Where does freedom of speech start/stop?

Letters to the Editor

Where does freedom of speech start/stop?

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

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Dear Editor,

The beheading of Samuel Patty, a French middle-school teacher, on October 16, 2020 in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, a suburb of Paris, has reignited the issue of the selective application of the concept of freedom of speech.

Before I proceed further, let me express my condolence to the families and loved ones of both the victim and the perpetrator. All life is valuable, regardless of sex, race, religion, or nationality.

Reports in the French media indicate Patty was killed in retaliation for using cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed to teach freedom of speech in his history class. The cartoons are from a set published in January 2015 in the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and are considered sacrilegious and offensive by adherents of Islam. Indeed, the publication of the cartoons in 2015 led to an attack on the magazine and the death of 17 people.

The use of violence, whether by countries, groups, or individuals, to advance positions or remedy perceived wrongs should not be condoned and the action of the perpetrators was rightly condemned.

In the aftermath of Patty's death, the argument is once again advanced that freedom of speech is justification to desecrate, mock, and be sacrilegious towards the religious beliefs of others. This is in stark contrast to the approach taken toward the LGBTQ community.

If a Christian minister of religion or Muslim imam in France dare utter a negative word in relation to the LGBTQ community they run the risk of getting arrested under hate speech legislation.

Freedom of speech does not allow criticism of the LGBTQ community, only criticism, mockery and desecration of religion.

If we are embracing unbridled freedom of speech is it not contradictory to have laws criminalising so-called hate speech? Or is it a case of supporting freedom of speech only when the offence is directed towards religions, institutions, and individuals opposing positions and lifestyles we are championing?

Surely, the proponents of hate speech legislation are not suggesting that only some have the right to exercise freedom of speech, or are they?

Wayne Plummer


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