Friday, August 21, 2020

The First Amendment and the Gospel

A headline out of the Democratic National Convention caught my attention:
Democrats push to revamp political money system…
‘Dark money’ is funding half of spending on House, Senate ads
This is a free speech issue. Democrats say, “Money isn't speech.” Judges disagree. When money is controlled by the law, speech can always be assigned a monetary value, and as soon as it is (such as in court), it's controlled by any law that controls money. The Supreme Court defended free speech against such unconstitutional infringement in Citizens United v. FEC.

Truth is not determined by money or by vote. The answer to 10 people saying something false is 1 person speaking the truth. That is why free speech is more powerful than money. This is also why liars pretend to control money.

“Dark money” is the emotional moniker given to donations wherefrom the identity of the donors is not disclosed. Light rightfully has a good reputation, so this leads people to think that “dark” is bad and should be corrected.

There's nothing wrong with people giving money to something they believe in without identifying themselves. No one is being kept in the dark just because they don't know who is funding someone's efforts to publish their message. Look at the message, the arguments, and the action and decide accordingly.

Some people won't or can't engage on the merits of the argument, so instead they turn to intimidation. Who needs to engage the person making the argument when they can shut down their message by shaming their supporters instead? This is why they want mandatory donor identification: to shame them.

This evil masquerades as a righteous cause. “We must shine a light on these big bad corporations.”

Let's take, for example, one of their favorite punching bags: oil companies, and let's suppose oil companies are actually “damaging the environment,” as they claim, and we can even suppose oil companies are generously funding the campaigns of political candidates.

If the companies are truly doing evil, the correct response is to punish them. That's why government is there: to punish evil. Make the punishment severity commensurate to the evil, and they won't do it again. Problem solved.

The way of intimidation is much different. Not content with letting people speak the truth about the supposed damage to the environment, and not content with punishing evildoers, they want to go much further than punishment and instead obliterate their existence. “Do evil, intentionally or not, and we won't allow you to do anything.” If anyone dares to speak in their favor, such as citing available and affordable energy, the intimidators seek to obliterate their right to speak or support anyone who does. They suppose to cut off and silence the problem at the source.

The problem with this kind of thinking is it denies the fact we live in a fallen world, and this world will continue to be fallen until Jesus returns. The source of the problem is sin, and we have no power in ourselves to prevent and eliminate it. The only way to deal with sin, once committed, is with confession and forgiveness. That's what the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus, is all about.

The way of unforgiveness is to forever hold the sinner responsible for the sin, as if that would destroy the sin and its effects. That changes nothing about the sin or the sinful world, and is instead destructive to both the sinner and those sinned against.

The protection of free speech and the right to proclaim the Gospel go hand-in-hand. On the one hand, proclaiming the Gospel is the ultimate act of free speech. On the other hand, free speech is not only the protection of that right, it is also the embodiment of that right. The very act of protecting free speech is itself a way of leaving room for forgiveness.

Attacks on money ultimately endanger speech, and attacks on speech ultimately endanger the free proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ.

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