Unfree Speech

Freedom of expression is not absolute. It has always been wrong to shout “Fire” in a crowded theater, when there is no fire. No one is free to disrespect a judge her courtroom. Perjury (bearing false witness) has always been a serious offense. Many societies have criminalized “hate talk” of the sort that provokes violence against minorities. Pope Francis is correct that anyone who intentionally insults or mocks the cherished faith or values of others can expect them to react poorly. However, when those reactions take the form of physical violence or murder, then society has every right to defend itself and its cherished values of freedom of expression. What is difficult to do is to draw a clear distinction between the hate speech that provokes discrimination, and free expression. The nonbeliever has every right to express her non-belief even though such expression may be highly offensive to the pious.



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