Monday, February 4, 2008

Defending Free Speech Always Has an Edge

It is really uncomfortable to defend free speech, because you often have stand beside those who say things you find personally noxious. And there's always the temptation to label speech you personally find offensive as hate speech so that you can get it outlawed (of course, if I think it's hateful, everyone else must also, right?).

But sometimes it's just exhilarating to tee off on somebody with an idiotic argument.

The Arch-Bishop of Canterbury is upset that Great Britain is scrapping its old blasphemy laws, reports the Telegraph:

New legislation may be needed to protect religious believers from "thoughtless and cruel" attacks if Britain's ancient blasphemy laws are scrapped, the Archbishop of Canterbury said yesterday.

Dr Rowan Williams conceded that the blasphemy offences were flawed and no longer served any purpose, but he questioned whether recently introduced laws banning incitement to religious hatred were an adequate substitute.

The Archbishop said that public debate had become coarsened by powerful people who arrogantly assumed the rightness of their own position and ignored the hurt they caused others, including Muslims and Jews....

In the James Callaghan Memorial lecture, Dr Williams challenged the argument that free speech must always prevail, saying that society had to protect the sensibilities of people who were not in a position to defend themselves.

"It is one thing to deny a sacred point of reference for one's own moral or social policies; it is another to refuse to entertain - or imagine - what it might be for someone else to experience the world differently," he said.

"And behind this is the nagging problem of what happens to a culture in which, systematically, nothing is sacred."

Now I'm Catholic, and I personally bridle at people who want to dismiss my religious beliefs as ignorant or primitive or prejudiced, but--on the other hand--I simply can't resist someone like Harry Haddock on Nation of Shopkeepers who tees off on the good Arch Bishop with both barrels.

I won't excerpt it because it's short, less than the full post would not do it justice, and with his sheer poetry of profanity Harry has won the right to have you visit his blog. Find it here.

Source note: This courtesy the Bloggertarian roundup from my Down-under friends at Thoughts on Freedom.

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