Politically incorrect indicted by public
In August 1809, William Leavenworth Jr. was brought before the Superior Court of Litchfield County, Conn. on charges he willfully and publically blasphemed against God. The punishment for such a crime was to receive upwards to 40 lashes upon a bare back, followed by an hour of public display in the town square. Fortunately, Leavenworth was acquitted and set free.
The idea of being tried for blaspheme may seem bizarre by modern standards. Sadly, if such a law was enforced today, our courts would be overwhelmed and the executioner’s whip worn out from continuous use. The use of blasphemous phrases in public has become a right of free speech.
Yet the idea of restricting people’s speech from offensive expressions is still persecuted.
There are a number of politically incorrect words that if uttered, can result in indictment; not in an official court, but in the more destructive arena of popular opinion. Here, one has no privilege of defense or rule of law. They are left mercilessly exposed to the frenzied ravings of the uninformed, willing to jump to any unqualified conclusion. Forty lashes pale in comparison to the social retribution of lost jobs, derailed careers and closed businesses, society hands down to those who may have uttered a socially unacceptable word.
I am not advocating insensitivity, but something has gone radically awry. Apparently the only entity we are not concerned about insulting is God.
For this, I fear, we will face a worse punishment than 40 lashes or social condemnation.
Pastor Mark Holmes is an ordained minister in the Wesleyan Church and has served the Darrow Road Wesleyan Church since 1997.