Obama Rejects Free Speech

The Obama administration recently joined Egypt and other pre-enlightenment countries in creating a UN statement that free speech does NOT include words of “negative racial and religious stereotyping.” That is, you are “free” to say anything so long as your words don’t insult someone’s feelings about their imaginary friend. Mess with anyone’s God and you should go to jail.

Regardless of the pretentious words used by the statement’s supporters – that they believe strongly in free speech and this is only about “tolerance and the dignity of all human beings” – if you think the government can punish people for insulting religions then you do not believe in free speech. Here’s a few examples of what the world is beginning to look like in countries that follow the UN’s doublespeak version of free speech:

In Britain, it is a crime to “abuse” or “threaten” a religion under the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006. A 15-year-old boy was charged last year for holding up a sign outside a Scientology building declaring, “Scientology is not a religion, it is a dangerous cult. “In France, famed actress Brigitte Bardot was convicted for saying in 2006 that Muslims were ruining France in a letter to then-Interior Minister (and now President) Nicolas Sarkozy.
In Holland, Dutch prosecutors arrested cartoonist Gregorius Nekschot for insulting Christians and Muslims with cartoons, including one that caricatured a Christian fundamentalist and a Muslim fundamentalist as zombies who want to marry and attend gay rallies.

• In Canada, the Alberta human rights commission punished the Rev. Stephen Boission and the Concerned Christian Coalition for anti-gay speech, not only awarding damages but also censuring future speech that the commission deems inappropriate.

• In Italy, comedian Sabina Guzzanti was put under criminal investigation for joking at a rally that “in 20 years, the pope will be where he ought to be — in hell, tormented by great big poofter (gay) devils, and very active ones.”

• In London, an aide to British Foreign Secretary David Miliband was arrested for “inciting religious hatred” at his gym by shouting obscenities about Jews while watching news reports of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.Also, Dutch politician Geert Wilders was barred from entering Britain as a “threat to public policy, public security or public health” because he made a movie describing the Quran as a “fascist” book and Islam as a violent religion.

• In Poland, Catholic magazine Gosc Niedzielny was fined $11,000 for inciting “contempt, hostility and malice“by comparing the abortion of a woman to the medical experiments at Auschwitz.

The “blasphemy” cases include the prosecution of writers for calling Mohammed a “pedophile” because of his marriage to 6-year-old Aisha (which was consummated when she was 9). A far-right legislator in Austria, a publisher in India and a city councilman in Finland have been prosecuted for repeating this view of the historical record.

In the flipside of the cartoon controversy, Dutch prosecutors this year have brought charges against the Arab European League for a cartoon questioning the Holocaust.

In this short list of newly criminalized words did anyone NOT find some with which they agree? Sure, some of it is ignorant, evil and worthy of scorn. Some of it is  also accurate and worthy of wide publication. In this country, at least, the determination of what is and is not acceptable speech is given by the Constitution to all of us to decide on our own. Under the UN statement endorsed by the Obama administration it should belong to legal authorities.

Granted this statement has no legal impact here or anywhere else. Maybe this is also more a symbolic gesture towards Muslims than any kind of real belief. But it’s still total bullshit and ought to have been denounced as such, not endorsed by the administration. Yes, I agree with Obama’s generally respectful tone towards other countries and cultures. There has to be a line, though. The most fundamental and important right in this country would have been a great place to draw it. That doesn’t mean we all should start Muslim bashing. It just means we ought to respect them while remaining ourselves.

P.S. I wanted to say that this whole post applies with equal force to Pope Benedict, who likewise believes free speech does not include the right to insult religions. But the pope – unlike Obama – is head of an institution with no traditional or legal rights of free speech to respect. They’ve both accepted ridiculous and dangerous positions, but only Obama can be faulted for rejecting his oath of office. Affirming the end of free speech in the world is perfectly consistent with church history and tradition but hardly preserving, protecting and defending the Constitution of the United States.

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2 Comments on “Obama Rejects Free Speech”

  1. Jim Says:

    Excellent post.

  2. KC Says:

    you either have free speech or you don’t…

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