Freedom and the Invariant Section

The folks at Debian-legal are having a discussion of the GNU Free Documentation License. At least some members think the license does not meet their “free” test. At issue is the ability to use the license to declare portions of a doc “invariant”, meaning they cannot be modified down the line. From the FSF explanation:

The idea of invariant sections is that they give you a way to express nontechnical personal opinions about the topic.

The classical example of an invariant nontechnical section in a free manual is the GNU Manifesto, which is included in the GNU Emacs Manual. The GNU Manifesto says nothing about how to edit with Emacs, but it explains the reason why I wrote GNU Emacs–to be an essential part of the GNU operating system, which would give computer users freedom to cooperate in a community. Since the GNU Manifesto presents the principles of the GNU Project, rather than features of GNU Emacs, we decided that others should not remove or change it when redistributing the Emacs Manual.

At least some in the Debian community believe this conflcts with their definition of “free”. If the Debian community acts on this, it would essentially mean that all of GNOME would no longer be considered free software in the eyes of the Debian community. This would be a great bother. I would prefer that they accede to the wishes of those who believe a doc meets their tests if it includes no invariant sections, but whatever. I believe the license ensures freedom, so I’m fine with it.