bible teaches that every man knows that God exists through general revelation, even if they haven't received special revelation from the scriptures:

"From the creation of the world His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse."
(Romans 1:20 HCSB)

Fourth, the Bible implies (though it doesn't say so outright) that if anyone searches for God, God makes sure he can be found:

"I love those who love me, and those who search for me find me." (Speaking of Wisdom)
(Proverbs 8:17 HCSB)

"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
(Proverbs 9:10 HCSB)

"You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart." (Promised to Israel, but may apply to anyone.)
(Jeremiah 29:13 HCSB)

Fifth, the Bible also says that no one actually seeks God:

"as it is written:
There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, together they have become useless; there is no one who does good, there is not even one.
"
(Romans 3:10–12 HCSB)

Finally, there is at least one example in the Bible of God taking special steps to make sure that he would be found easily. (See Acts 8:26-39)

InFides said...

Hello Anonymous!

"Secondly, you keep trying to say that the person determines whether there was a sin or not."

If that is what you think I am saying then I am sorry.

I am saying if someone does not know somethng is a sin then he does not know.


"You are making the conclusion that the ancient Hawaiians are "doomed" based on a hypothesis that is contrary to the Word of God."

I am saying they are not doomed. I was under the impression from your argument that that is what you were saying.


"to accept that the ancient Hawaiians have heard the Word of the Lord."

I am not posing a hypothetical when I say the ancient Hawaiians did not know about Jesus or have the Bible or know about baptism. We know this for a fact.

If they have no knowledge of Jesus and He is way then how are they saved?

BTW, what about my adulterous marrige question in may last post? What are you thoughts?

Pax,

InFides

InFides said...

Hello Luke!

"Your example of the brakes failing is different than what we're talking about because of one crucial point: actions we can control."

If you know it is a sin and do it anyway you will have a problem. If your knowledge is beyond your control or understanding then you are not.

Exactly my point. It appeared to me as though people were saying that despite our lack of control or possible ability to know that we will be judged by those things beyond our control or possible knowledge.

I accept your citations and basic argument.

I particularly appreciate your citing general revelation of the knowledge of God. This is why I get concerned when some people appear to say that those who did not know are condemned.

I am with you on your analysis. The argument that you make has been mine all along. If I have sounded as though I was saying otherwise then I am sorry for deplorable inability to make my position understood.

I salute you , sir.

Pax,

InFides

Anonymous said...

I am saying if someone does not know somethng is a sin then he does not know.

But it is still a sin. That is the key element. A sin is still a sin.

I am saying they are not doomed. I was under the impression from your argument that that is what you were saying.

I am saying that we know that those who turn away from God are doomed.

I am not posing a hypothetical when I say the ancient Hawaiians did not know about Jesus or have the Bible or know about baptism. We know this for a fact.

We do not know this for a fact. We know the exact opposite:
"For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. "
(Romans 1:20 NIV)


You are arguing that they did not know when the Bible clearly states they did. I am sorry to be blunt about this, but either you believe the Word of God, or you do not.

If they have no knowledge of Jesus and He is way then how are they saved?

Once again, I am not sure how you can continually read the Bible and say that they do not know when clearly the Bible says otherwise.

BTW, what about my adulterous marrige question in may last post? What are you thoughts?

Funny you should mention this again. I asked a friend about this and he said "don't you remember....." and gave a name.

This was a person who was more of a friend to my friend than to me. She was a casual acquaintance to me so I barely remember her.

She was engaged to be married and was talking the first class of marriage course with an assistant pastor. They started the meeting out with a prayer and after the prayer, both the woman and the pastor looked at the groom to be and said "you're married, aren't you?"

Up until that point, no one had thought anything about it but God spoke to both of them and said "this guy is married."

That action keeps a promise where Christ says in John 16:13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. (NIV)

The Holy Spirit led them into the truth of the matter.

In other words, I reject your premise that the person will not know if they are actively seeking God and His plan for their life.

If they are not, then the premise doesn't matter as they are already condemned.

Use the Name, Luke said...

"If you know it is a sin and do it anyway you will have a problem. If your knowledge is beyond your control or understanding then you are not.

Exactly my point. It appeared to me as though people were saying that despite our lack of control or possible ability to know that we will be judged by those things beyond our control or possible knowledge.
"

I may be misunderstanding what you wrote, but I'm not sure you got what I'm saying.

We can choose actions which are sins but are beyond our knowledge. It's the choice of acting that matters. If an action we choose to take is a sin, then we've sinned even if we don't realize that we've sinned.

We can be involved in actions which are beyond our ability to choose. In those instances we are not sinning.

Your failed brakes example was rather vague because there are all kinds of ways our choices can be brought in. So I'd like to try another which is hopefully clearer.

Suppose we're on a building when someone suddenly picks us up and throws us off the edge and we land on someone, killing them. Have we killed that person? No. Our body was involved, but there was no action taken on our part which led to the person's death. The result would have been the same whether the person that did the throwing threw our body over the edge or a brick.

If we chose to jump off the building in the same situation—even if we didn't know there was someone below us—would be a sin because it was an action we chose to take, even if killing the person was not our intent.

Or think about the original sin. If the serpent had taken the fruit and jammed it down Eve's throat, would she have sinned?

InFides said...

Hello Luke!

I am with you. Actions have consequences. I have always accepted that. Furthermore, we should consider the consequcnes of our actions. But if we are truly ignorant then our inablility to know does not condemn us.

I appreciate my failed brakes example was vague. I was conserving space, which ill served my argument.

For example, if one knows his brakes are bad and makes no effort to repair them and drives anyway then there is going to be a problem.

I am sure we are on the same page.



Hello Anonymous!

"... God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, ..."

"You are arguing that they did not know when the Bible clearly states they did."

I am arguing that they did not have the Bible and that is a known fact. I am arguing that they had never heard of Jesus which, in fact, they had not. I am arguing that the sacrament of baptism was unknown to them and it was.

Man has a natural propensity to know God. I am not arguing that. The quote you cite in no way says that all peoples everywhere at all times knew of Jesus, had the Bible or baptism.


"I am sorry to be blunt about this, but either you believe the Word of God, or you do not."

I do but the verse you cited does not support your argument.


"In other words, I reject your premise that the person will not know if they are actively seeking God and His plan for their life.

If they are not, then the premise doesn't matter as they are already condemned."


Wow. So you are prepared to condemn those people?

It is an awesome power to judge the eternal damnation of people.

"1Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself;" - Romans 2

Only God knows what He will do and I am truly shocked that you assert you know His will with such certainty and can speak with such absolute authority as to who is damned and who is not.

"6Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life."
2 Corinthians

God is love. Minister unto the Love of God and not to death.

Pax,

InFides

Anonymous said...

I am arguing that they did not have the Bible and that is a known fact.

The Bible is not needed for salvation. If it were, then the Apostles were not saved. Paul was not saved. The early church was not saved. Sola Scriptura is an accurate doctrine, but it appears you are trying to apply it outside of its intended meaning and definition.

I am arguing that they had never heard of Jesus which, in fact, they had not.

Once again, your assertion is against the Bible.

I am arguing that the sacrament of baptism was unknown to them and it was.

Baptism has nothing to do with actual salvation. It is a commandment for followers - not a condition of salvation.

Man has a natural propensity to know God. I am not arguing that. The quote you cite in no way says that all peoples everywhere at all times knew of Jesus, had the Bible or baptism.

Once again, there are none who have not heard.

I do but the verse you cited does not support your argument.

It does but you are looking for something other than the way God reveals Himself and his plan of salvation to people. You are looking for the Bible and baptism and neither are a requirement for salvation. Christ alone is needed for salvation and the Word says that He is made known to all.

Wow. So you are prepared to condemn those people?

If the person is seeking the Lord, they will know the truth. If they are not seeking to walk with Him, they are already condemned as they are not saved.

It is an awesome power to judge the eternal damnation of people.

Yes it is. Lucky for us only God has that authority.

Only God knows what He will do and I am truly shocked that you assert you know His will with such certainty and can speak with such absolute authority as to who is damned and who is not.

Who have I condemned? Who have I said are condemned other than those who are not saved?

Are you now saying that those who are not saved are going to be with Him? What are you basing that upon?

If there is a certainty to my writings, it is because I rely on the Word. I am not condemning anyone. I am simply noting that those who do not appear in the Book of Life - those who are not "saved" - are condemned.

Please do not make accusations without a basis.

Anonymous said...

InFides,

Let me add this as well.

Christ says in John 14:6 "Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (NIV)

If, as you assert, that people could not know of Christ and yet are not condemned, then Christ is a liar.

If, as I (and the Bible) assert that the knowledge of Christ are made known to all but people reject Him, Christ's words and those of the Bible remain true.

I can't figure out a way for you to keep believing what you are putting forth, and at the same time believe that Christ's words were true.

Anonymous said...

"I can't figure out a way for you to keep believing what you are putting forth, and at the same time believe that Christ's words were true."

It's simple, you just pick and choose what you want to believe. Wars get started because of these nits.

Robert said...

From what we can gather here, man has a natural instinct to do what he believes is right ("So, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, instinctively do what the law demands, they are a law to themselves even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts.). It's possible to unwittingly commit a sin. Such sins would be forgivable, because one did not intend sin. But KNOWINGLY and INTENTIONALLY committing what one KNOWS to be a sin is far worse. That seems to be what is meant by "turning away from God", and brings down the big punishment.

Similarly, for a statement to be a lie, the liar must be committing two lies - lying to whom he is speaking, and lying in his own mind. In other words, a liar KNOWS full well what the truth is, but CHOOSES to lie anyway. (That's pretty much the standard for fraud.) If someone says something and presents it as true, while in reality he really has no idea whether or not it's true, then he's bullshitting (the standard for gross negligence). Then there's the possibility that someone may truly believe something in his heart of hearts, and would pass a lie detector test while uttering it, but the information is still wrong. In such a case, he is merely mistaken. Or to use the example of someone turning the corner just in time to see Smith strike Jones, but not having seen that Jones swung first, such a person only knows part of the truth. He could testify what he witnessed to a jury without committing perjury, but other witnesses who saw Jones swing first would be needed to gain the whole truth.