I’ve been watching this growing debate about PayPal with a strange mix of puzzled amusement. Facebook and other social media sites have been lighting up with both sides of the debate spectrum and only seem to be calming down weeks later. This is amazing to me considering that it’s really a simple issue being blown out of proportion. Let’s put this in a real world perspective.
A woman walks into her neighborhood pharmacy, hands over her prescription for what is commonly known as the morning after pill, and is shocked when the pharmacist refuses to sell it to her stating that it went against his beliefs. This has caused a media frenzy, as well as public outcry on both sides of the debate, and a seemingly never-ending court battle. However, as long as the pharmacist refers the customer to another pharmacy, it is apparently legal for him/her to do so.
Several years ago, an adult bookstore hit the national spotlight because a clerk was arrested for selling a Hustler magazine that had content illegal in that particular state (the shipment apparently got mixed up and was sent to that store accidentally). Again, media deluge brought about a debate of the availability of pornography as well as an outcry because, was it really the clerk’s fault for selling an apparent illegal item to the undercover police officer? Larry Flynt didn’t believe it was and jumped to the young clerk’s defense, going so far as to hire an attorney for the young man. Again, a normal legal issue scrutinized because of controversy.
A young adult, over 18 years of age, can walk into the local Wal-Mart and buy a case of spray paint with the intention of partying with a bunch of friends by huffing. There is of course media exposure on this as well as people saying, “We must stop our young people from doing such a thing!” but normally, nothing much else is said or done besides the introduction of legislation to limit the age of the purchaser or the quantity.
What do the three examples above have to do with the PayPal debate? In none of those instances was a credit card company or other payment service, like the electronic check verification systems, saying, “No, you cannot buy this!” None! So, what’s so different now? Do we really have to have it explained? Censorship. “What?” you ask, “How can that be?” Simply put, censorship isn’t confined to expression; it includes the ability to partake in that expression.
While PayPal wants to claim now that they are making these changes due to pressures from certain credit card companies, they have yet to say which one(s) or what type of pressures they are experiencing. However, I’m willing to bet that I can go to my local adult bookstore, buy a book that has content that falls under PayPal’s ‘remove immediately’ list, use my credit card and won’t have a problem. Heck, I’m willing to use my Visa, MasterCard, and my AMEX just to prove the point! No financial institution should be allowed to tell me what I can or cannot buy – it’s that simple!
Now, while you’re either agreeing with me or ready to tie me to a burning pyre, think about this. Today it’s books containing rape, bestiality, incest… what about tomorrow? What will tomorrow’s ‘inappropriate’ books contain? Race riots, homelessness, AIDS, spousal abuse? Just because it’s not pleasant doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. However, if we are really going to allow either a financial institution or a gateway payment company dictate to us what we can or cannot purchase, then I say let’s do it across the board, no picking and choosing from titles or themes. I can hear many of you screaming now, “Yes! That’s exactly what we should do; limit how people buy items with disgusting themes!” Are you sure about that? Really? Because once that happens, there’s no going back, it will encompass everything, including items that contain II Kings 13:8-14 and Judges 19:24-25. Are you sure, you really want to go there?