Thursday, March 24, 2016

Freedom of Speech - A most important Dharma protection even for those with whom we disagree, especially for those with whom we disagree.

I have written and spoken previously about freedom of speech and the First Amendment of the US Constitution as vital historical factor for the spread of Buddha Dharma in the United States. Some examples of this are at:

Freedom of Thought, Freedom from Thought   5/22/15

Freedom of Thought, Freedom from Thought Part 2   5/23/15

This issue of freedom of speech and attempts by governmental officials to use their various powers to infringe upon what they consider unpopular speech and science has again been brought to my attention in regards to climate change issues. This is also important in regard the issues raised in the various "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes - Who guards the guardians?" posts.

While it seems to me that there are certainly changes occurring in the weather patterns and the climate, I do not have the knowledge to evaluate the science regarding this or the causes thereof. However, the closing off of evaluation of unpopular positions or research seems particularly odious and dangerous, especially when the power of the US government, Congress, the Executive Administration and the Courts, are enlisted in suppressing this speech.

Therefore it is interesting that following organization has been created:

The Free Speech in Science Project exists to defend the kind of open inquiry and debate that are central to scientific advancement and understanding. The Project will fund legal advice and defense to those who need it, while also executing an offense to turn the tables on abusive officials. Scientists, policy organizations and others should not have to labor under the fear that they will be the next victims of the Climate Inquisition, that they may face punishment and personal ruin for engaging in research and advocating their views.

A posted article on this website describing their genesis has the following several paragraphs:

"In September a group of 20 climate scientists wrote to President Obama and Attorney General Loretta Lynch encouraging them to heed (US Senator) Mr. Whitehouse and launch a RICO investigation targeting climate skeptics. This was necessary since, they claimed, America’s policy response to climate change was currently “insufficient,” because of dissenting views regarding the risks of climate change. Email correspondence subsequently obtained through public-records requests revealed that this letter was also coordinated by Mr. Whitehouse.

Reps. Ted Lieu (D., Calif.) and Mark DeSaulnier (D., Calif.) followed up with a formal request for the Justice Department to launch an investigation, specifically targeting Exxon Mobil for its funding of climate research and policy organizations skeptical of extreme warming claims. Attorney General Lynch announced in testimony this month that the matter had been referred to the FBI “to consider whether or not it meets the criteria for what we could take action on.” Similar investigations are already spearheaded by state attorneys general in California and New York.

Meanwhile, Mr. Whitehouse, joined by Sens. Edward Markey (D., Mass.) and Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.), sent letters to a hundred organizations—from private companies to policy institutes—demanding that they turn over information about funding and research relating to climate issues. In his response to the senators, Cato Institute President John Allison called the effort “an obvious attempt to chill research into and funding of public policy projects you don’t like.”

Intimidation is the point of these efforts. Individual scientists, think tanks and private businesses are no match for the vast powers that government officials determined to stifle dissent are able to wield. An onslaught of investigations—with the risk of lawsuits, prosecution and punishment—is more than most can afford to bear. As a practical reality, defending First Amendment rights in these circumstances requires the resources to take on the government and win—no matter the cost or how long it takes.

It also requires taking on the Climate Inquisition directly. Spurious government investigations, driven by the desire to suppress a particular viewpoint, constitute illegal retaliation against protected speech and, as such, can be checked by the courts, with money damages potentially available against the federal and state perpetrators. If anyone is going to be intimidated, it should be officials who are willing to abuse their powers to target speech with which they disagree.

That is why we are establishing the Free Speech in Science Project to defend the kind of open inquiry and debate that are central to scientific advancement and understanding."