This discussion is spanning multiple threads, but since GRC is here, too, let me pose this question to him: if my system of faith compels me to walk into a crowded theater and yell "fire," does the government have something valid to say about that?
What's at issue, in other words, isn't just Camping's "acceptable religious belief." If he wants to believe that Judgment Day is happening, he's free to do so. The issue is whether he has the absolute right to use a federally-licensed broadcast facility to spread that message. There are certain fairly minimal restrictions the FCC imposes on "free speech" when it takes place over a licensed broadcast facility, and I don't see any religious exemption to any of them: you can't use a broadcast facility to transmit indecency or profanity (give or take certain safe-harbor periods), you can't use a broadcast facility for personal attacks, and you can't disseminate hoaxes under the provisions of 73.1217.
There is among our people in this nation some concept that self-government is a simple process and as individuals we assign differing levels of importance to values we have decided are more important than someone else's values.
Much of the furor over Camping has been coming from people who are not attached to any highly distinctive "brand" of religious thinking so they are not likely to stand by my side when I say: "Slow down, let's think our way through the conflicting American values that are smashing up against each other in this.... this.... this embarrassing display of "religion applied to everyday life."
Much of this furor over Camping has been coming from people who ARE attached to a brand of religious thinking that is quite bland and they know that it is unlikely that any "Federal Bureau of Religious Comliance" will never come knocking at their door with a cease and desist order.
Another bunch of furor over Camping has been coming for people who are attached to a brand of religious thinking that has it's own wack-a-doodle claims and prophecies and they are down on Camping, not because he is yelling FIRE in a crowded theatre, but because he is yelling FIRE in the WRONG THEATRE!!!
I have no problem if some prosecutor wants to turn Camping's life upside-down looking for a level of hoax that crosses the border into the land of fraud and illegal versions of hoax. The last three posts in this thread have listed some very valid concepts that should be considered.
Religious broadcasting has included some "bad hombres" who have been fleecing the flock for decades with what I personally believe to be bad theological premises. Such hoaxters seem to run a much higher risk of being arrested for deviant sexual behavior than for deviant pocket-book lightening behavior.
Why would the law look the other way since the beginning of broadcasting... to suddenly pounce upon Camping as The Poster Child for deviant expression of religion. When people gather for discussion in forums like this, I am equally concerned about the hoaxes about how we view our basic freedoms as I am any broadcasters actions.
(There is a high probability that Camping is NOT a classic hustler. I participate in some forums where the issues of how we choose sides and form teams in the world of faith are discussed. I have butted heads with a lot of "Harold Camping kind of guys". Ever see a garden where someone got sick mid-season and just let all the vegetables "go to seed"? It is not a pretty site. There is a phrase we use in conversation... certain crotchety old men have let their theology go to seed. That is not a pretty sight either!)
If we are going to activate the "Hoax Police"... I want them to start with Talk Radio and the current political advocacy machinery in this country. I am much more concerned with "trash talk" in the political world than I am the "trash talk" in religious broadcasting. Trash talk cannot change the existence or nature of God. Trash talk in the political world CAN CHANGE the existence and nature of our civilization.