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Trevor Blake and Free Northerner: To Be a Christian

A debate between Trevor Blake of OVO and Free Northerner.



  1. Introduction.
  2. Trevor Blake: Opening Statement (due within five days of Introduction).
  3. Free Northerner: Opening Statement (due within five days of phase two).
  4. Trevor Blake: Second Statement (due within five days of phase three).
  5. Free Northerner: Second Statement (due within five days of phase four).
  6. Trevor Blake: Closing Statement (due within five days of phase five).
  7. Free Northerner: Closing Statement (due within five days of phase six).
  8. Free Northerner, Trevor Blake and any reader inspired to do so donate to a charitable organization (due same day as Free Northerner’s Closing Statement).

In September 2014 Free Northerner (FN) wrote he is trying to work on his rhetoric. Trevor Blake (TB) suggested a debate.

The debate “To Be a Christian” has three goals. First, the debate will improve the rhetorical skills of the participants. The debate itself will test the rhetorical skills of FN and TB. Second, the debate will raise funds for a charitable organization. Both FN and TB have donated to a charitable organization, so that at minimum some concrete good in the world has hopefully occurred because of the debate. Third, the debate may inspire the reading audience. If the reading audience is inspired to profitable reflection, or to likewise donate to a charitable organization, all the better. FN chose the charitable organization, TB chose the topic, and the debate was agreed upon.

The topic is “To Be a Christian.” This debate can include the following… What is required to be a Christian? What is forbidden? What is the result of being a Christian? What is the result of not being a Christian?

The debate is designed to distinguish it from an online disagreement. By agreed-upon time limits and limits of content, FN and TB are spurred to thoughtfulness and boldness and discouraged from laziness or victory by attrition.

There is no word count limit to an individual post. There is no editing of a post is allowed once it has been made. There is no limits to links. There is no limit to consulting any source, including other people. Aside from quotes from the debate itself, the posts should be in our the words of FN and TB. FN and TB will post at their respective sites, each linking to the other as appropriate.

In the closing statements, FN and TB should comment on how the debate might have gone better (longer / shorter time periods, more / fewer quotations, etc.).

OVO Books Going Out of Print

By January 2015 the following titles will be removed from the OVO catalog.  If you have intended to buy them, now is the time.


Ernext Mann: I Was Robot. $4.95.

Dora Marsden: The Freewoman and the Egoist Volume One. $4.95.

Dora Marsden: The Freewoman and the Egoist Volume Two. $9.95.

I am a Horrible Monster. Kill Me Now… Or Later

I am a Horrible Monster

I am a Horrible Monster.  Kill Me Now… Or Later.  11 x 4 inches.   Circa 1995.  Paper and glue.

In the mid-1990s I lived in a building near a house occupied by animal rights activists.  It was easy to tell which house was theirs for three reasons.  First, they had animal rights posters in the windows of their house.  Second, they wore animal rights t-shirts as they went into and out of their house.  Third and most telling of all, there was a ring of animal rights posters on telephone poles within an afternoon’s walking distance around their house.  Draw a ring of where the posters on telephone poles were, find the center of that ring, and that’s where their house was.  Almost every other animal knows not to soil it’s own nest.

I am neither a believer in animal rights nor an advocate of animal cruelty.  Like art, I know it when I see it.  A delicious, fat-marbled contradictory and unsupportable moral stance but that’s where I’m at.  What is consistent is my distrust for true believers and bullies, and the bombastic posters of the animal rights house fit that bill.  They may have had moral ground to stand on in saying it is wrong to eat or experiment on animals.  But they went further, describing those who do as evil, and knowingly evil.  They presented carnivores and vivisectionists as, well, as animals.

My reply – agree and amplify.  Using an awful images from one of their posters, I made a poster as if I were the imaginary evil scientist they were railing against.  This poster isn’t what I believe. This posters is a re-statement of what these animal rights advocates believed about those who were not animal rights advocates.  They wanted someone to say terrible things about animals, and I gave them what they wanted.  You’re welcome!

My old neighborhood has upscaled since the mid-1990s.  You can usually tell what part of town is about ten years away from prosperity by where the anarchists / feminists / animal rights advocates set up shop.  Aside from the few dozen of these posters I put out anonymously at the time, it has never been published.

Bon Appétit!

Trevor Blake: Banned Book Week 2014

Forbidden Book

The American Library Association celebrates Banned Book Week during the last week of September. October 2014 is the fiftieth anniversary of the Free Speech Movement at the University of California, Berkeley.

I am an advocate of freedom of speech.  Here are some unorthodox and unpopular ideas that were banned or challenged in the United States in the years 2012 – 2014.

2011 – 2013
2010 – 2012

September 2012
The United States formerly had a diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya. On 11 September 2012, Muslims seized the mission and killed several men stationed there. While the United States government denied prior requests for additional security at the mission, the government did contact YouTube during the attack to blame the film Innocence of Muslims for provoking Muslims into making the attack.

In 2013, the United States Government revealed that organizations who applied for non-profit status to the Internal Revenue Service were subject to different levels of scrutiny based on their perceived political position. Lois Lerner was in charge of non-profit applications during this period. Lerner solicited the donor lists of non-profit groups. Seventy-five percent of the solicited donor lists were self-identified as conservative, five percent were self-identified as liberal. When pressed a year later, Lerner called this solicitation not appropriate and not usual. The donor lists were leaked to the White house as part of a “secret research project” and then subject to tax audits. The donor list of the National Organization for Marriage was leaked to The Human Rights Campaign. Lerner’s email during this period was “lost” when her computer crashed and was then physically destroyed by the IRS. Nearly twenty other IRS employes involved in this “secret research project” also suffered computer crashes and also had their computers destroyed by the IRS. The IRS declared that no back-up existed of these computers, in violation of their own policy. The IRS contract with offsite back-up company Sonasoft was cancelled after the “secret research project” began to be in the news. When a back-up of these computers was found, the IRS said it would be “too onerous” to find the relevant email within the back-up.

April 2013
Seth Groody is a junior at Woolcot High School in Woolcot, Connecticut. On 20 April 2012, some students wore tape over their mouths at school in a ‘Day of Silence’ to protest bullying of homosexuals. Groody said: “I don’t agree with gay marriage. If the school system publicly endorses that and wants to force it down my throat, then I can show that I don’t approve.” Groody wore a shirt that read “Excessive Speech Day” and had a rainbow on it and a red slashed-circle ‘no’ symbol. Groody was told to remove his shirt by school officials.

April 2013
Jared Marcum is a fourteen-year-old in Logan, West Virginia. He wore a t-shirt to school that featured the logo of the National Rifle Association and the words “Protect Your Rights.” Marcum was suspended from school and taken away from the school by police wearing handcuffs. He returned the next week wearing the same t-shirt.

August 2013
Geoffrey Miller is a professor at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, New Mexico. On 2 June 2013 Miller sent out a message over twitter: “Dear obese Ph.D. applicants: if you didn’t have the willpower to stop eating carbs, you won’t have the willpower to do a dissertation #truth.” The University now forbids Miller from serving on any committee involving student admission for the psychology department; requires Miller to develop and then take a “plan for sensitivity training on obesity” to be approved by the University; meet with a University representative for three years; submit his work to monitoring by the psychology department chair; and apologize.

August 2013
Lavabit was an email service founded in 2004 and operated by Ladar Levison. In 2013 the United States government required Levison to install surveillance software on Lavabit and required Levison to surrender information on users of Lavabit. Levison was served with legal papers seven times, was contacted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation every other day, and was ordered to appear in court one thousand miles from his residence. Levison was forbidden by law to request legal representation or speak of his case to anyone who was not a lawyer. Levison’s lawyers were forbidden by law from speaking to expert witnesses. Levison was denied a hearing, and having been denied a hearing no objection to the charges against him were filed, and having filed no objections Levison was found in contempt of court. Levison shut down Lavabit in August 2013.

September 2013
President Barak Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton use tax revenue to purchase television appearances in Pakistan to denounce the film The Innocence of Muslims.

September 2013
Robert Van Tuinen is a student at Modesto Junior College in Modesto, California. Modesto Junior College requires students who wish to pass out literature to get permission, show identification papers, schedule the event five days in advance, and use only a “free speech zone.” On 17 September 2013 Van Tuinen passed out copies of the United States Constitution without meeting these requirements. He was made to stop distributing the United States Constitution by a police officer and by Modesto Junior College.

September 2013
David W. Guth was a Professor of Journalism at the University of Kansas in Kansas City, Missouri. Guth had tenure at the University. In September 2013 he wrote on twitter: “#NavyYardShooting The blood is on the hands of the #NRA. Next time, let it be YOUR sons and daughters. Shame on you. May God damn you.” The Kansas Board of Regents suspended Guth, then re-instated him to do administrative duties and told him he will not be allowed to teach again. The policy of the Board now read: “The chief executive officer of a state university has the authority to suspend, dismiss or terminate from employment any faculty or staff member who makes improper use of social media.

September 2013
Chad Dixon lives in Indiana, Indianapolis. He teaches classes about polygraph machines. Some people who have taken his classes have taken polygraph tests. Some of those test-takers gave false information, but the polygraph was unable to identify the false information. On 6 September 2013 Chad Dixon was sentenced to eight months in prison and three years of probation for “his role in a scheme to deceive the federal government during polygraph examinations conducted as part of federal security background investigations.”

October 2013
Fatima’s is a psychic in Salem, Massachusetts. The city of Salem requires psychics to purchase a license to perform magic. Licensed psychics may read fortunes but they may not remove curses. The city of Salem does not require clergy to purchase a license to perform magic, and clergy may both read fortunes and remove curses. In October 2013 Fatima’s was sued by a former client for removing a curse. The city cancelled Fatima’s psychic license.

October 2013
In October 2013 an unnamed tenth-grade student at Tahoma High School in Maple Valley, Washington displayed a gay pride rainbow flag for two weeks. Two other unnamed eleventh-grade students at Tahoma High School wore or displayed a confederate flag. The two eleventh-grade students were suspended for “an undisclosed violation of the Tahoma High dress code.” The school district “didn’t want to comment on camera.”

October 2013
Ray Kelly is New York City Police Commissioner. He was invited to speak at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island on 29 October 2013. When he attempted to speak, he was shouted down by protesters. Student Justice Gaines said: “For me, protesting Ray Kelly and shutting down his speech had nothing to do with ideas. It had to do with the safety of my body on this campus.” The Administration of Brown University cancelled his speech.

October 2013
At the University of Montana, faculty are required to take a tutorial class on the topic of sexual harassment. The names of faculty who do not take this tutorial class are turned over to the United States Department of Justice. The sexual harassment policy of the University of Montana reads that those found guilty of sexual harassment can be punished, and those found not guilty of sexual harassment can be punished.

December 2013
During a football game in East Lansing, Michigan, a man held up a sign reading “Burn the Couch.” After the football game, a number of bonfires were lit and one of them included a burning couch. The East Lansing Police Department posted to facebook a photograph of the man holding the sign and wrote: “ELPD would like to identify the person holding this ‘Burn the Couch’ sign at the game on Saturday. Your tip can remain anonymous.” The man came forward and was interviewed by the police. The man was not involved in the bonfires, and according to his attorney “has learned a valuable lesson about his sense of humor.”

January 2014
Frank Borzellieri is an education administrator. Borzellieri has no criminal record and his work reviews are entirely positive. In 2009 the Queens Ledger reviewed his book Lynched. In 2001 Borzellieri was fired from his job as Principle at a New York elementary school for speaking at conferences hosted by American Renaissance. Borzellieri changed his last name to Bella and began working as a Principle in a Pennsylvania school. In January 2014 a school employee “dug up the information on Bella’s past.” Bella was fired, and quotes from the Queens Ledger review were listed as the reason for his firing.

February 2014
Sandra Korn is a joint history of science and studies of women, gender and sexuality concentrator in Eliot House at Harvard University. In a February 18 2014 editorial for the Harvard Crimson, she proposed: “Let’s give up on academic freedom in favor of justice.” Korn wrote: “If our university community opposes racism, sexism, and heterosexism, why should we put up with research that counters our goals simply in the name of ‘academic freedom?’ Instead, I would like to propose a more rigorous standard: one of ‘academic justice.’ When an academic community observes research promoting or justifying oppression, it should ensure that this research does not continue […] Only those who care about justice can take the moral upper hand.”

February 2014
A group of “concerned Asian, Black, Latin@, Native, Undocumented, Queer, and Differently-Abled students” at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire sent a letter to school administration in February 2014. The letter said Dartmouth should “create a policy with serious consequences against hate speech / crimes.” The letter also says “If the Dartmouth administration does not respond by the indicated time, those who believe in freedom will be forced to physical action.”

February 2014
Alison Bechdel is an artist and author. Bechdel wrote and illustrated the book Fun Home. Fun Home was assigned to incoming freshmen students at the College of Charleston in South Carolina. The South Carolina House of Representatives cut funding to the College of Charleston by $52,000. Representative Garry Smith said Fun Home “goes beyond the pale of academic debate. It graphically shows lesbian acts.”

March 2014
Mireille Miller-Young is a Professor of Feminist Studies at the University of California Santa Barbara. On 4 March 2014 Miller-Young encountered some UCSB students who were protesting abortion. Miller-Young stole some of their posters, prevented the students from following her by shoving them out of an elevator (scratching them in the process), and cut up their posters in her office. When asked by police if Miller-Young had struggled with the teenage girl she stole the poster from, Miller-Young replied “I’m stronger so I was able to take the poster.”  Miller-Young was charged with misdemeanor counts of vandalism, battery, and robbery. In July 2014 Miller-Young pleaded no contest to these charges.  Professor Eileen Boris is a Professor in the Department of Feminist Studies at the University of California Santa Barbara.  In a letter of support for Miller-Young, Boris wrote: “[Miller-Young] was at the stage of a pregnancy when one is not fully one’s self fully… if [Miller-Young] appears smiling on camera, she is ‘wearing the mask,’ that is, she is hiding her actual state through a strategy of self-representation that is a cultural legacy of slavery.”

March 2014
The Stanford Anscombe Society (SAS) “is a student group that promotes discussion regarding the roles of the family, marriage, and sexual integrity in the lives of Stanford students both now and after graduation.” The SAS proposed a conference titled “Marriage, Family & the Media” for 5 April 2014. On 5 March 2014 Stanford University’s Graduate Student Council rescinded $600 in funding previously granted for the event and further required the SAS to pay Stanford $5,600 to guarantee “security” at the conference. Less that twenty-four hours after filing a legal complaint, SAS received an email from Nanci Howe, Associate Dean of Students and Director of Student Activities and Leadership: “Hi everyone. Found more funds to subsidize the full cost of the security.”

March 2014
William Melchert-Dinkel was a nurse in Faribault, Minnesota. In 2005, for the “thrill of the chase,” Melchert-Dinkel pretended to be a female nurse on the internet and befriended people all over the world. Melchert-Dinkel pretended to enter into a mutual suicide pact with strangers on the internet. Five of these strangers killed themselves, including Mark Drybrough of Coventry, England. In 2011 Melchert-Dinkel was sentenced to one year in prison for aiding Drybrough’s suicide. The sentence was overturned.

March 2014
Cindy Lee Garcia is an actress. Garcia performed in the film Desert Warrior. After the film was released as Innocence of Muslims Garcia sued to have the movie removed from circulation. The United States Government ruled copies of the film were allowed to be posted if they remove Garcia’s performance. For posting the film online the director served time in prison and is currently undergoing four years of probation.

March 2014
Popular Science is “a leading source of science and technology news since its inception in 1872.” On 19 March 2014, Popular Science published “Stop Looking For ‘Hardwired’ Differences In Male And Female Brains” by Virginia Hughes. Hughes does not state whether scientists should voluntarily stop looking for differences in male and female brains, or whether scientists should be prevented from their research by law.

April 2014
Ayaan Hirsi Ali was born in Somalia. When she was five years old, she was subject to Islamic genital mutilation. When she was twenty-three years old, she was subject to an Islamic forced marriage. In 1992 she sought and received political asylum in the Netherlands, where she became a public speaker and author opposing genital mutilation and promoting atheism. She wrote the script to the film Submission, which was filmed by Theo van Gogh. In 2004 van Gogh was butchered in the street by a Muslim for making the film Submission. In 2006 Ali moved to the United States. Brandeis University of Waltham, Massachusetts announced they were going to give Ali an honorary doctorate for her promotion of freedom of speech. On 8 April 2014, after protests organized by the Council of American-Islamic Relations, Brandeis University withdrew its honorary doctorate. Ali is under constant armed guard to prevent her murder by Muslims.

April 2014
Charles Murray is an author. Murray was scheduled to speak to the students of the Azusa Pacific University on 23 April 2014. Although planned for months prior, Murray received a last-minute email from Jon Wallace, President of Azusa Pacific University, that read: “Given the lateness of the semester and the full record of Dr. Murray’s scholarship, I realized we needed more time to prepare for a visit and postponed Wednesday’s conversation.” From Murray’s reply: “The task of the scholar is to present a case for his or her position based on evidence and logic. Another task of the scholar is to do so in a way that invites everybody into the discussion rather than demonize those who disagree. Try to find anything under my name that is not written in that spirit. Try to find even a paragraph that is written in anger, takes a cheap shot, or attacks women, African Americans, Latinos, Asians, or anyone else. […] Go to YouTube and search “Charles Murray.” You will get links to dozens of lectures, panel discussions, and television interviews. You can watch Q&A sessions in which I field questions from students like you, including extremely hostile ones. Watch even for a few minutes. Ask yourself if I insult them or lash out. If I do anything except take their questions seriously and answer them accordingly. Ask yourself if I’m anything more dangerous than an earnest and nerdy old guy. Azusa Pacific’s administration wants to protect you from earnest and nerdy old guys who have opinions that some of your faculty do not share. Ask if this is why you’re getting a college education.”

May 2014
The Law & Disorder Conference is an annual event in Portland Oregon. “This conference calls for people, movements, organizations and collectives to present alternative accounts to the political dimensions of civic engagement, mutual aid and revolution as they relate to economics, politics, invention, technology, work, artistic and cultural production, the body, pedagogy and social change.” On 11 May 2014 protesters defaced books for sale at the event. Protesters also silenced a speaker at the event by chanting “WE WILL NOT BE SILENCED!” until the speaker removed himself from the building. One witness wrote: “Upon leaving the conference, some wild-eyed radicals were heard to say, ‘We did it! We finally won!’ When asked what it was that they won, the young ferals shrugged their shoulders and walked away.” Note: only the political left was involved in this civic engagement.

May 2014
Mohammed Z. Islam is the Interim Superintendent of Schools in Rialto, California. Islam or a teacher under his supervision gave an assignment that included the following: “Write an argumentative essay, based upon cited textual evidence, in which you explain whether or not you believe this [The Holocaust] was an actual event in history or merely a political scheme created to influence public emotion and gain wealth.” Islam and another school staff member have been threatened with death.

May 2014
An unnamed five-year old boy brought an orange-tipped water toy on his school bus in Calvert County, Maryland. He was questioned by school officials for two hours before his parents were contacted. His sister was also questioned. He was suspended for a minimum of ten days and possibly for the rest of the school year.

May 2014
Andy Raymond is the co-owner of Engage Armament, a weapons store in Rockville, Maryland. Raymond attempted the legal sale of a legal weapon, the Armatix iP1 handgun. The Armatix iP1 cannot fire unless the shooter also activates a trigger on a watch, a proposed safety feature. Advocates of the legal sale of legal weapons sent Raymond death threats for attempting to sell the handgun. Raymond removed the Armatix iP1 from his inventory.

May 2014
Kody Smith is an eight-year-old boy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. A teacher at Talbott Elementary School asked him to look at the clouds and draw a picture of what the shape of the clouds suggested to him. He drew a gun. Smith’s teacher disciplined him for “exhibiting behavior disruptive to the school’s entire learning community.”

May 2014
Krystal Greyhorse is a high school student in Buffalo, New York. In May 2014 she accidentally left her private diary at school. School officials read her diary, which included a description of smoking marijuana. Greyhorse was suspended for six months.

June 2014
Bernhard Laufer lives in New York City, New York. In 2013 Laufer allegedly stabbed a man in a Mosque while yelling “I will kill you Muslim.” On 16 June 2014 Laufer was arrested for allegedly sending death threats to the administration of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. (In the interest of full clarity, I include this item as an advocate of the free speech of the Council on American-Islamic Relations – and as an opponent of stabbing, death threats and Islam. Trevor Blake).

June 2014
Sheikh Husham Al-Husainy is imam of the Karbalaa Islamic Educational Center in Dearborn, Michigan. In June 2014 Al-Husainy began collecting signatures to enact a law to make it illegal to burn religious books.

June 2014
The Washington Redskins are a professional American football team in Washington, DC. The team uses a Native American in profile as their logo. On 18 June 2014 the United States Patent Office cancelled the team’s trademark on their logo, saying the logo was “disparaging to Native Americans.” The USPO had received no complaints about the logo of the Redskins.

June 2014
A Voice for Men (AVFM) is a website that advocates the abolition of circumcision, ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, inclusion of women in the Selective Service (failing that, its abolition) and other issues. AVFM organized an International Conference on Men’s Issues in Detroit, Michigan for 26 – 28 June 2014. Threats to the Doubletree Downtown Detroit Hotel, the staff of the Doubletree and to the organizers caused the Doubletree to cancel their contract with AVFM. The second venue was similarly threatened, and insisted AVFM hire its own security. The cost of this additional security and accompanying legal fees was $25,000.

July 2014
Gilberto Valle was a police officer in New York City, New York. Valle was fired from his job for illegally accessing a restricted law enforcement database. Valle was arrested in 2012 after having an online discussion about eating human flesh. Valle was charged with attempted kidnapping and attempted murder, although he says the discussion was only a fantasy. Valle was found guilty, a judgement later overturned. Valle has been in prison since his arrest.

July 2014
Michael Yaki is an attorney in San Francisco. In 2005 Yaki was appointed by the United States Congress to be a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. In July 2014, during a public meeting on the subject of free speech on the college campus, Yaki turned to the subject of suicide: “I wonder why that young person took his or her life. He or she had so much to look forward to when their brain processes information in a much different way than we do. And because of that, and because of the unique nature of a university campus setting, I think that there are very good and compelling reasons why broader policies and prohibitions on conduct in activities and in some instances speech are acceptable on a college campus level that might not be acceptable say in an adult work environment or in an adult situation. And I am just trying to figure out from you how you square your reliance on this kind of personal and jurisprudent line in the atmosphere of colleges and universities as you have a population of young people, who for lack of a better word, don’t process in the same way that we do when we’re in our late 20s and 30s.”

August 2014
Steven Salaita was a tenured Professor at Virginia Tech, Virginia. Salaita was offered a tenured job as Professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). Salaita resigned from Virginia Tech, moved from Virginia to Illinois, was announced as a Professor at the University of Illinois and had students signed up for his class. A few weeks before Salaita was to start teaching, UIUC Chancellor Phyllis M. Wise told Salaita she was going to hold Salaita’s employment papers, not allowing them to pass through the formalities of employment, with the intent of blocking his employment. On his own time, at his own expense, using his own equipment, Salaita had posted to his views on war and peace in the Middle East. Chancellor Wise wrote: “What we cannot and will not tolerate at the University of Illinois are personal and disrespectful words or actions that demean and abuse either viewpoints themselves or those who express them.” The UIUC Board of Trustees wrote: “Our campuses must be safe harbors where students and faculty from all backgrounds and cultures feel valued, respected and comfortable expressing their views” – then sided with Chancellor Wise and against Professor Salaita. Cary Nelson, a teacher at UCIC, supports Chancellor Wise because: “I am told [Salaita] can be quite charismatic in person, so he may deploy his tweeting rhetoric at public events on campus.”

August 2014
Yasir Qadhi is an imam in Memphis, Tennessee. In August 2014 Qadhi wrote: “the issue of the [Jyllands-Posten Muhammad] cartoons had nothing to do with ‘freedom of speech,’ but rather with each society’s own views on what is acceptable and unacceptable to show. Each society has a self-imposed and ever-changing red-line of taboos that it will not cross, in speech or in images. For this society, respect should be shown to the deceased’s [James Foley] family; for us Muslims, an infinitely more amount of respect should be shown to our religious symbols and especially to our Prophet (SAW).” Qadhi has also claimed “The life and property of a mushrik [non-Muslim] holds no value in the state of jihad… which means if they don’t say la illaha illa Allah, their lives and property are halal.” Halal, permitted for Muslims to take.

August 2014
Patrick McLaw is an eighth-grade language-arts teacher at the Mace’s Lane Middle School in Cambridge, Maryland. In 2011 McLaw published a science fiction novel. Fictional violence occurs in the fictional novel, set hundreds of years in the future. McLaw was recently placed on leave from his job, then “taken in for an emergency medical evaluation” to an unknown location. His current location is unknown. McLaw has not been charged with any crime. His home and workplace have been searched.

August 2014
Eric Minerault burned and urinated on a Bible in Prescott, Arizona. He was arrested for “suspicion of unlawful symbol burning,” a Class 1 misdemeanor.

August 2014
Assemblyman Isadore Hall III serves as the Democratic representative of Compton, California. Hall has introduced a bill to ban the display or sale of the Confederate Flag.

September 2014
A 14-year-old boy posed for a photograph with a statue of Jesus Christ. The pose was suggestive and the statue was a statue. The statue was unharmed, unchanged, unmoved and others were not prevented from accessing the statue before, during and after the pose. The boy has been charged with “desecration of a venerated object” and faces two years in juvenile detention.

September 2014
Ayaan Hirsi Ali was scheduled to speak at Yale University on 15 September 2014. Thirty-five campus groups and student organizations have signed a letter written by the Muslim Students’ Association protesting Ali’s lecture before it is delivered. The Muslim Students’ Association wrote that it was not a matter of free speech on campus: “The difference here is that it’s hate speech.”

September 2014
Thomas Buttaro is a firefighter in New York City, New York. Buttaro has twelve years of experience. In September of 2013 Buttaro wore a t-shirt to work that included the words “Merit Matters.” In September 2013 Buttaro was charged with discrimination against fellow firefighters because of the t-shirt he wore a year earlier.

September 2014
Jon Daniel lives in Peoria, Illinois. In March 2014, Daniel started a twitter account called “peoriamayor” with an intent to satirize Jim Ardis, the Mayor of Preoria. On 11 March 2014 Peoria’s city manager Patrick Urich wrote to Chief Information Officer Sam Rivera: “Someone is using the Mayor’s likeness in a twitter account. It’s not him. @Peoriamayor. Can you work to get it shut down today?” Urich asked Peoria Police Chief Steve Settingsgaard “to find out who might have set up this bogus account of the Mayor.” Settingsgaard told Urich no crime had been committed and no police involvement was warranted. On 12 March 2014 Ardis wrote Settingsgaard: “Any chance we can put a sense [of] urgency on this?” Settingsgaard wrote to Detective Jim Feehan: “Jim, do you have a way to make this happen faster?” Feehan cited 720 ILCS 5/12-2, a January 2014 law that states: “A person commits a false impersonation if he or she knowingly and falsely represents himself or herself to be […] a public officer or a public employee or an official or employee of the federal government.” Settingsgaard told Ardis he would proceed if Ardis intended to prosecute. Ardis: “i absolutely will prosecute. bring it on. thanks chief.” A warrant for the identity of owner of the “preoriamayor” twitter account was issued. On 20 March 2014 Twitter told Ardis: “Twitter users are allowed to create parody, newsfeed, commentary, and fan accounts.” Twitter suspended the “preoriamayor” account for 72 hours and gave the police the IP address and email registration account used by “preoriamayor.” On 22 March 2014 used this information in a warrant served to Comcast, who claimed that it matched a man named Jacob Elliot. A warrant was issued against the household of Elliot. On 15 April 2014 police seized three desktop computers, one laptop, four iPhones, an iPad, two SD cards, an iPod and two Xboxes; three roommates living at the house were taken to the police station, and two other roommates were taken from their workplace to the police station. One of the roommates taken from his workplace was Jon Daniel, creator of “peoriamayor.” Jacob Elliot was charged with felony marijuana possession. Elliot spent two days in jail, paid bail and lost his job. On 18 April 2014 Settingsgaard revealed 720 ILCS 5/12-2 includes an exception to internet impersonation, and no law had been broken by “peoriamayor.” In June 2014 Daniel sued Preoria city officials. In September 2014 a judge ruled that although no law had been broken, although the warrants issued were without justification, although Daniel was never charged with any crime, police were entitled to raid on his home in retaliation for his twitter account.

What is to be done:

  1. If you have some measure of freedom of speech, use it.  Use some of it to aid those who have less.
  2. Another person’s freedom of speech can influence your mood and thought for a time. You remain capable of controlling your actions. If you are not capable of controlling your actions, seek professional help. If you meet someone who claims they are not capable of controlling their actions, take them at their word and view them with caution.
  3. Uncouple the concepts “understand” and “agree.” You are not obliged to provide an audience to anyone.
  4. The proper response to freedom of speech is more freedom of speech.  The same smarts that allow a censor to experience speech and not be harmed are available to others.
  5. Slaughter‘s Law: “When one person accuses another of ‘hiding behind the First Amendment,’ the first person is in the wrong, no matter what else they have to say.”
  6. “Stop worrying about good and bad… and start thinking about true and false.” – Jim Goad.
  7. Attend to the words of bullies, reply with immutable courage heralded by cruel mockery.  That goes double for bullies who blame their actions on an invisible monster that lives in the sky.

- Trevor Blake is the author of Confessions of a Failed Egoist and Other Essays (Baltimore: Underworld Amusements 2014)

Are We There Yet? Jonah Ogles Edition

Are We There Yet? is a series about changed minds.

Jonah Ogles:

As a teenager, I began sponsoring a poverty-stricken boy in the Caribbean. Twelve years and thousands of dollars later I flew down to meet him – and to learn if my efforts did any good at all. […] Every month since the fall of 2000, I’ve sent roughly $35, or about $5,000 in total, through a Christian organization called Compassion International. Compassion funnels money to children all over the world to pay for things like tuition, schoolbooks, clothes, food, medicine, and sneakers. I sent the money to give him a better life. And I’m here to see if it actually made any difference. […]

When I started sponsoring Ervenson, I was camping at a Christian alt-music festival in rural Illinois, where bands played concerts for sweaty mosh pits of Jesus-loving teens. Between two of the shows, someone from Compassion International got on stage and talked about how difficult it was to be a child in places like Haiti. They described the lack of clean water, the rampant disease, the voodoo ceremonies on every corner. Even then I was vaguely aware of my privilege as a white American male and felt a little guilty about it. Plus, I had a part-time job at a guitar store, which meant that I had enough spending money that I wouldn’t miss thirty-odd dollars out of my monthly paycheck. I signed up as soon as I got home. All I had to do was get online, do a quick search by age, country, or birthday (in case I wanted someone who shared mine), and then click that I agreed to send the checks. […]

But at 17, I rejected my faith. Mostly because it stopped making sense to me. Jesus was friends with prostitutes and the poor, he wanted to help the outcasts. But it seemed to me that many churches – or at least the ones I’d been to – were missing the point. The larger a church was, the more money it spent on sound systems and video equipment and massive buildings with large water features out front instead of helping people who needed clothes or food or a place to live. It began to feel more like a rock concert or a gala—a place people went to be seen or to impress other people.

So, in the black-and-white thinking of youth, I gave up. I felt like a hypocrite when I sang praise and worship songs in front of other kids, because I didn’t believe a word of it. Instead, in 2002, I started smoking pot, became a Democrat, and stopped writing Ervenson. The letters had begun to feel a little fake. When I asked questions, he rarely answered them; when he wrote, it sounded like he was being prompted. I later found out that Compassion makes the kids write three letters a year. Besides, Compassion International is a Christian organization, and though I wasn’t quite clear how, I knew that they were evangelizing to him. I didn’t stop sending my monthly 35 bucks, which seemed cruel. But I did stop caring.

The only time I really thought about him was when I got another letter. They didn’t say anything important, but they made me think. About him. About being a Christian. I thought about whether God was being shoved down his throat. I wondered if that was a fair trade-off for getting an education.

Even though I had my doubts, I kept sending money. It felt good in that pat-yourself-on-the-back, first-world-guilt-assuasion sort of way. It was maybe the one selfless thing I did with regularity, and I believed that being a good person required selflessness. I had started to think that that was what Jesus was really getting at anyway. Don’t judge people. Love others like you would yourself. If you have money or food or clothes and someone else doesn’t, help them out. I hoped that’s what I was doing with Ervenson.

Don’t get me wrong. I still got angry that megachurches built stadium-size sanctuaries when people in their communities were homeless. And I still couldn’t see any reason why Christians would make it into heaven but other good people – be they Buddhist or Muslim or atheist – were doomed to hell. But I realized that I could be a different type of Christian than that. And in my own faith, sending Ervenson money was exactly the type of thing I felt I should do. I started writing to Ervenson again. It was still boilerplate stuff – it’s snowing here, study hard – but it made me feel a little less shame for not being involved.

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