By now many or most readers will know about the shooting in Colorado Springs at a Planned Parenthood Clinic.
Capitalising on the violence (say I), proponents of abortion rights are using the incident to maintain that abortion opponents must stop publicly making strong claims against abortion. Some of the complaint is simple misinformation (denying that Planned Parenthood traded in any sense in the parts of unborn babies). But there is also the claim, echoed by many, that strongly condemning the killing of unborn children has consequences. It inspires shooters like this guy, so it has to stop. We can think abortion is wrong (if we must be so benighted, but we mustn’t call it a horrendous evil.
This is wrong. You may not tell people to keep this opinion to themselves because of the actions of this or any other shooter.
We understand this principle most of the time. Here are a couple of examples that help us to see this.
Many people believe that the biblical and historic Christian view of marriage and sexuality is wrong. I refer here to the view that marriage is the union of a man and a woman and that sex between two men or two women is either wrong or dysfunctional. Some people condemn this view in the strongest terms, calling it hateful and bigoted, comparing those who hold this view to racists, and attributing mental illness to them.
This belief has led to acts of vandalism against some churches. Some people feel that this sinister and hurtful view legitimises the damage of other people’s property to get the message across that people disagree with the church’s point of view. They think the church isn’t listening. They say the church is hurting people. Why won’t they listen and wake up to their callousness? Vandalism may be a desperate act of somebody who thinks the church is a force for great evil. Much worse is the example of Floyd Corkin. Corkin enteted the offices of the Family Research Council to carry out a mass shooting, but was apprehended before anyone was killed. He took with him a bag of Chick-fil-a sandwiches to rub in the faces of his victims as a statement against their stance. Both the CEO of Chick-fil-a and the Family Research Council believes that legal marriage should be reserved for opposite-sex couples, while Corkin supports same-sex marriage. But the fact that people do this does not mean that you have to stop criticising the church in order to avoid inspiring vandals and murderers. If you believe the church is wrong and have reasons for saying so, you should be completely free to do so because it means the church is treating people unfairly.
Many people believe that the nation of Israel is unjustly occupying a number of territories, and their continued settlement in and use of these territories is resulting in oppression and poverty for others, especially in light of the violent conflicts that arise because of this occupation.
This belief unquestionably encourages people to engage in violence against Israel. The number of rocket attacks across borders into Israel in recent years is impressive. The people carrying out this violence genuinely believe that their lives and the lives of their families and many like them are being completely ruined because of this occupation. They see their fellows suffering and dying and, propelled by their belief that this situation exists because of the unjust actions of Israel, they kill. But the fact that voicing this belief encourages violence does not mean this belief should not be voiced. If the belief is true, then Israel is engaging in injustice and it is right to say so, nay, to strongly condemn its actions.
The manner of the pro-life movement on the whole is positively mild, given the enormity of the evil they describe.
Similarly, many people believe that abortion providers (such as Planned Parenthood) are engaging in a great injustice by killing the unborn en masse. If this claim true, then the reality is a shocking one and these actions deserve to be strongly condemned. It is not a mild lapse in ethics. It is a terrible wrong, rivaling those of slavery or domestic violence, evils that we rightly decry as abominations. The manner of the pro-life movement on the whole is positively mild, given the enormity of the evil they describe.
This belief has encouraged some people to engage in violence against abortion providers. True, the frequency of such violence is very low on the whole, but it happens. Some individuals see what they believe is the nigh-on perpetual slaughter of the most vulnerable human in the world. Society around them tells them that they have to accept this brutality as a legitimate choice, protecting the killers from being stopped from going about their work. Nobody is going to stop them, the person reasons. So I will. They snap, and they shoot, fanned on by this belief that abortion is a grave injustice that kills the vulnerable. But here too, the fact that strongly voicing this belief can inspire violence is not a legitimate reason to try to silence people who genuinely believe that abortion is a grave injustice.
Progressive media commentators understand the first two cases. They get it. They don’t try to end public comment from opponents of the church or opponents of Israel’s occupation. The principle makes sense. But for some reason they forget this when it comes to abortion. Now the principles change. Now if you condemn abortion in strong terms, you are encouraging killers so you’d better zip it.
No, it doesn’t work that way. You don’t get to silence the proponents of a cause because of the violent actions of the unhinged. And you certainly don’t get to do it just when it suits you.