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Under the new British law, an evangelical Christian also was fined for holding up a sign that read “Stop Homosexuality, Stop Lesbianism.” But he was lucky.

A human rights tribunal in Canada imposed a lifetime ban on sermonizing about homosexuality on a clergyman who had similarly offended.

A woman protests a speech by Geert Wilders in Australia in 2013. Wilders’s 2008 film ‘Fitna’ interweaved passages from the Quran with clips of jihadist violence.

Dutch legal authorities tried repeatedly, if unsuccessfully, to prosecute Mr. If you denounce a belief as absurd, you are implicitly criticizing the believers as credulous fools.

Christians have to endure explicit denunciations of their faith all the time from such writers as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. If you can’t stand the heat, don’t listen to hellfire sermons from atheists.

The Saturday Essay No Offense: The New Threats to Free Speech The U. and Britain have long considered themselves the standard-bearers for freedom of expression. We said most of the right things about defending freedom of thought and the imagination.

Can this proud tradition survive the idea that ‘hurtful’ speech deserves no protection? 14, 1989, I happened to be on a panel on press freedom for the Columbia Journalism Review when someone in the audience told us of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s religious edict for blasphemy against the British novelist Salman Rushdie. But the death sentence from Iran’s supreme leader seemed unreal—the sending of a thunderbolt from medieval Qom against modern Bloomsbury—and we didn’t treat it with the seriousness that it deserved.

Yale University Press especially distinguished itself by publishing a major study of the controversy in 2009—without the actual drawings. and the European Union have entered into a dialogue in recent years with the 56 states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, which is seeking an international law prohibiting blasphemy.

Governments began to treat those threatened for their opinions almost as harshly as those attacking them. In 2006, Tony Blair’s government passed the Racial and Religious Hatred Act—a kind of “blasphemy lite” law—ostensibly designed to protect all religions against threatening expression but generally understood as intended to limit hostile criticism of Islam. In 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the OIC that, while the First Amendment prevented the U. from prohibiting speech, the administration might still “use some old-fashioned techniques of peer pressure and shaming so that people don’t feel they have the support to do what we abhor.” Admittedly, it is difficult to draw a clear line between criticism of an Islamic belief and an attack on Muslims who believe it.

Surely such things can’t happen in the land of the First Amendment? In recent years, their attacks on free expression in the U. have generally been prompted by a philistine discomfort with provocative art, from the “Sensation” exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum in 1999 to the more recent flap over “The Death of Klinghoffer” at New York’s Metropolitan Opera.

Not in quite the same way, perhaps, but a libel suit brought by the climatologist Michael Mann against the opinion writer Mark Steyn, National Review magazine (with which I am affiliated) and the Competitive Enterprise Institute for their criticism of his temperature projections still poses a chilling threat to free speech and scientific debate. In Britain, the sitting Tory home secretary, Theresa May, long resisted efforts to reform a catchall law regulating speech that the police have enforced with extraordinary zeal and no sense of proportion.

Even if the case is ultimately resolved in favor of Mr. These police actions include arresting a protester for asking a policeman “Is your horse gay?

Mann’s critics, they will have suffered a considerable loss in time and money. ”; prosecuting a drunken soccer fan who, from his sofa, attacked a player in a racist tweet; summoning a youngster to appear in court for a placard describing Scientology as a cult; and arresting a Muslim demonstrator for burning a Remembrance Poppy.

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