Tag Archives: free speech

Danish Cartoon War Resumes

The war over Danish cartoons that allegedly depicted Mohammed in a despicable manner were still raging in Denmark after Uffe llemann-Jensen, former foreign minister, charged the newspaper which presented the cartoons as delibertately attempting to create a controversy. Elleman-Jensen claimed in a radio broadcast the newspaper deliberately commissioned caricatures of the prophet, thereby making a conscious attempt to throw mud on the religious views of Muslims. The newspaper denied the allegation and said the original commission was for cartoonists to come up with their own interpretation of how to depict Mohammed.

Mr. Elleman-Jensen has every right to express his views on this issue, but he misses the point of free speech. It makes no difference whether or not the caricatures were deliberately commissioned or not, anymore than it is of importance the newspaper went out of its way to anger some Muslims. Free speech allows people to be idiots, to be callous, to be wrong, that is the meaning of free speech. No one is compelled in the media to satisfy the feelings of every person. A newspaper is purchased, if a Muslim or non-Muslim didn’t like the cartoon sketches they simply should not purchase the newspaper.

Are Anti-Hate Laws Necessary?

Jenny McCartney, writing in England’s Daily Telegraph raises the question as to whether society requires anti-hate laws. The assumption behind having such laws is that certain behaviors or speech are deemed to require further punitive action against perpetrators. Ms. McCartney argues bores and those who utilize vulgarity in speech are all around us in our daily lives. If an individual begins to take action such as an incitement to violence against gays or blacks or women, there are existing laws to deal with such situations. According to the Home Office in England, a “hate crime” is defined as “any incident, which constitutes a criminal offence, which is perceived by the victim or any other person as being motivated by prejudice or hate.” A hate crime is usually triggered because of an individual’s skin color, sexual orientation, ethnicity or gender.

The issue of “hate crimes’ carrying more severe penalties than ordinary crimes raises many issues. A person who beats up gays most probably also physically attacks non-gays. It is more complex when a person is expressing verbal hatred because most people who hate George Bush do not pull punches when it comes to denouncing the president. Many simply hate the man. If we eliminate verbal attacks, there are presently laws on the books dealing with physical assault.

Turkey To Amend Law Forbidding Insulting Turkey

Turkey is preparing to amend the notorious Article 301 law which makes it illegal to insult or denigrate the Turkish nation and can land those who do so in jail for up to three years. Justice Minister Mehmet Ali Sahin said his government would shortly be submitting an amendment to Article 301 to end the current ban on making insulting remarks about Turkey. His comment came shortly after the European Union issued its annual report which raised questions about Article 301. “It is not acceptable that writers, journalists, academics, and others… are prosecuted for simply expressing a critical, but completely non violent opinion.”

Article 3012 has been used to prosecute writers and journalists who have made statements about the genocide against Armenians. Ending this type of restriction on free speech will assist Turkey in moving forward regarding dealing with its past history.

Fundamentalist Christians Defame Military Dead

During the past few years, numerous military funerals of those who died in Iraq or Afghanistan have been disturbed by a sect of fundamentalist Christians who regard the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as punishment for the nation’s tolerance of homosexuality. Last year at the funeral of Matthew Snyder these tormented souls who bring their children to observe demonstrations, interrupted the funeral with shouts and signs like, “Thank God For Dead Soldiers.” Albert Snyder, father of the dead Marine, is suing the sect. He is still angry at comments during his son’s funeral that his son was supporting “Roman Catholic monstrosity” and that he was fighting for the “United Stats of Sodomy.” Church members assert their only goal is alerting America to its moral decay and among the signs they displayed were “Semper Si Fags.”

This case raises critical questions as to the meaning of free speech. Are vulgar and shocking statements protected by the First Amendment? What are, if any, limits to protection of free speech under the Bill of Rights? Snyder’s father claims his son was not fighting for “hate speech,” but who decides what is or isn’t “hate speech?” It is interesting that Rush Limbaugh will pontificate about liberals defaming the military, one can only wonder if he feels as emotional about fundamentalist Christian insults of our fighting men?