The Baha'i Faith & Religious Freedom of Conscience

From: K. Paul Johnson <>
Subject: Re: Censorship at alt.religion.bahai
Date: Wednesday, September 16, 1998 10:08 AM
Richard Schaut ( wrote:
: You accused un-named, unknown, persons of having censored certain posts to
: alt.religion.bahai.  That whomsoever presumably committed this act is
: unknown to you doesn't magically justify your making the accusation.
That wasn't the point.  You're treating the speculation as if it
were directed at a specific person, when it was not.
: Indeed, the mere fact that you have no idea who did it should be sufficient
: reason for you to _not_ suggest that there is censorship afoot.
Your position is clear, but it's your subjective judgment.  I can
accept the argument that I should have asked the cancellees
first, but now you're suggesting that even in the face of denials
from each of them that they cancelled their own posts, no one
would have the right to speculate about the motives of the person(s) who
did?  It seems that your attitude that you are supremely
qualified to dictate to others what they can and cannot post is,
well, censorious.
: I can assure you, Mr. Johnson, if I am ever to accuse you of libel, then it
: won't merely appear that I am.  It will be quite obvious.
I can assure you, Rick, that your continual personal hostility,
calling me "Mr. Johnson" repeatedly, and now making an implicit
threat, might be winning you points with your own constituency
but does not make a positive impression of Baha'i for outsiders
who read it.
: >Tell that to the Baha'is [...]
: And, here we have one of the more classic weasils.  Other people do this, so
: it's OK for me to do this.  No.  It isn't.
That's "weasel" and not the argument at all.  What I'm saying is
that you are hassling me, for thousands of words now, for a
speculation about possible persons who may have done something,
and have been silent to the best of my knowledge in cases where
specific people have been maligned.  You say otherwise:
: And, for the record, I have been as strident with Baha'is about their
: accusations as I have been with you in this message.  That you might have
: never observed this is also not particularly compelling reason for you to
: suggest that I'm employing some double standard.
What was your position on the publication, in May 1996 I believe,
in the American Baha'i, of a letter from the House denouncing a
group of unnamed people, leaving Baha'is to figure out for
themselves who these people were?  Who they were was fairly
obvious and I'm sure word got around fast.  No due process, no
rights to defend themselves, and no protests from you.  Or were
: You brought up Dr. Cole, not me.
Specifically on the objective indices of fundamentalism, and how
these apply to contemporary Baha'i practice.
  I've merely pointed out that his rhetoric
: is substantially devoid of supporting evidence.
No, you didn't "point out" that, for such a phrase implies a
fact rather than an opinion.  You *claimed* it and there are voluminous
archives for people to make up their own minds about whether your
*unsubstantiated claim* about Cole is valid.
: If Dr. Cole's rhetoric isn't persuasive, then why did you bring it up in the
: first place?
You brought it up.  I said nothing about rhetoric in general, but
specifically about the meaning of "fundamentalism" and the ways
in which this was applicable to Baha'i, about which Cole has been
: >: We can discuss Dr. Cole's credibility in these matters, but I'm quite
: sure
: >: you don't want to.
: >What are you insinuating here?  Why?
: Is there an echo in here?  I'm not insinuating a thing.  I'm stating it
: directly: Dr. Cole alleges some things that stretch credibility beyond the
: breaking point.  However, since it's off topic of this thread, I'm not sure
: you really want to get into it.
First you were "quite sure" that I don't want to discuss it.  Now
you are backing down to "not sure" that I *do*-- a more modest
and defensible statement.  And the former claim implied something
about me, which was unclear, therefore an insinuation rather than
a statement or question. 
: So, all I have to do to have you suspecting that someone's trying to silence
: me is to cancel a large number of my posts?  Does the word "coincidence"
: mean anything to you?
It was two people's posts, two people unpopular to say the least
with a certain kind of Baha'i.
: >Or perhaps you do see it, and when it disappears you assume that
: >it expired.
: Why would you assume this when messages you've posted before the one's that
: got cancelled are still available?
That's two degrees of speculation.  I saw no posts by Marangella
or Mulligan still available.
: >That's your insistence on a possible *implication* of a term.
: No.  That's my insistance on the primary meaning of the term
The word is spelled *insistence* and you are stretching your
claim here.  First you said that "censor" *implied* official
sponsorship, and now you say it's the primary meaning.  Primary
meanings vary from one dictionary to another.
: >I repeat the question:
: You can repeat loaded questions until you're blue in the face, and I won't
: answer them.  Sorry.
It was a simple question about the difference between a prankster
and a censor and which term is appropriate in the hypothetic
: Baha'is are strongly discouraged from reading Covenant-breaker's material,
: and thee strength of the discouragment can be easily misunderstood as a
: personal prohibition.  That Baha'is would somehow take this personal
: prohibition as a reason to go out and violate some of the other clear
: instructions about how we are to treat Covenant-breakers requires a very
: huge leap.
Considering the extent and volume of Baha'i violations of clear
instructions about how they should treat one another, and
followers of other faiths, that I've witnessed on the Net, I
think it requires a very huge leap to assume that they would not
do such a thing. 
: Then I can't be accused of censoring anyone, can I?  Nor can any other
: Baha'i for that matter.
Not being in a position to deny civil rights does not equate to
not being in a position to censor.  As you know, that occurs
daily on srb and in Baha'i publications.
: I appreciate the vote of confidence.  Have I ever given you reason to
: believe I've been insincere in any other exchange we've had?
Yes.  You just wrote a classic self-defeating argument, since
your appreciation of the "vote of confidence" is quite evidently
insincere and sarcastic.  Not the first time I've seen it.
: Accusations of censorship are not matters of opinion.  They are matters of
: fact.  Have you forgotten this distinction?
Have you forgotten that I used "apparently" and that the entire
point of the post was to ask Fred to look into it and see what
had happened?
: This is the same falacy you committed earlier.  Moreover, it's loaded with
: It never ceases to amaze me how the first I hear of any form of character
: assassination or innuendo comes from the people who are alleged to have been
: the target.
Shouldn't amaze you.  You would not, I suspect, be willing to
call it that or show an ounce of sympathy to the victims of such
treatment when it comes from infallible mouthpieces of God.
: >Seems like that's exactly what you're doing to Juan
: >Cole in your message.
: Here we go with this "seems" stuff again.  Can you, for a change, stop
: trying to read between the lines in order to find stuff that simply isn't
: there?
It was *in* the lines.  You said that he used rhetoric but his
arguments were devoid of substance, that you had incontrovertible
evidence of his unreliability.  But you offered no substantiation
of this accusation, and attributed the reason for that to my
unwillingness to discuss it.  Of which you were "quite sure" at
first, but have now backed down to "not being sure" of.
: I can assure you that, if I am ever to accuse Dr. Cole of anything, it won't
: "seem" like I'm doing so.  It will be quite obvious.
And so it was.  But it is still innuendo, when you make vague
charges with no details.
: Regards,
You asked me about insincerity?  What's with the hostile,
hectoring "Mr. Johnson" stuff and then closing with a friendly
: Rick Schaut
It's clear to me that you're in a "win/lose" mindset with all
critics of the Baha'i institutions, and that this struggle to vindicate
them has a pretty high priority for you.  Whereas among my
interests, Baha'i affairs are way down the list, even if we just
count religious movements.  Thus I don't have the interest or the
will to continue debating you.  If that strikes you as a victory,
so be it.  Congratulations.  But in all sincerity, I would urge
you to consider in future, when you are facing a critic in a
public forum, that your tone reflects on the cause you think you
are defending.  I don't think you are winning any points for that
cause in the eyes of onlookers, however much your coreligionists
might encourage you to take this approach.