Saturday, February 11, 2006

The Freedom to Insult

I have to give credit where credit is due. In light of recent Muslim uprisings over cartoon caricatures of Mohammed, Loose Cannon (Is Freedom From Offense a Right?) stood on the side of freedom to express one's viewpoints, even if they are rude and insulting. She writes:

"....liberty and freedom of speech entail putting up with the sometimes offensive. For Catholics like me, the offender may be something like "Piss Christ," photographer Andres Serrano's artifact that consisted of the suspension of a crucifix in the artist's own urine. I may (and did) shout bloody murder about this. I complained bitterly. I wish Serrano had used his talents in a different way. But I do not have the right to repress this, however odious it is. There is no right not to be offended. The distinct possibility that one will, from time to time, be offended is part of the price of liberty".

This followed from an earlier post in which she addressed the Vatican's comments on the subject:

The Vatican has decried both the cartoons that started the rioting and the riots themselves. The Vatican says that freedom of speech "cannot imply the right to offend the religious sentiments of believers."Nope. Freedom of speech means just that--that you can say offensive things.

I'll take this at face value and say "Amen, Sister". The Vatican was completely wrong about limitations on the right to offend religious sentiments. No doubt Kent Hovind, Carl Baugh and a host of creationists think we in the scientific community "offend their religious sentiments" by arguing that humans evolved over millions of years and were not specially created.

However, there remains a small red flag waving in the far recesses of my mind. Charlotte still occasionally uses the term blasphemy in contexts that would lead one to question how far she might favor advocating some manner of legal constraint on the right to critique religious belief. She's also very magnanimous about free speech rights when Muslim religion is the one being blasphemed. I'd be curious to hear her response if the world media were to start giving lots of attention to the argument that the Virgin Birth story is based on a poor interpretation of Old Testament documents and isn't really what Isaiah was talking about.

So for now I'll give her the kudos...but continue to keep my eyes open.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Keep up the good work » » »