Two weeks ago, Bill Maher claimed that God was a "psychotic mass murderer who gets away with it." As you might expect, that has a lot of fundies up in arms. But a column published in one of the major fundie news sites is at least, if not more, offensive than anything Maher said. Canadian conservative publisher Tristan Emmanuel penned a column for BarbWire--a project of Liberty University and Liberty Counsel's Matt Barber--saying that Maher's comments are why we need to bring back blasphemy laws.
I don’t know Maher. And I have no reason to hate him. But I do know God. And Maher’s public vilification of God is the most offensive and slanderous thing I have ever heard. Frankly, if a Christian doesn’t have a gut wrenching reaction about this, I’ve really got to question him.Emmanuel doubles down on his call for the reinstatement of such laws in a YouTube video.
Which brings me to the main point: Christians should unanimously condemn Maher. There was a time when a generation of believers actually believed in defending the honor of God and would have done just that — condemn Maher.
Back then Maher would have faced stiff penalties for his slanderous crimes against God and country. And the reasons were clear: slander the ultimate authority of a nation — God — and you ridicule the very foundation of its laws, values, public institutions and leadership.
Slander one and you slander all.
Emmanuel argues that if you can't slander the President, you shouldn't be allowed to slander God either. Wrong, Tristan--you are allowed to spread false rumors about the president. Granted, you're subject to being called out for it, but there is no law that says you can't spread them. To his mind, the best solution is to restore blasphemy laws. His ideal model is a law enacted in colonial Massachusetts:
“Be it declared and enacted by the Lieutenant Governor, Council and Representatives, convened in General Assembly, and it is enacted by the Authority of the same, that if any person shall presume willfully to blaspheme the holy Name of God, Father, Son, or Holy Ghost; either by denying, cursing or reproaching the true God; his Creation or Government of the World: or by denying, cursing, or reproaching the holy Word of God… everyone so offending shall be punished by imprisonment, not exceeding six months, and until they find sureties for good behaviours; by sitting in pillory; by whipping; boaring thorow the tongue, with a red hot iron; or sitting upon the gallows with a rope about their neck; at the discretion of the court…”Emmanuel isn't too happy with a 1952 SCOTUS decision that held that "it is not the business of government in our nation to suppress real or imagined attacks upon a particular religious doctrine, whether they appear in publications, speeches or motion pictures." He's referring to Joseph Burstyn v. Wilson, which is better known for conclusively holding that movies are protected by the First Amendment. However, a lesser-known effect of that ruling was to make all blasphemy laws on the books at the state level unenforceable. To Emmanuel's mind, that decision opened the door for atheists to openly denigrate God. Emmanuel thinks that unless we enact blasphemy laws and enact them now, we could be on the verge of divine judgment.
We already knew that the religious right would like nothing better than to put the First Amendment in the shredder. This is yet more evidence of it.