To the point, blasphemy laws intrude on the right of free speech and reflect a religious affectation meant to control what others say about theologically based matters. The idea of offending religious sensibilities to the point of punishment is in and of itself disgusting and distasteful, but there are venues where such regulations attempt to control any defamation of religion.

Such censorship goes against the entire concept of free speech and by doing so seeks to control the thoughts, actions and speech of others free from such constraints. In December of 2010, the Organization of the Islamic Conference’s resolution against "defamation of religion" passed in the United Nations General Assembly. Defamation of religion is an issue repeatedly addressed by some member states of the U.N. since 1998. Up to now, the resolution is nonbinding on U.N. member states.

The Pakistani led OIC want the United Nations to recognize "blasphemy" as a principle of international law, thus limiting free speech rights of more than half of the planet’s population. Free speech is on the line as blasphemy laws base themselves on levels of outrage meaning that a simple statement like “God is Not Great,” may offend slightly or outrageously. Such a rule tramples free speech because it is based on emotional response in levels of anger, the variance that may range between 0% offensiveness to 100%, making it difficult if not impossible to measure.

Levels of anger include, annoyance, irritation, aggravation, displeasure, fury, and rage to name just a few. How does one go about selecting the proper level for inflicting punishment? In Ireland blasphemy is defined as any statements that are "grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion," and punishable by a $36,081 fine.

That seems a little harsh for a victimless crime. Hurt feelings, injured egos, and bruised beliefs come with life and living. If the worst thing that ever happens in this world is to have one’s feelings abused, whoever it is should consider themselves fortunate. Although Ireland’s law seems a bit harsh, it is kid stuff when compared with the Pakistani Penal Code.

According to Section 295-C of the Penal Code, “Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to fine.”

Conversely, many of those pushing for such laws feel no conflict when criticizing entire groups of people that actually exist in the flesh and can be offended and angered by “imputation, innuendo, or insinuation.” For instance, “Great Satan and nigger” are terms I find especially offensive, but under the rule of free speech as odious as I find them, I cannot limit the speaker without limiting myself.

For true freedom, it is necessary for tolerance of others views, beliefs or words. Proposed blasphemy laws are not only intrusive to the rights of others rights, they intrude unnecessarily into the lives of others and encourage despotism. Perhaps, in the prosecution of such cases it should be required that the primary stakeholder or master be required to show up as the plaintiff with no proxy’s, stand-ins or substitutes. Any punishment handed out must follow the same rule.

The idea of blasphemy law is not only offensive it is unreasonable and dictatorial in nature. A relic of the Middle Ages, blasphemy laws allows mob rule and political sabotage especially in third world counties. When considering the benefits of free speech vs. blasphemy laws, I am required by reason to side with free speech. Prosecution of thoughts, ideas and speech based on religious doctrine is nothing short of The Inquisition revisited.

Update: According to a World Public Opinion poll 13 or 20 nations support the right to criticize religion. Support for the right to criticize religion was strongest in the United States at 89 percent (and only nine percent in support of government restrictions). Interestingly, one-third of respondents felt that governments "should have the right to fine or imprison people who publicly criticize a religion because such criticism could defame the religion." Of course, the strongest supporters of restrictions on criticism of religions are in Muslim countries. Additionally, those supporting restrictions are among the most impoverished countries in the world.

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Comment by Frankie Dapper on August 4, 2013 at 12:09am

You are talking about me?

The critical question: who is being discussed. Big powerful entities, government, mosque and church or even entertainers or those who knowingly and willingly become public figures are targets. Tougher case for entertainers to prove lible and slander. see ny times v. Sullivan

But when the speaker is comparitively powerful and the target is some historically persecuted ethnic group the first amendment must be examined through a different prism. At least it must under the circumstances in which the speaker is  threatening violence against the ethnic group and harkening back to the  language and imagery of the perpetrators of the genocide.

Be leery of doctrinaire thinking and remember who admonished us about foolish consistency.

Comment by Donald R Barbera on August 2, 2013 at 3:33pm
I believed that the offended one, God, should have to show in courts as the plaintiff, exposé himself to cross examination, pay the court costs and explain why he didn't respond personally instead of letting others speak for him. Of course, that isn't going to happen, but thin skin makes for a painful and miserable life. There plenty of ways to insult someone and one way to make sure is to not react.
Comment by Frankie Dapper on August 2, 2013 at 2:45pm

Well yes, Donald, but an even more narrowly defined category of incitement to riot as explained in earlier posts. 

I am not disagreeing with any of the comments here in terms of the sentiment and the critical nature of first amendment rights. But it is also clear to me that most americans have scant knowledge of constitutional law and that they accept wholesale the liberal mantra. I, myself am mostly a liberal thinker. But there is a level of absurdity in granting protection to racists with a sword and allowing minority victims of historical persecution unprotected. 

We already arrest any individual when they threaten just one person. But when a person threatens an entire ethnic group we should sit idly by....? I think not and when you realize that limitations in expression are already in the fabric of the consitution why would you fail to carve one for these circumstances?

Comment by Donald R Barbera on August 2, 2013 at 2:07pm
I don't think free speech has been curtailed, the cost has come exorbitant. But whose fault is that? 9/11 scared many into thinking it causes no harm to give up that right for a phony deal.
Comment by Donald R Barbera on August 2, 2013 at 2:00pm
Glen, I'm assuming you mean like incitement to riot, which most definitely is a free speech restriction. Times were hard in Sodom and Gamorrah especially for daughters
Comment by Frankie Dapper on August 2, 2013 at 10:14am

Not the only, but one of the ways to promote anarchy is to grant unbridled free speech.

Wouldn't it be cozy if a bloodthirsty gang was permitted to stand outside a father's home and demand the daughter and promise to get her, rape her, sodomize her, impregnate her and make her eat her baby section by section. We would not want to infringe on first amendment rights of the bloodthirsty gang, now would we?

Comment by Donald R Barbera on August 2, 2013 at 8:13am

Great comments! A poll by the World Public Opinion poll shows that 13 or 20 countries polled oppose blasphemy laws. Nearly 90% of US respondents were against blasphemy laws. Mexico came in at 81%, which surprised me.Great Britain came in at 85%. I updated my post to show that information. 

Comment by jay H on August 2, 2013 at 6:20am

Unfortunately the definitions of free speech have been tragically and corrosively eroded here in the US.

The problem with making exceptions for 'good reasons' is that everyone has a 'good reason' why certain things should be censored (offensive to minorities is not a valid exception... and since many religions can be considered minorities, blasphemy would fit real nicely in that definition). The only way to protect speech is a strong limitation on what those in power can do. Without that limitation those in political power will inevitably bend controls to their advantage.

Comment by Frankie Dapper on August 1, 2013 at 9:33pm

Ted, take a look at the us supreme court case Ohio v. Brandenburg. There already is precedent against hate speech. I just think it is too lenient. You two both need to understand more about constitutional law if you want to understand this issue. 

And the context of speech is always relevant. That does not mean that those vested with drafting statutes or deciding the law are being arbitrary. On the contrary, they are applying a standard.

You rightly point out whose ox is being gored. Taliban in its self-interest will impose blasphemy laws protecting Muhammad. And it only makes sense that a true democracy will give the little guy the power to criticize The government or the religious institution. There is a tremendous imbalance in stature and authority between citizen on one hand and gov or church on other. Got to keep the gov. honest by permitting criticism. 

But it is a completely different issue when a citizen is going after a minority group who has already suffered the historic slings and arrows...

Comment by Frankie Dapper on August 1, 2013 at 9:21pm

Jay, at the age of 13 or 14 i would have reacted as you have. You have identified the rationale, usually cited by advocates of unabridged free speech. It resonated with me, still does. But it is not persuasive in this case.

I have not decided that racial epithets are beyond the pale. As I indicated racial epithets are entitled to protection unless part of a scheme to ...

Free speech has limitations and restrictions well in excess of the much bandied fire in the theater. I suggest you read actual first amendment cases decided by US supreme court. 

United States free speech exceptions

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Bill of Rights in theNational Archives

Exceptions to free speech in the United States are limitations on the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech and expression as recognized by the United States Supreme Court. These exceptions have been created over time, based on certain types of speech and expression, and under different contexts. While freedom of speech in the United icle: Commercial speech

Commercial speech occupies a unique role as a free speech exception. While there is no complete exception, legal advocates recognize it as having "diminished protection".[45] For example, false advertising can be punished and misleading advertising may be prohibited.[46] Commercial advertising may be restricted in ways that other speech can't if a substantial governmental interest is advanced, and that restriction supports that interest as well as not being overly broad.[47] This doctrine of limited protection for advertisements is due to a balancing inherent in the policy explanations for the rule, namely that other types of speech (for example, political) are much more important.[48]

Restrictions based on special capacity of Government[edit]

Government as Employer[edit]

The government is not permitted to fire an employee based on the employee's speech if either the speech is on a matter of public concern, the speech is not said as part of that employee's job duties,[49] or the damage caused by the speech is not outweighed by the value of the speech to the employee and public.[50][51] Specifically, speech is "treated as a matter of public concern" by reference to the "content, form, and context of a given statement".[52] The exception with regards to balancing the harm of a statement and the value of the statement (the Pickering test) is done by considering the degree to which the speech either interferes with close working relationships, disrupts the office, or even has the potential to do either.[53]

Government as Regulator of the Airwaves[edit]

Regulations of speech on broadcast radio and television are permissible when they are (1) narrowly tailored and (2) further a substantial government interest.[54] Interests that have been found "substantial" include shielding listeners from supposedly offensive ideas and shielding children from offensive expression. The Supreme Court has limited these rules to traditional broadcasting, refusing an attempt to apply this to the internet.[55]

Government as Educator[edit]

When the Government acts as a Kindergarten through twelfth grade educator, they are allowed to restrict speech in certain instances. The Supreme Court ruled in Tinker v. Des Moines School Dist. (1969) that only when speech "materially and substantially interferes with the requirements of appropriate discipline in the operation of the school".[56] Later court decisions added more situations where restrictions were possible, including student speech about drugs,[57] "vulgar and offensive" language,[58] and school-operated newspapers.[59] The primary basis for the educator-distinction is based on the concept of in loco parentis, the principle that the school functions as parents over the students, thus allowing broader discretion in limiting student speech and expression.[60]

Government as Subsidizer/Speaker[edit]

The most complex special capacity of the government is when it functions, in one way or another, as the Subsidizer of the speech in question.[61] As a general rule, the government can itself say whatever it wants to, even if this "favors one viewpoint over another".[62] But, the government may not impose conditions on how subsidy recipients spend money they get from other sources.[63] If the government is using the speakers to express its own message, it is constitutional.[64] But this analysis changes if the government is trying to encourage a "diversity of private viewsindiscriminately". If it is indiscriminate, then under Legal Services Corp. v. Velazquez (2001), the government must be acting in a viewpoint-neutral way. However, if the government is basing some judgment of "quality" on the views, then only "invidious viewpoint discrimination" is barred.[65]

Government as Regulator of the Bar[edit]

The basic principle behind government's regulation of the bar has greater power to regulate the speech of lawyers.[66] A balancing test is employed when the Court considers attorney speech. This tests weighs the "interest against the State's legitimate interest in regulating the activity in question [with] the interests of the attorney".[67] Thus, while commercial advertising by lawyers is generally protected, rules of professional conduct and ethical guidelines are still permitted.



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