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Paul L. Williams — Freedom of Expression in a Global Secularized Culture


Paul L. Williams is a name I first heard two years ago when I saw him interviewed on television about terrorist ambitions to create havoc in the United States. I hoped that he was exaggerating the threats, but after following some of his leads and reading two of his books I concluded that he was at least 90 percent correct and needed to be taken seriously. Nuclear-Biological-Chemical terrorism has been an interest of mine over the years. The first book I read that addressed this topic was TERRORISM: HOW THE WEST CAN WIN (1986), edited by then Israeli representative to the U.N. Benjamin Netanyahu (it seems I’ve heard his name since then). The essay by Alan Cranston in it, “The Nuclear Terrorist State,” still sounds surprisingly relevant to our present situation: “Does anyone doubt that if the Shah of Iran had succeeded in developing a full-fledged nuclear program in Iran, the Ayatollah Khomeini would have used a nuclear weapon against Iraq? Does anyone now doubt that if Iraq had been permitted to make swift progress toward a nuclear-weapons capability, Saddam Hussein would have used a nuclear bomb against Iran? Or that either of them might have resorted subsequently to a nuclear strike in a jihad, a ‘holy war,’ against Israel?” (pp. 177-78)

Williams’ interview and books were in this vein, sounding a warning siren, along with many others, that the terrorist threats likely to materialize in the future promise to dwarf anything we’ve seen in the past. It’s one reason that, last I checked, survivalist James Wesley Rawles’ HOW TO SURVIVE THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT: TACTICS, TECHNIQUES AND TECHNOLOGIES FOR UNCERTAIN TIMES was doing better on Amazon.com than Richard Dawkins’ THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH: THE EVIDENCE FOR EVOLUTION (other reasons no doubt include that Dawkins’ book is sheer dreck from the standpoint of current evolutionary theory — see here). In any case, after a brief email exchange with Williams two years ago, I didn’t expect to hear much about him again except as a modern-day Cassandra, whose predictions would be ignored until too late. It was therefore with some dismay that I saw him appear in the press on a matter at once related and yet quite different.

Williams works as a journalist and it’s in this capacity that he is being forced, as an American citizen, to submit to a lawsuit in Canada. Specifically, for charging McMaster University with abetting terrorists and allowing radioactive materials to be stolen, McMaster is suing him for millions of dollars. How could he be tried in a Canadian court given that he broke no U.S. law and did everything that McMaster University is upset about on U.S. soil? As he explained to me, “Bill, I am being tried in Canada because of free trade agreements, including NAFTA. Such agreements give foreign entities the right to take action against American citizens. I am not the only journalist to suffer this fate. New York Times reporter Joe Sharkey is undergoing a similar plight for offending the ‘dignity’ of Brazil by criticizing an air-traffic control official. Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld, author of FUNDING EVIL, is being sued in England for criticizing Khalid bin Mahfouz, a Saudi billionaire. Many more will suffer a similar fate in the coming years.” For links to Williams’ defense fund go here (this suit has wiped him out financially). For two news accounts, go here and here.

So why am I relating this story here at UD? In fact, it is relevant to intelligent design (ID). In the past, American Constitutional safeguards on free speech seemed to me sufficient to allow ID to win the day provided it could prove its case. Of that I’m no longer so sure (not that it can’t prove its case, but of the Constitutional safeguards). Over two years ago, I reported here at UD about the European Council’s denunciation of ID as an assault on human rights. It’s not hard to imagine that ID, because it may be construed as implying that humans were intended to operate within certain constraints, might be seen as challenging certain lifestyles and thus as constituting a “hate crime.” Note that I’m not saying that this is in fact an implication of ID (indeed, my own interest is primarily in developing ID as a scientific research program). My point rather is that critics intent on shutting ID down may do so by challenging its right to fall under free speech. And if Constitutional safeguards stand in the way of this challenge, it may be possible to leapfrog the U.S. Constitution and have courts outside the U.S. attempt to shut the discussion down. It’s for this reason that I bring to your attention the case of Paul Williams and see his plight as one we may face down the road. My own mother, now 77, grew up in Nazi Germany, was just outside Berlin at the end of WWII, and lived through the Berlin Airlift. She wishes that the Germans had understood Martin Niemöller’s famous dictum before it was too late:

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn’t a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

We are on a slippery slope. If people like Paul Williams fall prey to our global secularized culture (especially when it is able to bypass the U.S. 1st Amendment), then we are not far downstream. I’ve asked Williams what we can do to help. He replied: “Bill, thanks for your kind note. One way to move forward is to get the word out… I wrote an Op-Ed piece for your blog that accompanies this note. Another way is to help me [inform people about] the nefarious consequences of free trade agreements, such as NAFTA, to our Constitutional rights as a people. I’m willing to speak anywhere for free albeit I’m broke.” I encourage UD readers to visit


and seriously ponder how they might help Williams turn this situation around so that instead of constituting an assault on freedom of expression it becomes an affirmation of it. Below is the op-ed he asked me to post.

By Paul L. Williams

I am a United States citizen on trial in Canada for exposing a situation at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario that threatened the lives and welfare of Canadians and Americans alike. My book The Dunces of Doomsday, published in the U.S. by Cumberland House, revealed potential terrorist threats from al-Qaeda affiliates at McMaster. The university is suing me for libel, demanding $4 million in punitive and aggregated damages.

Unlike American libel laws where the plaintiff must prove that what said about him is not true and it was said in malice, Canadian libel laws, like the British, put the burden of proof on the defendant, not on the plaintiff.

What I wrote and said about McMaster from my home in Pennsylvania falls well within the standards of responsible journalism. Nevertheless, I have been dragged into court in Toronto, Canada, to be tried under Canadian law that lacks the U.S. Constitutional protection of free speech.

This ordeal has damaged my professional career, depleted my life savings, and placed me in financial jeopardy.

I am not alone.

Other writers have suffered a similar fate, including Joe Sharkey, a New Jersey-based freelance business journalist is being sued for reporting about a plane crash he survived over the Amazon. A woman who claims Sharkey offended the “dignity” of Brazil by criticizing its air-traffic control is suing him for libel in Brazil. This despite the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board’s conclusion that the Brazilian air traffic control was responsible to the crash. She demands $500,000 and apologies in national and international media outlets.

Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld, whose criticism of a Khalid bin Mahfouz, a Saudi billionaire who funded al-Qaeda, has resulted in a judgment by default in British court against her for allegedly defaming the Saudi. She was ordered to pay $250,000, apologize in international media outlets and destroy her book: Funding Evil; How Terrorism Is Financed — and How to Stop It.

The same ordeal can befall all investigative reporters in the U.S. unless federal legislators pass The Free Speech Protection Act 2009, which is now before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Last week my pretrial took place in Toronto. It was not a pleasant experience. My Canadian lawyers and the appointed mediator spent seven hours attempting to coerce me into signing an apology to McMaster University for stating the truth. They maintained that none of my statements were factual according to Canadian libel laws.

I pointed to the fact that McMaster was home to several al-Qaeda members who plotted to blow up Canada’s Parliament and behead its prime minister. In fact, a week before my pretrial took place, the guilty plea of a McMaster student, Saad Gaya, to charges of terrorism captured the headlines of Canadian newspapers. Gaya was one of eighteen al-Qaeda affiliates also charged with planning to blow up trucks loaded with bombs at the Toronto Stock Exchange, the Toronto office of the Canadian Security intelligence Service and a military base on Ontario. He was the eleventh to be convicted. The remaining seven members of the group, known as the “Toronto 18,” remain in prison awaiting trial. Such statements of fact have done little to persuade McMaster to drop the lawsuit, and my trial is set for April 2010.

In Canada, as in England and Brazil, truth is not an absolute defense.

No American citizen should be stripped of his/her Constitutional rights by foreign countries or foreign entities.

Congress should act immediately to pass the Free Speech Protection Act 2009.

Paul L. Williams, Ph.D.
Clarks Green, PA

Vern Crisler, Be respectful, don't call folks dimwits. You can make a point without it. Clive Hayden
I think Mr. Williams is something of a dimwit for spending any money in this case. He should have just thumbed his nose -- or worse -- at the Canadian court (unless he wants to conduct business in Canada, which would require a different response). In addition, I'd like to see evidence that NAFTA guts an American's 1st Amendment rights. I'd like to see someone try to take away my right to speak out -- it would be the last thing they did. Vern Crisler
#7 William Dembski - I don't understand the significance of the "concluding paragraphs". Mark Frank
I agree completely with Heinrich and Mark Frank about the dire need for reform of British libel laws - and the same appears to apply to Canada. One website that might be of interest is the blog of a British lawyer who posts under the alias of Jack of Kent He has been following the Simon Singh case and offers an expert perspective on the case and British libel law. Seversky
Mr. Dembski, in your previous entry you mentioned the evolution of man and how the sin propated back in time. There are another non-darwinian opinions on this interesting issue, like those of Edgar Dacque: –summary in English: Edgar Dacqué, one of the most respected German palaeontologists of the early 2Oth century, developed his own controversial ideas about the human phylum, which he saw dating back to earliest geological times. His intention was a reconciliation of science, mythos and religion. The publication of his speculative masterpiece “Urwelt, Sage und Menschheit”, however, brought his ridicule and he lost his university post. With his idea of a humanity that was always present in the history of life, he can be seen as a pionier of the theory of initial bipedalism. ——– More detailed summary of this another interesting evolutionary non-darwinian German thinking is available in German on internet here: http://cerbi.ldi5.com/IMG/_article_PDF/article_32.pdf Probably ILLIES Joachim ( 1973 ) in his “Anthropologie des Tieres” took him seriously. Illies wrote also a book about another great Swiss non-darwinian zoologist Adolf Portmann. More about Adolf Portmann on my blog http://cadra.wordpress.com/ VMartin
If I should say, as I think I did, that you can trace today’s postmodernist nihilism directly back to Darwin, that sounds bad. But I’m not saying anything about Darwin’s intentions—it’s the universal acid with which he is credited that has erased meaning and morals from the academy and the world. All the time now we see traditionalists bewildered when they make some logical argument and are met with anything but. I don’t think it’s that our postmodernist critics simply sizzle with evil, rather they have been taught that there is no logic, no truth, no purpose, and that language is a only political tool and that feelings and power and prestige are all that matter. Yes, O'Leary, let's face it and fight back before it is too late. Rude
Rude at 12, yes, it is the 1930s revisited. We cannot change it; we can only endure it, face it, and decide how to fight back. Note: Most of what is said about "right-wing Christians" today is either not true or not important. Not true: That right wing Christians have contributed appreciably to bad stuff in the world. They are generous donors to causes that help women world wide, for example. Not important: Yes, there might be snake handling cults in southern US swamps somewhere, but - from a public policy perspective - aren't they the concern of local paramedics, when things go wrong? O'Leary
This is indeed a very serious matter. As I see it, the pressure to repeal freedom of speech comes from two directions, from a multicultural, post-modernist apathy that cares not a whit about facts and truth because it doesn’t believe they exist, and from the rise of terror in the world. The first involves a meshing of often violent radical movements that took over campuses in the 1960s and what I would call a Darwin inspired nihilism that deconstructed all the humanities. The result is today’s speech codes and general belief that feelings trump logic. And then along comes the threat of terror and the enticement of terror tainted mammon. Which was it, the threat of terror or the promise of treasure, that motivated YUP to make Jytte Klausen remove the object of her study from her study: “The Cartoons That Shook the World”? It doesn’t matter because either way freedom is chipped away. As for the rise of nuclear Iran, I’ve just begun reading Dore Gold’s serious but frightening The Rise of Nuclear Iran: How Tehran Defies the West. Prof. Dembski is right to bring this up. In the Thirties most nice, modest people did nothing. Is this déjà vu? Could it be the Thirties all over again? Today a thick anti-right-wing-Christian (and anti-right-wing-Israeli-"settler") fog saturates the air, much like the virulent anti-Semitism of the Thirties. Then it was biology—a Darwinian inspired racism. Now it’s nihilism—which again you can trace directly back to that same source—you dare make any truth claims today and you will be hated passionately. Rude
England and Wales desperately need to reform their libel laws if the idea that Bill Dembski is a closet atheist is even discussable in public. Who would even publish such nonsense? Last I heard, that guy works for a traditional bible school. So why would anybody say that? Like, logically, the story is not true. I agree that a powerful US lobby could help move things along, Still, I dunno. All I can say is, don't come here to Canada and try raising cain for some revolution. Our slams are run on humane lines, but that does NOT mean they are hotels. O'Leary
This has nothing to do with free trade agreements: it has everything to do with the excessive libel laws in England and Wales. That a citizen of one nation can be sued in another nation for actions that did not occur on its soil involves some sort of agreement about which I was unaware of until now.
No it doesn't. It might mean that a writ has to be served - IANAL, so I don't know. But there is no legal principle which would stop this. As long as the person claiming defamation has standing in the UK (which is easy to establish: you only need the libel to be readable in England or Wales), they can sue. Where agreements might be needed are in exacting any fines, or other punishments. The best way to tackle this is to support the actions in England to change the law, e.g. the work by Sense About Science. This affects everybody - if you call Dr. Dembski "a closet atheist" on this blog, he could sue you in England (or Wales!). Indeed, if you called him that in Lithuanian, he could still sue you. A powerful US lobby for change could help move things along. Heinrich
I emailed the following my senators and representative. Find yours.
Is there anything you can do to help move along U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter's Free Speech Protection Act of 2009, co-sponsored by Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.); and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) now idling in the Judiciary Committee? The bill would protect American writers and publishers from foreign libel judgments rendered in countries lacking America's free speech protections. President Obama should urge its immediate passage before more American journalists, such as Paul L. Williams, Joe Sharkey and Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld are silenced by foreign courts. Thank you for your assistance in protecting our citizens.
Persons interested in this question should, in my view, ask themselves a simple question: Why didn't anyone care that Canada had nuclear capabilities for about four decades? How about: Because Canada was a stable, prosperous democracy whose citizens had little interest in pursuing holy wars or claiming to be the Final Prophet ... or anything similar. No one would get elected here if he claimed the Holocaust had never occurred. Which is more than you can say for Ahaminejad. Canada's diplomats walked out on that guy's speech at the UN when he started in on anti-Semitism. (You can tell it's anti-Semitism, not just annoyance with the Israeli government, when people deny that the Holocaust occurred). What happened in recent years in Canada was that progressive limitations on free speech due to "human rights" concerns made it difficult to discuss issues like who has access to nuclear materials today and what are their loyalties. I say bosh to it all. If a person is smart enough to know what to do with nuclear materials, he should be able to look after his own human rights, and should expect hard questions without shouting "racism!!". Theoretically, Canada is founded on the supremacy of God and the rule of law. Here "rule of law" should mean English Common Law, but increasingly, it means law driven by disparate entities who have little concern for our presumption of innocence or the requirement of evidence. Here Jonah Goldberg comments usefully, in my view, on the Iranian regime. It helps you understand why so many people have cared that Iran has nuclear capabilities and so few cared that Canada did. But what if the Iranian worldview spills over into Canada and no one dare say anything? O'Leary
Mark Frank: Thanks for the link to the Economist article (from Jan 2009). Here's one by Rachel Ehrenfeld from just a few days ago (go here). It takes up Paul Williams' case. Note the concluding paragraphs:
Fortunately for Williams, Pennsylvania is represented by U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, who wrote and introduced the Free Speech Protection Act of 2009. The bill would protect American writers and publishers from foreign libel judgments rendered in countries lacking America's free speech protections. New York was the first state to pass an anti-libel tourism law, with similar laws following in Florida and Illinois. But these patchwork protections don't do nearly enough. Congress needs to intervene. Specter's bill, co-sponsored by Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), is now idling in the Judiciary Committee. President Obama should urge its immediate passage -- before more American journalists are silenced by foreign courts. Ehrenfeld, author of "Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed - and How to Stop It," is director of the American Center for Democracy.
William Dembski
This has nothing to do with free trade agreements: it has everything to do with the excessive libel laws in England and Wales. That a citizen of one nation can be sued in another nation for actions that did not occur on its soil involves some sort of agreement about which I was unaware of until now. Yes, I would stand side by side with Dawkins. Williams ought to contact his congressman -- who looks to be Christopher Carney (D) -- and make it an issue with him. tribune7
"As I go, so goes the world." The very most effective way to bring freedom of expression to the world is personally to grant it to others. I cherish my freedom of expression, and I would never exploit the "take my liberty, just don't let me die" spinelessness that has overtaken "the land of the free, and the home of the brave" to make a terrorist threat of a retired scientist who expresses views on human overpopulation that I find loathsome. I sincerely wish that every country set the bar as high for libel as the U.S. does. But it is a fact that different countries, none "less sovereign" than any other, have different laws. No one here opposes the idea that foreign writers disseminating their works for profit in the U.S. should be held to our laws, and that our trading partners should agree to this. But if I turn things around and say that American writers disseminating their works for profit in foreign countries should be held to the laws of those countries, and that the U.S. should agree to this in trade agreements, suddenly there are cries about loss of sovereignty. To suggest that U.S. citizenship confers on one the right to profit in a foreign country without liability under its laws, provided one does not break U.S. laws, would be the utmost in ugly-Americanism. Canadians may buy The Dunces of Doomsday at Amazon.ca. Citizens of the U.K. may buy Funding Evil at Amazon.co.uk. This blog carries advertising, and reaches the U.K. It's a good thing that Dawkins favors freedom of expression. Mystic
#1 Vivid - the concern over the abuse of international libel law is not limited to the USA or the right wing. For example, Amnesty international and other NGOs are deeply concerned about being sued in a some random country where the libel laws happen to suit the plaintiff. The link to the article about Dawkins in my comment #2 above relates to the UK science journalist Simon Singh and his critical writing about various quack sciences. This article in the economist discusses the whole issue of libel tourism. You have to register to read it - but there is no charge if you are registering for the first time. Mark Frank
Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld, author of FUNDING EVIL, is being sued in England for criticizing Khalid bin Mahfouz, a Saudi billionaire.
This has nothing to do with free trade agreements: it has everything to do with the excessive libel laws in England and Wales. It is enough that a piece of writing can be read in England or Wales for libel law to cover it. I don't know about Canadian law, but it may be similar. I agree with Mark, I think this is an issue where those of us all sides of the creationism/ID/evolution debate can stand shoulder-to-shoulder. Heinrich
Could this be the issue where you and Richard Dawkins stand shoulder-to-shoulder? Mark Frank
Bill, Thanks for bringing this to our attention. That our individual constitutional protections are subject to abrogation by foreign powers is mind boggling. Unfortunately it is clear that there are very powerfull forces at work that are moving our country down a path where eventually we will lose our sovereignty all together. We are living in very dangerous times. I know that many will accuse you of paranoia and over reaction but one must believe what one sees not what one hears or reads. Williams and the others he mentions are canaries in the coal mine. The left constantly extols free speech, tolerance and the free flow of ideas. However what do we see in practice? We see free speech constantly stifled, intolerance rather than tolerance and the restriction on the free flow of ideas. Once again believe what you see not what you hear or read. Vivid Vivid vividbleau

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