Defending the Indefensible

  In October 1997, Jeffrey Curley, a 10-year-old boy from Cambridge, Massachusetts, was found murdered. Eventually two men, Charles Jaynes and Salvatore Sicari, were arrested and convicted of the murders. But this tragic story didn't end there. Another chapter is being written now in the courts -- a chapter that illustrates our culture's impoverished understanding of freedom. Among the items found in Jaynes's possession were documents disseminated by the North American Man-Boy Love Association (or NAMBLA). This group advocates sexual relations between men and boys, and calls for the repeal of laws that make such relationships illegal. Reportedly, the murderer had also visited that organization's website. After learning about the connection between Jaynes and NAMBLA, the boy's parents sued NAMBLA, arguing that the group's advocacy of pedophilia contributed to their son's death. Well, earlier this month, the ACLU took on the case: No, not the parents' case, NAMBLA's case! And the executive director of the Massachusetts ACLU, John Roberts, denied that NAMBLA's website and materials "promote any kind of criminal behavior whatsoever." In addition, ACLU board member Harvey Silvergate told the New York Times that "the ACLU has caused public stirs in the past by defending neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members. NAMBLA is just the sort of publicly unpopular group whose free speech and association rights need to be defended most." But Roberts and Silvergate have got it all wrong. This group is advocating criminal behavior. And the comparison to the ACLU's defense of the neo-Nazis and the Klan is off-base. The only thing NAMBLA has in common with those groups is that its views are an affront to every decent person. But the Nazis and the Klan were making political statements. And as odious as they were, they were statements about how society should be structured, and thus could be refuted or even ridiculed. But NAMBLA isn't about politics -- it's about facilitating an act illegal in every state. The ACLU defense of NAMBLA underscores a dangerous shift in what we mean by the word "freedom." Historically, it has been a political term meaning that government is to recognize individual liberty consistent with the common good. The Founders called our nation an experiment in "ordered liberty." But today freedom has been reduced to the right to embrace any lifestyle one chooses. People feel they're "free" when they can do whatever they want whenever they like. This, by the way, is the reasoning that underlies the abortion movement. But by this definition of freedom, NAMBLA's sickening values are just as good as anyone else's -- which is pure nonsense. Carrying today's idea of freedom to its logical conclusion would plunge us into the depth of moral chaos. We're right to be outraged by stories like this, but the answer lies in recovering an historic understanding of freedom. Through the centuries, from Augustine on, the Christian view has been clear: freedom is that which gives us the right to do what we ought to do -- to do the good. And unless we recover this view of freedom -- the one our Founders embraced -- then everything, even pedophilia, will become a protected right. No society can survive that way.


Chuck Colson



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