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Friday, August 4, 2017

Common ground on undercover video investigations?


The Friendly Atheist blog is very vocally pro-choice, and especially supportive of Planned Parenthood. That's a shame, because the blog is often a source of insightful commentary and interesting, under-reported news. And when we appeared on the Friendly Atheist podcast some time ago, we got along with the host fairly well on a personal level—strongly opposed positions on human rights notwithstanding.

So I got a kick out of this article on Friendly Atheist yesterday. Raise your hand when you notice the blindingly obvious parallel:
An ongoing lawsuit between a mysterious sect of the Roman Catholic Church and one of its former members suggests that the group performs private exorcisms as part of its core practices. That sect is asking U.S. courts to make sure any evidence of such a practice is hidden from public view. According to a lawsuit filed by the Heralds of the Gospel Foundation, a Brazil-based organization, this past June, former member Alfonso Beccar Varela illegally obtained videos of their private rituals and then posted them on his personal blog in violation of copyright law.
The subject of an undercover video investigation seeks court intervention to keep things hidden from public view ... why am I feeling déjà vu?
Why was Varela so intent on posting these videos? He explained in his response to the lawsuit: "I don’t deny that I made available these videos to the public but it was done with the expressed intention of denouncing the true nature of this organization that recruits adepts and solicits donations under the pretense of being just a devout Catholic association but that in fact has another concealed face… The so called “healing rituals” revealed in the videos are highly questionable “exorcisms” carried in quite a free manner…"
Organizations that claim to be about helping people while concealing their nefarious activities are just the worst, aren't they? Denouncing them using undercover footage is totally appropriate!
Just to reiterate: The Heralds are worried that the inner workings of their group are so embarrassing that donors might not want to support them financially after learning about the exorcisms. You would think that a group “devoted to a life of charity” would find another way to spend their money than by shielding what they do behind closed doors.
Exactly! Courts have no business censoring undercover videos just because they're embarrassing to the subject's reputation or call its charitable status into question.

By the way, the case of the National Abortion Federation videos, censored by order of Judge William Orick (a Planned Parenthood ally), may be headed to the Supreme Court.

Why do I bring that up? Oh, no reason.

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