Looking back on Benjamin Smith and free speech

Fifteen years ago today, “white nationalist” terrorist Benjamin Smith went on a shooting rampage, murdering two people out of a deranged hatred for their skin pigmentation. Later that day, Smith died and went to Hell after a chase with police. Fifteen years after his acts of pure evil, it is worth revisiting the issue of free speech, brought to the forefront by Smith’s distribution of racist literature and the disturbing attacks on his First Amendment rights.

Following are four editorials I wrote in 1998 and 1999 about this issue:

In the days after the rampage, I considered removing the two articles I had written defending Smith’s free speech rights from my website. I ultimately did not, and that was the right decision. It is here where our commitment to free speech is truly tested – speech that is almost universally despised. If one racist is forced to shut up by government or by a state institution, no one else is going to be harmed and we do not have to listen to his nonsense any more.

But if we believe in free speech, we need to defend all speech from state censorship – even the speech we find most objectionable. We need to do so not only because the principle is important, but because the precedent set by allowing censorship is dangerous. Once the precedent is established that the state or a state institution can engage in censorship, all speech is in danger. The answer to hate speech is always more speech.

7 thoughts on “Looking back on Benjamin Smith and free speech

  1. “Later that day, Smith died and went to Hell after a chase with police.”

    I know you dote on this sadistic image, but as you once admitted in an email exchange, not one word of Scripture supports it. In fact, your Bible says the direct opposite, quite clearly saying that the dead know nothing, have no reward (or by extension, punishment), and that judgment and punishment of sinners awaits JC's second coming. As an alleged “Bible-believing Xian,” how do you reconcile this heretical fairy tale cooked up by priests 1600 years after the supposed resurrection? If the Bible is “true,” you're so far out in left field on this one that you literally deny scriptural truth. It's totally bizarre.

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  2. So, you don't recall our email exchange on this very question, wherein you declared your adherence to the so-called “Westminster Confession of Faith,” drawn up in 1646 by power-hungry church leaders? Wish I'd saved the email, but alas, I didn't think you'd try to weasel out of it down the road. Since that's your ploy, however, kindly tell your readers where in Scripture you find any text supporting the flight of souls to Heaven or Hell at the moment of death. Inquiring minds want to know!

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  3. One more classic example of “inerrant” scripture's countless fatal contradictions. I call your single text and raise you the following: Psalm 37:20; Malachi 4:1,3; Isaiah 1:28; Obadiah 1:16; Nahum 1:9; Matthew 13:39-40; Luke 16:19-31; 2 Peter 2:9; Revelation 20:12-15. For a detailed explanation of why you're dead wrong, see http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/topics/hell. You'll never admit it of course, and we both know why: in popular parlance, the heretical image of souls writhing in eternal agony “floats your boat” big-time. BTW, since my verses all flatly contradict yours, it's worth remembering the words of D.L. Moody, so-called “father” of Xian fundamentalism: “If one part of scripture were untrue, the whole of it went for nothing.” Can I get an “Amen”?

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  4. None of the verses you provided contradict the doctrine that souls are judged upon death. Earthly judgment and eternal judgment are not mutually exclusive.

    The verse from Revelation you cited explicitly says souls that were in Hell before the final judgment (as well as Hell itself) are cast into the Lake of Fire.

    BTW, the link I provided to the WCF has a number of Bible verses as proof texts for the statement that people go directly to their final judgment when they die.

    Annihilationism is popular for a reason: No one wants to believe in it. It’s a horrifying reality to think of unsaved loved ones suffering eternal damnation. But popularity doesn't make it true.

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  5. “Annihilationism is popular for a reason.”

    And that would be the fact that multiple verses of “inerrant” scripture specifically say that “sinners” will be completely consumed by fire, not lingering forever in a pit somewhere for a sadist's personal amusement. How, exactly, are they suffering eternally, thereby exciting you, it “the dead know not any thing”? Your book of ancient fairy tales collapses on itself–and, of course, “proves” nothing whatsoever. They call it “blind faith” for a reason, as in “blind, deaf, and dumb.”

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