A recent post to Andy Schlafly’s talk page on Conservapedia suggests that we’ve not yet heard the last from him on the Lenski debate. In fact, it almost sounds like Andy’s preparing to sue – or, rather, threaten to sue – Lenski, just to possibly make a point. Given the turn that events could take, it’s important to remember that Andy Schlafly approaches law as a political tool, to use to get what he wants, regardless of whether he’s right, or even honest.
Schlafly’s past and potential future use of sketchy lawyering tactics against Lenski is by no means the first time he’s stooped to abuse of legal knowledge to make his case. Andy views law not as a profession in service of the public, but rather as another weapon to use to wound his ideological opponents, without regard to professional ethics. Another example:
Last year, Conservapedia’s mortal enemy, RationalWiki, posted a side-by-side, point-by-point refutation of one of Conservapedia’s articles. The RationalWiki refutation article obviously included Conservapedia content, and employed it towards the end of comparison and criticism, which is clearly fair use within United States copyright law. When Andy saw RationalWiki’s article, though, and its appropriation and critique, he threatened to sue, asserting that his “copyright” on the Conservapedia material was infringed by its reproduction and critique. To say that Andy was wrong is to understate the point: it’s unclear whether Conservapedia, an open-source encyclopedia, even has a copyright, and even if it did, copying to critique is clearly fair use. Andy’s position was so wrong that he could not have even entertained the possibility that he was right. He threatened civil litigation knowing the law wasn’t on his side, hoping his legally unsophisticated opponent didn’t know enough to fight him. Threatening civil litigation in bad faith is bad enough; using a bad faith threat to exploit a legally unsophisticated party is even worse.
We law students – as future lawyers – get a bad rap because of people like this. Law is a powerful tool: it turns knowledge into power quicker than almost any other skill set, and in the wrong hands it can be a frightening weapon. The power that lawyers wield can only be justified by adherence to a strong code of ethics. Despite protestations of his Christian morality, Andy lacks this requisite professional moral code. So if you find yourself in a debate with him, and he threatens you with a lawsuit or starts to use legal reasoning against you, (1) be suspicious, and (2) be afraid. Weave a circle ’round him thrice and close your eyes in holy dread. He won’t hesitate to lie or abuse his power to beat you down.
Oh, and Andy, if you’re thinking of suing over this post, just remember that truth is a complete defense.