Don’t let on that I’m the one who told you, but guess what? Freedom of speech is under serious assault in this country and I don’t want to be presumptuous, but I think the situation has gotten serious enough that the bishops should start raising a fuss about it.
Case in point is that of the African-American Baptist minister, Rev. Walter Hoye of Berkeley, California, who was sentenced Thursday to 30 days in jail and a fine of $1,130 for “unlawfully approaching a person entering an abortion facility” in Oakland, California. Except that he didn’t. He didn’t do what he was charged with and the proof that he didn’t is found on a secret videotape made of his protest — his lawful picketing of the abortion clinic with a sign that said: “Jesus loves you and your baby. Let us help.” What happened instead is that clinic escorts used large pieces of blank cardboard to cover up his sign and hollered over him so women approaching the clinic could not hear him gently ask, “May I talk to you about alternatives to abortion?”
A video showing the actions of Rev. Hoye and the clinic workers, along with an account of his kangaroo court of a trial is available on the website of the Life Legal Defense Foundation which is providing counsel for Rev. Hoya and will appeal his conviction.
Now if this had been a Catholic priest or bishop arrested in similar circumstances, I imagine there would be a hue and cry from the Catholic hierarchy in this country and there needs to be one now. So far it is Black religious leaders who are crying foul, but this is far from being an issue of color. Every voice that values freedom of religion and speech in this country should be raised in alarm over this egregious travesty of justice.
Fast on the heels of this was an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal by Rush Limbaugh, asking President Obama point blank if he supports reinstitution of the “Fairness Doctrine,” a regulation of the airwaves that many say would kill “talk radio” by mandating equal time for opposing points of view (that is for the “progressive” point of view that has never been able to compete in marketplace). If you are saying to yourself that the airwaves would be fine without the likes of Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity, you might want to look into the effect these regulations would have on Catholic radio .
The arrest of Hoye is a shot across the bow and we all need to be aware of it. I know that FOCA has the attention of the bishops but our very ability to get out the message about things like FOCA is being threatened now and we need to speak up.