Religion, Free Expression, and Libraries Paul Sturges Almuth Gastinger Deborah Caldwell-Stone
Blasphemy and Defamation ofReligion Laws: A Challenge to Freedom of Expression Paul Sturges Loughborough University, UK University of Pretoria, South Africa
The Right to Freedom of Expression• Freedom of Expression is widely accepted as a universal Human Right.• As such it is protected in Article 19 of the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights• The right is a basis for – Free and uncensored media and communications – Information disseminating institutions such as libraries – Laws on access to information – Effective democratic governance• Protecting and strengthening Freedom of Expression is the rationale for this presentation
The nature of religious objection to Freedom of Expression• For the purposes of this presentation, religious objections are defined as: – Blasphemy (Insults to religion itself); – Giving Offence (Perhaps through blasphemy, but specifically with the intent to inflict distress on believers); – Incitement to hatred or violence (hate speech).• The so-called „Defamation of Religion‟ adds a fresh dimension to this.
Defining Blasphemy• Dictionaries do not help very much• In modern English usage it means: – Cursing and swearing• More relevant meanings refer to: – Irreverent, sacrilegious, disrespectful, sinful, wicked, evil talk• These basically refer to denying the truth of religion or insulting religion.
A blasphemy case• On 4th Jan 2011 Pakistani politician Salman Taseer was assassinated because he had proposed amending the blasphemy law• Taseer had defended a Christian woman Aasia Bibi, who was sentenced to death for some alleged minor insult to Islam• The law is notorious because of its exploitation in personal disputes and the possibility of a death penalty.• Taseer‟s assassin and supporters did not accuse him of blasphemy, merely of seeking to amend the law.
A withdrawal?• March 2011, after the murder of Salman Taseer on 4th Jan 2011, Pakistan submitted a new resolution on discrimination the UNHRC without the reference to Defamation of Religion.• Taseer‟s martyrdom seems to have taught some sort of lesson in – Logic (religion does not have human rights) – Humanity (Blasphemy and Defamation Laws can be an incitement to violence).• Pakistan‟s Blasphemy Laws remain in force and other countries have such laws.
Blasphemy in Greece• Section 7 of the Greek Penal Code „Offences against religious peace‟ includes: – Public and malicious blasphemy against God – Blasphemy against the Greek Orthodox Church or any other tolerated religion.• There seems to be no record of cases under Section 7 protecting other religions.• The State does bring prosecutions protecting the Orthodox Church.
Blasphemy in the UK• In 2008 MPs voted to support the abolition of blasphemy in an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill.• In May of that year this received Royal Assent, condemning the laws to history.• The laws only protected Christianity and were widely regarded as discriminatory.• They had fallen into disuse and were last invoked in 1977.
Giving offence?• Satirical content and performances that challenge religion are often offensive to believers• Defenders of satire say that it is protected as part of the human right of freedom of expression• They add that avoiding offence can lead to self suppression of significant commentary• Cartoons published in Denmark in 2005 proved catastrophically offensive to Muslims• (See Sturges, Limits to Freedom of Expression?, Journal of Documentation, 32, 2006)
Hate speech• Disparages a person or a group on the basis of some characteristic such as race, gender, ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexu al orientation.• Laws prohibit it in many countries because of possible harmful consequences, but• Some of these laws (eg in Poland) refer not only to the consequences, but the offence that might be caused to the people targeted.
Defamation of Religion• Resolutions on respect for religion and against defamation of religion have been brought to UN forums since 2002 generally on behalf of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference• “Defamation of religion is a serious affront to human dignity leading to a restriction on the freedom of their adherents and incitement to religious violence” Statement by Pakistani officials to the UN Human Rights Commission supporting such a resolution in 2009.• The non-binding resolution was passed (23 for, 11 against, 13 abstaining).
The problem with Defamation of Religion• Canada‟s representative to the UNHRC pointed out that individuals have rights, not religions.• Defamation of Religion seeks to outlaw: – Blasphemy – Because it gives offence, and – Allegedly directs hatred and violence towards adherents of religions.• The three are connected, but in the way the resolutions suggest?
Does Religion have Protection?• The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights protects religious belief.• Article 18 says: Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes – freedom to change his religion or belief, and – freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance• This is strong protection for believers, though religion itself is not protected.
Conclusions• Freedom of Expression is the essential ethical underpinning of all forms of communication.• Human Rights Declarations and Conventions protect it, but religion is a disputable area – Criticism of religion (even if offensive) is protected, – Expression of hatred towards believers is not worthy of protection.• This line of argument leads into difficult areas• It is not always popular but that does not make it less valid.
Ethical Perspectives onDonations to Libraries Almuth Gastinger Senior Research Librarian Norwegian University of Science and Technology Trondheim, Norway OIF and IFLA FAIFE webinar 15th November 2011
Ethical approaches to librarianship• Starting point: the right to Freedom of Expression.• This right provides a strong ethical basis for librarianship.• The right is generally taken to include – Freedom of Opinion and – Freedom of Access to Information.• Examples of strong national statements of this right: – The First Amendment to the American Constitution – The new Article 100 of the Norwegian Constitution• This right is also accepted internationally.
Freedom of Expression• Article 19 of The UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights (1948) says „Everyone has the right to Freedom of Expression‟.• But limits to Freedom of Expression in European Convention on Human Rights (1950) in Article 10: – National security – Prevention of disorder or crime – Protection of health and morals• Governments prefer to define limits broadly, but in principle individuals or groups should have the fullest possible freedom of expression and access.
Donations to libraries• Donations are still part of collection development but amount is decreasing (at least in academic libraries).• The ethical problem of donations to libraries: – Libraries have few resources for handling of donations and limited storage space for print materials, therefore – Libraries must select. – Selection implies sometimes rejecting material.• Donations are a particular problem in developing countries, where lack of funding brings the temptation to accept everything.
Donations as Freedom of Expression• Some groups claim that they are denied freedom of expression by governments and their agencies (even when there are no laws excluding them).• The Church of Scientology makes this case in relation to its donations to libraries.• It alleges that libraries reject its donations and are thus denying readers the chance to learn about its beliefs.• Are libraries actually infringing donors‟ freedom of expression if their gifts are excluded?
The Scientology donations case• New Era Publishing (Scientology‟s publisher) sends out sets of up to 17 books by L.R. Hubbard to libraries all over the world, arguing that this reflects freedom of expression.• Some librarians (mainly from Central European countries) reject these, because they reflect the views of an organisation seen as dangerous, harmful and aggressive in disseminating its books.• Libraries in Germany and France (and probably elsewhere) seem to have been throwing them away, and saying that Scientology was under surveillance or some kind of official ban.
Situation in Germany• Libraries reject donations from Scientology, often only arguing that they are not allowed by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (OPC), even if this office has stated that Scientology does not behave unconstitutionally.• Thus German libraries violate their Code of Ethics, adopted in 2007: “We choose information resources exclusively according to objective criteria … regardless of personal preferences and influences of third parties”.
Rejecting donations from Scientology• Some librarians are undoubtedly comfortable with rejecting donations from unpopular organisations without ethical based reasons.• Librarians who support freedom of expression may not find it so acceptable.• Arguably, by rejecting donations from organisations that librarians do not like, libraries do frustrate freedom of expression.• What is the ethical approach to this problem?
Policy on library collection development (1)• As suggested earlier, because of limited resources libraries cannot accept and stock all donations.• This means that they need a collection development policy stating: – Which subjects covered, – How to achieve balance and fairness, – How to deal with donations and how to communicate with donors.• The policy should be – Drafted consultatively, – Made available for inspection to users, donors, funders, – Revised when appropriate.
Policy on library collection development (2)• Policy should tell in detail: - Criteria for including donations in the collection (subjects, quality of material etc), - What will be done with unwanted donations (return to donor, sale, disposal or others).• A policy may not satisfy everyone, but it is the only fair response to criticism from donors.
Summary and conclusion (1)• Despite agreement on value of freedom of expression this value often clashes with librarians‟ moral principles and political beliefs, in particular concerning donations from not generally accepted religious groups and sects.• The answer to this conflict must be a code of ethics for librarians and a collection development policy that includes a statement about donations.• Such a policy will have a clear ethical basis if – it is openly stated and balanced and fair, and – decisions are clearly made on the basis of that policy.
Summary and conclusion (2)• Freedom of expression through library donations and the right to donate does not mean the right to have donations accepted.• But users should be able to find a diversity of views represented in the library.• Libraries and librarians must be neutral, trusting their users to draw their own conclusions from the material available to them in the library.
Let Us Pray @ Your Library: The First Amendment and Public Library Meeting Rooms Deborah Caldwell-Stone Office for Intellectual Freedom American Library Association
The U.S. Constitution and Religion“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” ~~ Amendment I, U.S. Constitution
The U.S. Constitution and ReligionThe Establishment Clause was adopted to prohibit the federal government from declaring and financially supporting a national religion.Government actions or laws violate the Establishment Clause if: • they either have a predominantly religious purpose, or • they have the principal or primary effect of advancing religion or inhibiting religion.
The U.S. Constitution and ReligionThe Free Exercise Clause was adopted to prohibit the federal government from adopting laws that burden an individuals ability to exercise his or her religious beliefs.Government actions or laws violate the Free Exercise Clause if: • they burden an individuals ability to exercise his or her religious beliefs, or • they discriminate against persons or groups holding particular religious beliefs
Ethical PrinciplesLibrary Bill of Rights“Libraries that make exhibit spaces and meeting rooms available to the public they serve should make such facilities available on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use.”
The Public Library and Religious ExpressionGovernment agencies that open their facilities for public use cannot exclude groups on the basis of their religious character or because they may engage in religious activities.“Public libraries” – that is, libraries that are publicly funded and operated by a government or government agency – are bound by these legal rules.
The Public Library and Religious Expression– A public library may not engage in activities that have a predominantly religious purpose.– A public library is not obligated to provide access to its meeting rooms, display cases, and other facilities.– If a public library chooses to open its meeting rooms and other facilities to public use, it cannot disadvantage or exclude speakers or groups from using their facilities solely because of their religious views or the religious content of their speech.
Library Meeting Rooms and the CourtsConcerned Women for America, Inc. v. Lafayette County (1989)Pfeifer v. City of West Allis (2000)Citizens for Community Values, Inc. v. Upper Arlington Public Library (2008)-- Each of these court opinions hold that public libraries cannot not exclude religious groups from library meeting rooms on the grounds that the groups might discuss religious topics or engage in religious practices during the meeting.
Library Meeting Rooms and the CourtsConcern: Implied approval or endorsement of particular religious beliefs and practices that will violate the Establishment Clause.Court decisions hold that a religious groups use of public facilities like a library meeting room will not violate the Establishment Clause if no one would think the library endorses the religious groups message or activity.
Library Meeting Rooms and the CourtsBUT WAIT A MINUTE …Faith Center Church Evangelistic Ministries v. Glover (a.k.a. “The Contra Costa case”)The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the librarys policy excluding religious activity on the grounds that the library had a legitimate interest in screening and excluding meeting room activities that could interfere with the library‟s primary mission; since the group had advertised its event as a religious service, it could be excluded. What‟s going on here?
Library Meeting Rooms and the CourtsOn closer examination:The Ninth Circuit also held that the library could not prohibit religious groups from engaging in religious activities other than worship, like Bible instruction, praying, singing, sharing testimony, and discussing political or social issuesThe Ninth Circuit also warned that the library had to exercise caution when trying to distinguish between ordinary religious activities and a worship service. (The Contra Costa group self-identified their activity as a “worship service.”)
Library Meeting Rooms and the CourtsThe Ninth Circuit asked the trial court to determine whether the library could apply its policy without deciding whether a proposed use constituted "worship."The trial court struck down the policy on the grounds that the policy required library staff to determine whether a proposed event constituted worship, thereby impermissibly entangling the public library with religion.
Policy GuidelinesMeeting room policies should:– Describe the facility with particularity and define who is eligible to use the facility.– Regulate the time, place, or manner of use without reference to the content of a meeting or to the beliefs or affiliations of the sponsors– Avoid specific clauses addressing religious activities or worship.
Policy GuidelinesRemember:– No court has ever ruled that the Establishment Clause requires libraries to prohibit meeting room use by religious groups engaged in worship.– If a library‟s meeting room policy requires staff to determine when a group has crossed the line from a "meeting" to a "worship service,“ that activity itself may violate Establishment Clause.– Non-discriminatory limits on scheduling, times of use, amplification, and signage can help the library assure that its facilities serve the entire community.
Alliance Defense Fund Conservative Christian organization that is pursuing a letter-writing campaign that targets libraries whose meeting room policies restrict the use of the librarys meeting rooms for religious services. ADF has filed multiple lawsuits against libraries that refused meeting room space to religious speakers and groups.
Alliance Defense FundIf you receive a letter …– Only communicate with ADF through legal counsel.– Review and revise your meeting room policy with neutral legal counsel and/or OIF assistance.– Remember that ADF cannot sue libraries without standing – that is, ADF or its representatives must have been denied use of a meeting room on religious grounds.