Wednesday, February 27, 2013

When Freedom is Oppressive

I've read reports this week that Iceland is seeking to ban internet pornography.  The arguments in a western democracy are well rehearsed and predictable.  On the one side, freedom is our core shared principle, and there is no freedom more sacred than speech... and this material has been protected as speech.  On the other hand is the broad accessibility of internet material, and our fear that certain material will harmful--particularly to the young.

That is the interesting thing about this particular law.  It cites violence as its primary locus of concern.  Halla Gunnarsdottir, a political adviser to Iceland's interior ministry told the Christian Science Monitor, "When a 12-year old types 'porn' into Google, he or she is not going to find photos of naked women out on a country field, but very hardcore and brutal violence."

Historically there are limits to free speech, when the speech causes harm to others.  You cannot yell "Fire" in a crowded theater, etc.  In New Jersey, recent laws against bullying restrict certain kinds of harmful speech that are apparently not protected by our constitutional freedoms.

The harmfulness of pornography cannot be underestimated.  Iceland is focusing on "violent" varieties of  pornography--but I would question whether there are any other types.  When we misunderstand the nature of our bodies great harm is done not only to children who may come across inappropriate images, but to the subjects who become convinced that nudity is their most marketable gift and viewers whose perceptions of healthy sexuality are significantly warped.  

The fact that Iceland's proposed legislation will likely be thwarted is an important reminder that western values are not necessarily representative of the ways of God's coming reign.  Pornography will likely continue to be protected free speech in Iceland and the rest of the "western world"--but let us not be confused--freedom can be oppressive, and as long as perversion of human sexuality is protected by free speech, there will be victims.  For more about the victims and what you can do to help, see Beauty for Ashes Ministries.

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