Monty Python and the quest to uphold an individual’s right to privacy

July 27, 2022 | By BRITTANY HUNTER
Monty Python Cast

Exciting news!  

Pacific Legal Foundation has acquired a lost alternate version of one of the last scenes in the cult classic film, Monty Python and The Holy Grail.  

We are honored to be able to share it with you below! 

—————————————————— 

SCENE: 

Our heroes make it to “the Bridge of Death,” where they encounter “the old man from scene 24,” who happens to be the keeper of the bridge. 

King Arthur and his men have traveled far and wide and encountered so many obstacles along the way. Now, they just need to make it across the ancient bridge before their journey comes to an end.  

But it won’t be so simple.  

The old keeper of the bridge is not just going to let them mosey their way across—he will ask every man five questions—excuse me, three questions—which he must answer correctly lest he be cast into the Gorge of Peril. 

Our heroes approach the bridge as they ready themselves for the bridgekeeper’s inquiries. 

Lancelot volunteers to go first. 

 

BRIDGEKEEPER: Stop! I’m with the Bureau of Bridges, we are conducting a survey. Who would cross the Bridge of Death must answer me these questions three, ere the other side he see.  

LANCELOT: Ask me the questions, bridgekeeper. I am not afraid. 

BRIDGEKEEPER: What… is your name? 

LANCELOT: My name is “Sir Lancelot of Camelot.” 

BRIDGEKEEPER: What… is your quest? 

LANCELOT: To seek the Holy Grail. 

BRIDGEKEEPER: What… is your marital status? Married, single, divorced? 

LANCELOT: What? Uh… single, at the moment, I guess.  

BRIDGEKEEPER: Right. Off you go. 

LANCELOT: Oh, thank you. Thank you very much. 

ROBIN: That’s easy! 

BRIDGEKEEPER: Stop! Who approacheth the Bridge of Death must answer me these questions three, ere the other side he see. 

ROBIN: Ask me the questions, bridgekeeper. I’m not afraid. 

BRIDGEKEEPER: What… is your name? 

ROBIN: “Sir Robin of Camelot.” 

BRIDGEKEEPER: What… is your quest? 

ROBIN: To seek the Holy Grail. 

BRIDGEKEEPER: What… is your sexual orientation? 

[pause] 

ROBIN: Excuse me, what? 

BRIDGEKEEPER: It’s a simple question. I don’t know why it needs restating. 

ROBIN: Did you just ask for my sexual orientation? 

BRIDGEKEEPER: I did. 

ROBIN: Is this really necessary information for you to know? 

BRIDGEKEEPER: As I am now moonlighting as a govt contractor—you know, with inflation being what it is, I must work the bridge and the Census Bureau—I have the authority to demand any answer the government wants to know. 

ROBIN: What if I don’t want the government to know that answer… it is rather personal, is it not? 

BRIDGEKEEPER: We are the government. When have we ever misused your personal information? 

ROBIN: … Are you serious right now? 

BRIDGEKEEPER: I am. Are you going to answer the question or not?  

ROBIN: No. No, I don’t think I will. Not too keen on handing this information over to the government, and furthermore, don’t you think this surpasses constitutional limitations on— Auuuuuuuugh! 

[Robin flies through the air as he is cast into the Gorge of Peril.] 

BRIDGEKEEPER: Hee hee heh. Stop! What… is your name? 

ARTHUR: It is “Arthur,” King of the Britons. 

BRIDGEKEEPER: What… is your quest? 

ARTHUR: To seek the Holy Grail. 

BRIDGEKEEPER: Has anyone in your household had any infertility problems? 

ARTHUR: What’s that now? Did I hear you correctly? 

BRIDGEKEEPER: The government needs to know. 

ARTHUR: Well then, I must ask you a question before considering my response. What gives the government the authority to sidestep my constitutional right to privacy? 

BRIDGEKEEPER: Well, I— 

ARTHUR: And one more thing. Congress didn’t make a law giving you the power to ask these questions and then threaten punishment if someone doesn’t answer. We have separation of powers for a reason. So where have you derived this power? 

BRIDGEKEEPER: Huh? I— I don’t know that. Auuuuuuuugh! 

BEDIVERE: How do you know so much about the U.S. Constitution? 

ARTHUR: You have to know these things when you’re a king, you know. Besides, King George III wouldn’t shut up about it. .Come on, off we go.  

[End Scene] 

—————————————– 

… Okay, so maybe this isn’t an “official” lost script. But it still makes some good points! 

In real life, the government is using the threat of force to make individuals give up personal information. 

Imagine it’s 8:00 at night. The December sun set hours ago, your busy day is finally winding down, and you’re ready to decompress before you turn in for the night. Suddenly, there is a knock at your door.  

You are a little surprised to find a representative from the Census Bureau asking you to answer the American Community Survey (ACS), especially since you’ve already answered the normal census the government sends out every 10 years. But now you’re being asked to fill out additional questions—questions far more invasive than the seven general questions you were asked to fill out on the original survey.  

Instead of the basic questions about household size, this secondary survey asks about 100 questions about job, gender and sexual orientation, whether parents and children in the same home are biologically related, and whether and how many times each person was previously married, widowed, or divorced. 

These are the questions with which Maureen Murphy was bombarded one cold December evening. When she refused to answer because she found these questions far too invasive, the Census Bureau didn’t threaten to throw her into the Gorge of Peril… but it did threaten to fine her $5,000 per unanswered question.  

Only you get to decide what the government knows about your personal life.  

We are helping Maureen and others stand up for their right to privacy and defend the constitutional promise of separation of powers.  

The Census Bureau has very limited authority as to what the census can ask. It can only count the number of people in the country. Congress also never gave the bureau the power to compel answers by threatening criminal fines if a question goes unanswered.  

Unless Congress gives the Census Bureau the explicit authority to levy these fines, the bureau’s threats are unconstitutional.  

PLF may not be on a mission to seek the holy grail, but we are on a quest to uphold the separation of powers and an individual’s right to privacy.