Freedom of Expression on the Forums

Recently, I made a complaint on a well known ham forum concerning derogatory posts regarding God and Religion. I was practically told by the Administrator and Manager of the site in a PM that If I didn’t like it I could lump it! He then proceeded to insult God and Religion himself and so it became obvious that such remarks were a reflection of him and how he ran his site.

My question to hams: Should there be tighter controls over what is said on such forums?

I know blasphemy laws do not exist in the United states and are incompatible with the Constitutional provision for ‘Freedom of Expression,’ but surely forums like this are international in nature and include hams of all religious faiths.

As a journalist I believe in freedom of expression but feel this must be tempered with the protection of inalienable rights, including religious belief.

I would be interested to hear what others think?

Freddy McGavin, EI4GMB, is a special contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from County Cavan, Ireland. Contact him at [email protected].

18 Responses to “Freedom of Expression on the Forums”

  • W0FMS:

    Blasphemy laws are also incompatible with the concept of separation of church and state in government the US. Being Irish, freedom from persecution from– say the Protestants in your history– should make you understand why we want our governance to be secular in the US. That tends to roll over to other things that should be secular, say the discussion of amateur radio.

    My thought is you probably need to “lump it” if it isn’t your forum. I don’t really think God and Religion has much to do with ham radio and was probably off topic to mention in either the positive or negative. I’d go argue this point over in a religious forum if I were you.

    Fred W0FMS

  • Freddy McGavin EI4GMB:

    Hi Fred,

    Thank you for your comments. I agree that Politics and Religion have no place on a Ham Forum. I should also say that the forum in question has a policy outlawing political discussion but allowing comments on Religion. So it appears to be open season on religious belief on this site. The reason I wrote this article was that inappropriate posts about religion were prevalent on this particular Ham forum. Perhaps the same forum owners should post clear guidelines about Religious discussion so that unsuspecting people of faith can steer clear in future. These forums are international in nature and should concern us all.

    Kind Regards

    Fred EI4GMB

  • Peter KG5WY:

    Fred, I agree with you!!!!

  • K4TOJ - Tom:

    I personally could care less about religion but respect others opinions about it. If asked, I’m more than happy to state what I think of it. Note that I consider myself asked if someone tries to push their religious beliefs on me. So, to answer your question “Should there be tighter controls over what is said on such forums?” I say, what? It’s like any other topic – if you don’t like it, don’t participate.

  • K9DPM:

    Most forums are moderated (owned?) by private individuals. You don’t tell someone in their own house what they should do or say, and that supersedes the freedom of expression. It’s “My house, my rules!”.

  • Don N4KC:

    A government that can tell me I can’t express my opinion openly about religion–pro, con or indifferent–could also tell me I have to believe in somebody else’s.

    Don N4KC
    http://www.n4kc.com
    http://www.donkeith.com

  • Matt W1MST:

    +1 for Don’s comment.

    I appreciate the respectful nature of the debate here. I am happy we can discuss topics that generate controversy while respecting the great diversity of those who love amateur radio.

    This is truly a great hobby.

  • Larry W2LJ:

    I agree with most of the comments here. When you open the door to censorship – many bad things can follow. That being said, it is a small mind that cannot respect another’s religion and perhaps even goes out of their way to be provocative and denigrate it.

    Johnny, since you are from Ireland, I’ll take a stab and guess that you are Christian – perhaps even Catholic? If that is the case, then you and I both believe that the perpetrator will stand before that High Authority one day and will have to account for his actions.

    It all comes down to free will and what you choose to do with it.

    Larry W2LJ

  • Larry W2LJ:

    Johnny – I meant Freddy. Sorry for that – and just goes to show that I’m losing it.

    Again, my apologies for the name slip! I think I need my cane and shawl now.

    73 de Larry W2LJ

  • Michael N5TGL:

    “A government that can tell me I can’t express my opinion openly about religion–pro, con or indifferent–could also tell me I have to believe in somebody else’s.”

    Absolutely…except nobody is talking about government here, it’s about a privately owned webforum, where the first amendment doesn’t apply.

    Having run a large webforum in the past, and moderate an equally large one now, I can tell ya the way to the biggest flamewars goes through politics and religion. We had a policy of no discussion allowed on either. If they wanted to talk/rant on either topic, their topic would get locked and they’d get a gentle reminder that their subject material is not allowed under our TOS. They were also told that there were many forums on the net that allowed such discussion and if they felt the need to continue that they please go there.

    That was usually the time that they started shouting “first amendment” etc. at us. We reminded them that we are NOT congress, and we can run our privately owned forum any way we please, thank you very much.

    Personally, if the moderator in question responded in the manner described, I think that is very unprofessional and rude. The moderator is supposed to keep a level head in all cases (much like police do) and…well…moderate the situation, not inflame it.

  • ve3cnu Rick Blythe:

    You said: “As a journalist I believe in freedom of expression but feel this must be tempered with the protection of inalienable rights, including religious belief.”

    I didn’t see the forum comments myself but I don’t see how disparaging words about religion infringe on your right to practice your religion. Nowhere dos it say you have a right to not hear blasphemy.

    73

  • Phil KA7TTI:

    Any Amateur Radio forum that allows comments of any type regarding any religion is a forum that I would not bother with. I subscribe to several forums….one of which just recently has had a few religious-based comments as well as the same for some individuals “signature lines”. If it continues I’ll drop out of that forum. Any Ham forum that allows politics or religion to be a part of that forum is trying to exclude others that have different beliefs.

  • Terry VE3XTM:

    I agree that these forums are about amateur radio and no place for religious comments, religious signatures or blessings, etc. Religious beliefs are a very personal thing and should be kept as such. For those of you that hold deeply religious feelings, please keep them close and personal. We do not need or want religious comments either for or against in our forums. It only leads to unwinable flame wars and does more damage to the forum than any good you may be thinking they may bring.

  • Charlie KC9TSB:

    ok Being a Chaplain and a ham I see the point of keeping both in diffrent forums. But let us not forget the longest CW on record was in the 1860’s and the whole message was the New Testament being sent from england to Bay Area. it was over 80,000 words long. with this said yes faith can be used on the Amateur radio. the question is many of the so called Christians and Non Christians start their topics off with the only outcome to start a fight with others. I say if you want a Religious forum on here than start one there is a time and play for everything.
    But Terry VE3XTM to say a person of faith cant put a religious signatures or blessing at the end of their post is never going to happen my friend for
    this is of their and my faith in God that rules over me and the world nothing will be without him and yes its a personnel relationship with him not a group relationship.

    so with that said everyone if you want to understand church and state ect we must go back to the intent on the matter and its not what most think it way church and state was founded on keep the state out of telling the church what it can and cant do and the same with the church cant tell the state what to do History my friends we need to read it more

    May God bless all of you daily

    Chaplain Charlie KC9TSB

  • Goody K3NG:

    So how do you deal with religious expression, comments, or holy text quoting that directly or indirectly insults, belittles, or otherwise degrades those of other faiths, beliefs, or cultures, even if not intended? While we would like to think we’re all friends in faith with a Creator and one Creator rules the world, we don’t all define the Creator the same, nor is there a universal set of rules or directives we believe a Creator has given us. Take for example beliefs and scripture regarding Jesus. Some see him as a path to heaven, others don’t. Some believe He is the *only* path and anyone who doesn’t will burn in eternal hell. (John 14:6 supports this assertion.) Is it acceptable to quote this in amateur radio forums when it clearly can offend or condemn others? Also, in some religions it’s perfectly acceptable to condemn certain sexual lifestyles, and even harm such people practicing these lifestyles. But in our society it’s not acceptable. And then there are atheists and agnostics. How should an atheist feel when someone basically thinks they are flawed and eternally doomed, even if the insult is cloaked in “love” for one another? What takes precedence in these situations, one’s personal relationship with God and what one thinks God has told them to do, or what is acceptable in our society or non-offensive to others? This is the problem with religion, any religion, in amateur radio contexts.

  • Goody K3NG:

    “That being said, it is a small mind that cannot respect another’s religion and perhaps even goes out of their way to be provocative and denigrate it.”

    What if someone’s religion is Satanism? Not trying to stir controversy here, although I guess in this case I’m playing devil’s advocate, pun intended. Respecting another’s religion can be difficult when the religions themselves are polar opposites of each other. Would Christians respect a Satanic forum post signature or whatever their equivalent of a “best wishes” is? Such people are in the minority, but they do exist, and it is, nonetheless, a religion.

    (For the record: I’m not a Satanist.)

  • Freddy McGavin EI4GMB:

    I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their comments good, bad or indifferent about my article. It certainly has been an eye opener for me personally and has helped my own understanding of things. I hope that by highlighting this issue I have gone some way in making certain forum owners rethink their positions with regard to their policies on Religion and Politics which have no place on our Ham forums.
    Finally, I would like to thank Matt W1MST for for his courage and integrity in publishing this article. Like him, I am happy we can discuss this controversial subject in such a respectful and open manner.
    Amateur radio certainly is a truly great hobby.

    73,

    Fred EI4GMB

  • Scott, N9TGW:

    What we need we can not have, Freedom from idiots. I’ve had run-ins with more than one forum administrator who consider themselves God. One even insisted that the operation of his own forum was different than the way he operated it and insisted that it stay despite being shown his own black and white words. The single truth is that these idiots think they are brave when hiding behind a keyboard but are the world’s largest cowards in person.

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