Patterico is asking for bloggers to make a pledge of defiance against the FEC.
Yesterday I said that, if the FEC regulates blogs, I will continue to blog the same way I always have. Some have warned me of the dangers inherent in such a position.
This led to me wonder how unusual my position really is. I suspect that my attitude is widely shared by bloggers, including those who have signed the open letter to the FEC.
I think it’s time to put the question to you directly. Who out there will make this pledge:If the FEC makes rules that limit my First Amendment right to express my opinion on core political issues, I will not obey those rules.
I'm somewhat torn. On one hand, as a Christian I'm generally a fan of obeying the rules, even when they're rules I don't like. As long as a law doesn't prevent me from carrying out God's will -- through evangelism, discipleship, ministry, fellowship, and worship -- then it's hard to spiritually justify disobedience.
On the other hand, freedom is great, and a powerful help in doing God's will. Many Christians over the centuries have given their lives for liberty, their own and others'. Many noble wars have been fought to change evil rulers, and God himself curses those who oppress the weak through government. Regarding the evil in Israel (the northern Kingdon) under King Jeroboam II, God said through the prophet Amos:
12 For I know how many are your offenses
and how great your sins.
You oppress the righteous and take bribes
and you deprive the poor of justice in the courts.
13 Therefore the prudent man keeps quiet in such times,
for the times are evil.
14 Seek good, not evil,
that you may live.
Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you,
just as you say he is.
15 Hate evil, love good;
maintain justice in the courts.
Perhaps the LORD God Almighty will have mercy
on the remnant of Joseph.
Of course, verse 13 is instructive: the prudent man keeps quiet. The Hebrew word here translated prudent is sakal.
1) to be prudent, be circumspect, wisely understand, prosper a) (Qal) to be prudent, be circumspect b) (Hiphil) 1) to look at or upon, have insight 2) to give attention to, consider, ponder, be prudent 3) to have insight, have comprehension a) insight, comprehension (subst) 4) to cause to consider, give insight, teach a) the teachers, the wise 5) to act circumspectly, act prudently, act wisely 6) to prosper, have success 7) to cause to prosper 2) (Piel) to lay crosswise, cross (hands)
Being prudent is generally wise, and God extols the virtues of wisdom, but here he does not command it. Verse 14 indicates that we are charged with pursuing what is good and hating what is evil, regardless of our desire to avoid attracting the attention of evil-doers; it's obvious that fighting evil is an obligation of all Christians, but doing so in a prudent way seems laudible.
On the third hand, it's not obvious, that potential speech restrictions by the FEC actually qualify as "evil". Sure, speech restrictions lay along the path to evil and oppression, but as Eugene Volokh has often argued, the slippery-slope argument is over-used without justification. Early Christians were thrown to lions, and the apostles never told anyone to fight against Roman oppression. When Christians were oppressed, it was for spreading the Word of God, not over political issues.
I'm entirely in favor of resisting speech restrictions through legal means, but I'm not confident that disobeying justly enacted laws is within my God-given authority, except insofar as such laws prevent me from carrying out God's will or are directly evil. What are your thoughts?
Roscoe has a good perspective on evil and the law.
So, here is where I come down. In the unlikely event that the FEC promulgates regulations that impact little-ole-me, I intend to try to comply with them if I can without compromising what I am trying to do with this blog. I am sort of with Sir Thomas More (well, the character playing More) in "A Man for All Seasons" that one should obey even those laws with which you disagree, if one can:William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
William Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!
Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!