Anti-defamation policy infringes on free speech
Battle Creek Enguirer OCTOBER 29, 2009
No one likes to be mocked or insulted. Nonetheless, freedom of speech requires a certain tolerance of offensive remarks. As long as words are not obscene and do not incite imminent public danger, they are allowed under the U.S. Constitution.
Such protections are essential to ensure that Americans can freely express their opinions and beliefs, no matter how unpopular they might be.
So we have to disagree with a resolution being promoted by the Organization of the Islamic Conference. The 56-nation bloc of Islamic countries wants the United Nations Human Rights Council to implement anti-defamation policies regarding religion. Like most folks, we don't like rude remarks about any religion, but trying to banish them would restrict freedom of expression and, ultimately, freedom of religion.
It is important to distinguish between discrimination and defamation. Discrimination involves actions that violate the rights of others, and should be condemned. But defamation is merely the expression of opinions, and does not have a physical impact on the ability of others to function.
The push for an anti-defamation resolution is due, at least in part, to what are viewed by many Muslims as anti-Islamic incidents in recent years, such as the publication in Europe of several cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed.
While we understand that Muslims were insulted, such gestures should not be outlawed. In this country, many people are offended by the burning of the U.S. flag or the use of religious symbols in controversial art projects, yet the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that such expressions must be allowed under the First Amendment.
In trying to determine what constitutes "defamation" of religion, it seems inevitable that someone's opinions will be constrained or silenced. We live in a world where religious beliefs proliferate, and we must allow all to be heard, no matter how repugnant they might be to our own views.