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Free Speech, R.I.P.


It’s not only Mr. Bean who is attacking Britain’s Home Secretary over his plans to muzzle religious debate in Britain. Even by the rock-bottom standards of the Blair government, however, his defense of the proposed law is remarkably dishonest:

“The offence will not criminalise material that just stirs up ridicule, prejudice, dislike, contempt or anger or which simply causes offence.”

As the minister well knows, the mere existence of this law will give a tool to religious bigots, particularly, I suspect, on the Islamic extreme, to threaten their critics with prosecution. Even if there actually are no prosecutions, the mere threat of litigation (plus the inevitable embarassment, legal expenses and so on) will have a chilling effect on free speech, and if there’s one thing that is needed to combat the superstition and hatred of Muslism extremism., it’s more free speech, not less.

This law should not be passed.


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