Ken, the witty First Amendment champion who blogs at Popehat, had issued an important and meticulously researched review of how blasphemy has been punished around the world in the past 12 months. He introduces his survey, in part, by writing…
“The incendiary film “”The Innocence of Muslims” was merely an unconvincing pretext for a terrorist attack, not the true cause of the attack. Yet the film has spurred new discussions of American free speech exceptionalism, and led some to question whether we should hew to the First Amendment in the face of worldwide demands for an international ban on blasphemy… We should address such views, not ignore them. But as we consider them — as we evaluate whether anti-blasphemy laws will ever be consistent with the modern American values embodied in our First Amendment precedents — we should examine what the competing values truly are. What are the “other values” which other societies believe outweigh free speech? What sorts of things “inflame” people in those societies? If other societies understand free expression differently than we do, how do they understand it? What “international norms” are emerging on blasphemy?”
Finally, he concludes…
“…Anti-blasphemy laws are a tool for religious majorities to suppress religious minorities, and a mechanism for the more powerful to oppress the relatively powerless, and tend to be used in a lawless manner resembling modern witch hunts. That is the norm we are asked to embrace.
It is right and fit that any nation be prepared to examine its own values, and evaluate competing ones. But I feel no qualms whatsoever at rejecting the competing values embodied in that year of blasphemy. Instead, I will stand by the values embodied in the modern interpretation of the First Amendment. When others advocate that America ease protections for free expression to ease international relations or to protect feelings and sensibilities or to move towards some imagined international consensus or to achieve “progress,” I will point to this year and ask: do you truly grasp what values you are promoting, and what values you are abandoning?
Thank-you, Ken, for an important and persuasive brief against the misguided voices who threaten to allow violent religious fanatics to weaken our commitment to a core American value. When you hear people deride the value of blogs, written for no personal gain by passionate and intelligent individuals like Ken, in the limited spare time he has as a practicing attorney and devoted father and husband, show them “A Year of Blasphemy.”
That should shut them up.
But first, you should read it yourself.