Is There a Collision Between Free Speech and Religion?

by Ian Tuttle

“I never thought that defending free speech would ever become a central calling of mine,” says Jacob Mchangama. But Mchangama, a Danish human-rights lawyer, is on the front lines of what he calls “the global battle of values over the relationship between free speech and religion.”

He addresses that relationship in a new 18-minute documentary, Collision!: Free Speech and Freedom of Religion, produced by the Free To Choose Network. “Free speech and freedom of religion are not contradictory, but complementary,” argues Mchangama. “We need one to have the other.” He takes as his ideal Chicago’s North Side, where an advertisement for Indo-Pak United Methodist Church can sit outside an Islamic bookstore. Such peaceful coexistence is in stark contrast to the many collisions between free speech and freedom of religion that his film highlights: the persecution of Baha’is in Iran, Westboro Baptist Church’s funeral protests, the 2006 Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed, and many more.

“In order to secure real tolerance and freedom, it is the right to offend that must be protected and the supposed right not to be offended that must be rejected,” he says. Mchangama makes a compelling case that “free speech and freedom of religion actually reinforce each other. They are two sides of the same coin. They allow the religious believer, the skeptic, and the atheist to live together in peace, and far from threatening religious minorities, they empower them.”

Watch Collision! in its entirety here.


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