JOHN SALTAS PROVIDES A MEDIA PROFESSIONAL'S PERSPECTIVE ON DEMANDS TO CONDEMN FREE THOUGHT AND FREE SPEECH
Moderators' Note: Mr. Saltas gave his permission to post his thoughts, originally sent via e-mail.
As I understand this, requests have been made of the parish council (by opponents to the blog, and also by Fr. Michael) to renounce or discredit blogs that have surfaced over the past few years, the Take Our Church Back blog and the more recent parody blog of Protect our Priests or Clergy, which now appears to be offline.
I do not believe it is the role of our parish council to denounce either blog, nor any members of our community.
My reasons are below:
1. My mainland grandparents left Greece that was impoverished, barren, and still forming a new system of government. My Cretan grandfather left Crete that was still under Turkish dominion. They left behind a system that controlled thoughts and actions and became citizens in a country that embraces free expression. To discredit their efforts to build a new home and live and speak freely here--warts and all--is not something I will ever endorse.
2. Critics of either blog turn a blind eye to other modes of social media expression. To ask that the blogs or bloggers be renounced while not asking similar of persons who make foolish or accusatory statements on Facebook, for example, is selective and wrong.
3. I am in the business of media. I am used to being criticized. I support even those who make foolish statements because looking foolish is an American right. Therefore, it doesn't bother me at all that the wife of our former parish president posts to Facebook that I'm "Evil--a person who has never cared about the church" or that the wife of Fr. Michael uses Facebook to proclaim such household wisdom that she uses City Weekly for her dogs to pee on. That's just the way it is. We are free to express here. I would never ask the parish council to ask either of them to conjure something wise or constructive to say on Facebook, and besides, I've used City Weekly for the same purpose. I am simply selective as to which pets to share it with.
4. Truth is a defense.
5. Several years ago, several of our fellow parishioners (and one in particular), were accused of working against the Church and of being robbers and thieves in a letter from Metropolitan Isaiah. We all know that was not true. That robbers and thieves canard has been repeated over and over for years now--in public and private letters, in emails, spoken aloud by a council member at a general assembly, recast into a mock community trial by some yahoo from Houston during what was supposed to be a general assembly meeting, and most recently by repeated aloud by one representing our community at a religious retreat at Camp Emmanuel. A case for slander or possibly even libel against the church is conceivable considering that the among criteria for judgement on libel, as example, are maliciousness, carelessness, damages and the claim not being true. By that reckoning, those who continue in the "robber and thieves" falsehood are hitting on all four libel case cylinders.
6. Why have those accused people never been apologized to? Why has the clergy been so silent about this when on any given Sunday they pronounce, as in Psalms, to "Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit."?
7. In the case of what Yanni claims, that "Fr. Kouremetis wants to consult with his consul so he can sue me because what i write on the bloq and especially the National Herald," I believe such counsel will agree that the guidelines for libel are different for print vs. online (though that is changing). Online comments currently fall under the same protected free speech umbrella as blogs (and Facebook). Yanni cannot be held liable for being quoted in the National Herald. It is the Herald that would be at fault, if there is indeed fault at all (for what they published), and it would be terribly expensive to prove it in either case. It's more than questionable that there are any grounds to sue for anything at all in the instances cited by Yanni in this email. That would be a grand waste of time and money. I may be wrong, but I know of no case where one sued and won for having his or her feelings hurt or ego bruised.
8. If Fr. Michael wants counsel, payment must not come from any community budget or fund.
9. What is the recourse for persons who believe they have been maligned by a clergy member? Especially if those comments have come from the pulpit? There really is none. Is it not sermonized that one "reaps what one sows"?
10. Our priests and clergy (at all levels) are, by definition, tradition and standing, the community role models. If they cannot live their lives in ways that please their maker, their community, there will be issues. It is not for the parish council to make someone else's bed.