International Blasphemy: The Free World Bars Free Speech

stone-1Here my column in Sunday’s Washington Post on the increasing prosecutions in the West for insulting religion. The rise of international blasphemy prosecutions (and the proposal of the international criminalization of blasphemy) has sacrificed free speech in the name of free exercise.

For years, the Western world has listened aghast to stories out of Iran, Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern nations of citizens being imprisoned or executed for questioning or offending Islam. Even the most seemingly minor infractions elicit draconian punishments. Late last year, two Afghan journalists were sentenced to prison for blasphemy because they translated the Koran into a Farsi dialect that Afghans can read. In Jordan, a poet was arrested for incorporating Koranic verses into his work. And last week, an Egyptian court banned a magazine for running a similar poem.

But now an equally troubling trend is developing in the West. Ever since 2006, when Muslims worldwide rioted over newspaper cartoons picturing the prophet Muhammad, Western countries, too, have been prosecuting more individuals for criticizing religion. The “Free World,” it appears, may be losing faith in free speech.

Among the new blasphemers is legendary French actress Brigitte Bardot, who was convicted last June of “inciting religious hatred” for a letter she wrote in 2006 to then-Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, saying that Muslims were ruining France. It was her fourth criminal citation for expressing intolerant views of Muslims and homosexuals. Other Western countries, including Canada and Britain, are also cracking down on religious critics.

Emblematic of the assault is the effort to pass an international ban on religious defamation supported by United Nations General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann. Brockmann is a suspended Roman Catholic priest who served as Nicaragua’s foreign minister in the 1980s under the Sandinista regime, the socialist government that had a penchant for crushing civil liberties before it was tossed out of power in 1990. Since then, Brockmann has literally embraced such free-speech-loving figures as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whom he wrapped in a bear hug at the U.N. last year.

The U.N. resolution, which has been introduced for the past couple of years, is backed by countries such as Saudi Arabia, one of the most repressive nations when it comes to the free exercise of religion. Blasphemers there are frequently executed. Most recently, the government arrested author Hamoud Bin Saleh simply for writing about his conversion to Christianity.

While it hasn’t gone so far as to support the U.N. resolution, the West is prosecuting “religious hatred” cases under anti-discrimination and hate-crime laws. British citizens can be arrested and prosecuted under the 2006 Racial and Religious Hatred Act, which makes it a crime to “abuse” religion. In 2008, a 15-year-old boy was arrested for holding up a sign reading “Scientology is not a religion, it is a dangerous cult” outside the organization’s London headquarters. Earlier this year, the British police issued a public warning that insulting Scientology would now be treated as a crime.

No question, the subjects of such prosecutions are often anti-religious — especially anti-Muslim — and intolerant. Consider far-right Austrian legislator Susanne Winter. She recently denounced Mohammad as a pedophile for his marriage to 6-year-old Aisha, which was consummated when she was 9. Winter also suggested that Muslim men should commit bestiality rather than have sex with children. Under an Austrian law criminalizing “degradation of religious doctrines,” the 51-year-old politician was sentenced in January to a fine of 24,000 euros ($31,000) and a three-month suspended prison term.

But it is the speech, not the speaker, that’s at issue. As insulting and misinformed as views like Winter’s may be, free speech is not limited to non-offensive subjects. The purpose of free speech is to be able to challenge widely held views.

Yet there is a stream of cases similar to Winter’s coming out of various countries:

In May 2008, Dutch prosecutors arrested cartoonist Gregorius Nekschot for insulting Christians and Muslims with a cartoon that caricatured a Christian fundamentalist and a Muslim fundamentalist as zombies who meet at an anti-gay rally and want to marry.

Last September, Italian prosecutors launched an investigation of comedian Sabina Guzzanti for joking about Pope Benedict VXI. “In 20 years, [he] will be dead and will end up in hell, tormented by queer demons, and very active ones,” she said at a rally.

In February, Rowan Laxton, an aide to British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, was arrested for “inciting religious hatred” when, watching news reports of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza while exercising at his gym, he allegedly shouted obscenities about Israelis and Jews at the television.

Also in February, Britain barred controversial Dutch politician Geert Wilders from entry because of his film “Fitna,” which describes the Koran as a “fascist” book and Islam as a violent religion. Wilders was declared a “threat to public policy, public security or public health.”

And in India, authorities arrested the editor and publisher of the newspaper the Statesman for running an article by British journalist Johann Hari in which he wrote, “I don’t respect the idea that we should follow a ‘Prophet’ who at the age of 53 had sex with a 9-year-old girl, and ordered the murder of whole villages of Jews because they wouldn’t follow him.” In India, it is a crime to “outrage religious feelings.”

History has shown that once governments begin to police speech, they find ever more of it to combat. Countries such as Canada, England and France have prosecuted speakers and journalists for criticizing homosexuals and other groups. It’s the ultimate irony: free speech curtailed for the sake of a pluralistic society.

Even countries that the United States has helped liberate have joined the assault on free speech, rejecting the core values of our First Amendment. Afghan journalist Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh was sentenced to death under Sharia law last year just for downloading Internet material on the role of women in Islamic societies that authorities judged to be blasphemous. The provincial deputy attorney general, Hafizullah Khaliqyar, has been quoted as saying: “Journalists are supporting Kambakhsh. I will arrest any journalist trying to support him after this.”

Not only does this trend threaten free speech, freedom of association and a free press, it even undermines free exercise of religion. Challenging the beliefs of other faiths can be part of that exercise. Countries such as Saudi Arabia don’t prosecute blasphemers to protect the exercise of all religions but to protect one religion.

Religious orthodoxy has always lived in tension with free speech. Yet Western ideals are based on the premise that free speech contains its own protection: Good speech ultimately prevails over bad. There’s no blasphemy among free nations, only orthodoxy and those who seek to challenge it.

After years of international scorn, the United States can claim the high ground by supporting the right of all to speak openly about religion. Otherwise, free speech in the West could die with hope of little more than a requiem Mass.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University.

Washington Post Sunday, April 12, 2009

45 thoughts on “International Blasphemy: The Free World Bars Free Speech

  1. That’s a great column Jonathan. I’m glad you did not shirk from citing some of the most hateful, ignorant speech that would offend any thinking person. Yet, you forcefully made the point that it is speech, not the speaker that is worthy of our protection. Ending with examples of the abuses which naturally follow from the restriction of speech helps people understand why this protection is so important. Religion has been wielded like a club to repress women, children,men, sexuality, thought and speech. It is central to every major society. If it is not open to question then that society is not free. Great job!

  2. Wait wait.

    did I not read that the courts are upholding people right to curse? So if you curse and use it in the name of religion, Does that make it protected speech? Or do you still need a condom?

  3. I can only answer the Free Speech dilemma this presents for me personally, but I suspect mine is not a unique viewpoint on this subject.

    Anyone attempting to silence me on any topic let alone religion has zero chance absent a compelling logic based argument and it’d better be pretty damn compelling. Violence or attempts at violence will only make me fight harder and dirtier. The only time I will self-censure is when I feel an ethical obligation to do so (e.g. I would not purposefully hurt a child’s feelings). No legal sanction or religious restriction or any other criteria will stop me if I feel strongly that something needs to be said.

    Ridiculous laws deserve to be broken. You listening, UK? France? The U.N.?

    Your solution to an intolerant religious practice is to quash MY human rights?

    Well screw that and screw you.

    You don’t like what I have to say? Don’t listen. The corollary to Free Speech is the Freedom to Ignore. Grow the Hell up. This means you too, Islamic Fundamentalists. And your Christian, Jewish and Hindu Fundamentalists counterparts as well. And any other thin skinned jackasses who wants to impose their religious belief as superior over human rights – mine or anyone else’s.

    In the mean time, I’ll be sitting under this tree with my good friend and mentor Mr. Jefferson. We’ll be discussing the best way to cut down a diseased tree.

  4. Budda,

    You better make sure that the tree that you are going to cut down is not protected or that fertilizer or the lumber industry does not complain or that tree hugger is not present when you are discussing that right.

    Also make sure that it is your’s to cut down or to dispose of some other way. Putting salt on your side of the property line is an effective solution, but that takes long range stragety.

  5. It’s become too easy to breed. As a species we are certainly getting dumber. Fuck religeon. There’s not really a Hogwarts’s Academy either.

    And still, I have to spend this afternoon filling plastic eggs with jelly beans and little Power-Ranger dudes, because my wife, the atheist, insists.

  6. Article: “Consider far-right Austrian legislator Susanne Winter. She recently denounced Mohammad as a pedophile for his marriage to 6-year-old Aisha, which was consummated when she was 9. …
    But it is the speech, not the speaker, that’s at issue. As insulting and misinformed as views like Winter’s may be, free speech is not limited to non-offensive subjects …”

    I must respectfully disagree: in what enlightened country or culture would having sex with 9 year old children not be considered child sexual abuse? That it’s allowed under the color of religion does not change the nature of the act as one of victimization of the child. There is a difference between child sexual abuse and pedophilia, granted, but the effect I’m sure is lost on the 9 year old.

    That Ms. Winter is on the far right of the political spectrum doesn’t make this particular statement more than technically misinformed; would the insult have been less if she had said Mohammad was a child sexual abuser even if that statement would have been more technically appropriate? The insult may have been her suggestion to engage in bestiality rather than child abuse.

    Article: (Ms.Winter) “…the 51-year-old politician was sentenced in January to a fine of 24,000 euros ($31,000) and a three-month suspended prison term.”

    In any event, I do agree that the propensity of government to criminalize and punish speech is a dangerous trend and is indicative of a degradation of civil and human rights.

  7. Liberal values are under attack in Europe as well. God help us. I’ve been worried about the state of affairs over there (not to mention here) for a while. In Europe, Christian and Muslim conservatives seem so pissed, and liberal politicians seem so spineless. Liberalism is truly getting hit from all sides: from conservatives who use government to quash dissent and to protect small minds from impure speech, and from liberals who, in the interest of fighting intolerance, tolerate fascism. On the other hand, I was heartened to hear a story on Iraqi refugees in Sweden yesterday on NPR. In a country with one of the highest percentages of atheists/agnostics, it seems that refugees from the Arab world will find a warm welcome and be grateful for a new life of peace.

  8. Seamus:

    “It’s become too easy to breed. As a species we are certainly getting dumber.”

    Seamus,

    Buck v. Bell is still good law.

    Mr. Justice HOLMES:

    “We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the State for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be such by those concerned, in order to prevent our being swamped with incompetence. It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes. Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11 , 25 S. Ct. 358, 3 Ann. Cas. 765. Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” BUCK v. BELL, 274 U.S. 200 (1927)

    http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=US&vol=274&invol=200

  9. I’ve never met a slippery slope I didn’t like ;-) so why stop there Bob? There are manifestly a wealth of imbeciles all around us, even occupying positions of responsibility and high status. I say we round them all up, sterilize them and turn them into subsistence workers; to pick our crops, tend our lawns, nanny our kids, do our janitor work etc. They could be kept in groups and rented out by the day or week. Maybe even set it up so the rest of us could lease one (or more) for long term in exchange for an agreement to house and feed them in lieu of actually paying them. Yea’ that’s the ticket! And the benefit wouldn’t end there. It would probably depress the number of illegal aliens coming here to do those jobs and put a big dent in that ‘problem’.

    I assume Bob, that your comment was a bit of learned snark for Seamus and I’m just piling on. On the other hand I’m willing to argue the point ;-)

  10. Seamus, “And still, I have to spend this afternoon filling plastic eggs with jelly beans and little Power-Ranger dudes, because my wife, the atheist, insists.”

    That’s not religion, that’s sexual politics and merchandising. To which we are all slaves- differences being only in the matter of degree ;-) Even I bought the better-half an Easter treat and I too am atheist. ;-)

  11. JT,
    Wonderful and necessary column. The problem with abridging speech always comes down to the perspective of the particular censor. In almost all instances the subsitution of what particular people consider to be societal norms, for one’s right to express an opinion, ends badly for all. Galileo anyone?

  12. Some of the British examples aren’t, er, strictly accurate.

    The boy who was arrested by over-zealous police for displaying a placard reading “Scientology is not a religion, it is a dangerous cult” was an example of police inventing law, not of the law itself. As the Crown Prosecution Service said when the case was referred to them, “In consultation with the City of London police, we were asked whether the sign, which read ‘Scientology is not a religion it is a dangerous cult’, was abusive or insulting. Our advice is that it is not abusive or insulting and there is no offensiveness, as opposed to criticism, neither in the idea expressed nor in the mode of expression. No action will be taken against the individual.” See http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/may/23/religion . The underlying problem may be that elements of the London police are just a little too close to Scientology.

    Again, Rowan Laxton was arrested after (allegedly) shouting “fucking Israelis, fucking Jews” and that Israelis should be “wiped off the face of the earth” in a crowded room in spite of remonstrances to pipe down. In American terms, that’s fighting talk, and it doesn’t have much to do with either freedom of speech or freedom of religion.

    The distinction between freedom of speech and freedom to insult and provoke is real; note the aggressive and violent tone of Buddha-is-Laughing’s confusion above.

  13. As you will quickly realize if you continue to read buddha’s post’s are that he “speaks loudly and carries a small stick”.

  14. I have no confusion, sport. Saudi Arabia is our enemy and the UK, France and the UN have shown a great willingness to bend over for Sharia and Saudis.

    Freedom to Insult goes right along with Freedom of Speech, asshat, just like the Freedom to Ignore. You don’t like it? Then you don’t understand the nature of the right itself. Just because you call your chosen God X, you can curtail mine or other’s freedoms because it “offends” you? Not hardly. You clearly have no idea what you are talking about.

    If you don’t like my tone or my words, you can also go screw yourself. Or you could be an adult and ignore it. Freedom of Speech comes at a price. The risk of being offended is part and parcel of that price. If your God of Choice doesn’t like it, tell him to call me. I’ll be glad to tell him/her/it to stuff it too. If he/she/it had wanted me to be silent I would have been born deaf, mute and have no fingers to type with. You a god? No? Didn’t think so. So why the arrogance to think you can speak for a god? What this narrows down to is YOU don’t like what I say. Tough shit, that. Exercise your freedom to ignore me if you don’t like it, but you want to silence me instead? You think the secular civil law of the U.S. should bend over for Sharia? Those are fighting words of the highest caliber. Your insistence that someone’s religion gives them trump rights to my civil rights are certainly fighting words. Keep your God to yourself and there won’t be a fight. How about that? But I suppose that solution is just too simple and pragmatic for a zealot. That’s aggression. I fight defensively. It’s my training as a martial artist and my philosophical beliefs about aggression. But fight I will for my rights. If you want the government to silence me to keep you from being offended, good luck on that. If you personally want to silence me, you better bring a lot of help and just go ahead and plan on killing me. As long as I draw breath I’ll say whatever I damn well please. If any of this offends you or hurts your feelings, I don’t care.

    Welcome to Freedom of Speech.

    Tell us again how Islam deserves special treatment that allows them to be aggressive and repressive to my civil rights and liberty. Then tell us why We the People should allow grown men to marry children. Or that women shouldn’t be allowed to dress a certain way or vote or drive or hold jobs. Or that when rape occurs it’s appropriate to punish the victim. Or that those who refuse to follow Mohamed should be killed for their apostasy. Because that is the next step in your logic if were avoiding offense – adopting Sharia wholesale. The provocation is yours, Fundie. You may see the word “secular” and find it offensive, but our secular government was set up that way on purpose and with much forethought to the historical abuses of religion and religious organizations. Aggression begets aggression, causal agitator, and religion has almost always been used by men to justify killing other men. That’s aggression. A justification rolled up into one little black book being misused by myopic and mentally defective men wanting to kill and steal in the name of God – a concept that by definition is beyond human understanding. Oh yeah, that’s divine alright. Divinely stupid. Most certainly it is not the proper use of religion which is to enlighten and better all our lives. That is what the core of ALL religion is about and would be only about absent the Earthly manipulation of men trying to dominate others instead of lifting them up. Moderates of all religion know this is true. But that’s not enough for your type, is it? You want to pee on your territory like a dog, not help others like a real man does. Then you want to hide behind the skirts of your belief. Your aggression is advocating that my rights be abridged so you avoid your offense. Any aggression on my part is defensive. You attack my rights by insisting I adopt your religious practice even in part. I’ll fight to the death to defend the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, be it under attack from Islam (or any religion) or by corrupt members of our own government. But if you don’t like what I say, that’d be your problem, sport.

  15. Troll bait,

    It’s not the size of the stick, it’s how you use the pointed end. Unlike your use of your pointed end to keep your head firmly up your ass, I know how to use my tools.

  16. Finally, I value Buddha’s post, not all but most. Sometimes I think you are a conservative just waiting to be hatched. Needless to say, at times buddha you display flashes of true brilliance. In fact, even when I don’t agree with you or your fellow bloggers you give many something to ponder. At times you come on just a wee bit too strong buddha, that’s why you raise the ire of some bloggers. Remember though religion like our government is not a Democracy, nor a Republic. Happy Easter all!

  17. Buddha, you need to tone down the “me against the world” rhetoric. Just because troll man does not approve of your methodology, you don’t have to resort to profanity. Be bigger than that. Get a grip lad!

  18. Silver Surfer,

    I’m a big fan of your work too, especially since you quit working for Galactus. I know I can piss people off. If I am such a mind, I can push a lot of other buttons too. It’s my Power Cosmic. I could have let Troll bait’s comment slide, but what can I say, the switch to decaf is making me cranky. Thank you for the compliments and criticism. Keep riding that wave, O Former Herald. And don’t take any wooden Cosmic Cubes, especially from that Thanos guy.

  19. Buddha, keep up the positive blogging. You have a great deal to share and you present your data in a most congruent and interesting manner. In this world it is nor imperative that we all think alike, but to find value and meaning in the thoughts and ideas of others is where the real learning takes place. Keep up the good work lad! I have a date with Thor and the Sub-Mariner. We’re going out for Chinese. If I can scrounge up a few more super-heroes we might get a better meal. Remember with six you get egg-roll.

  20. (My apologies if this turns out to be a second submission of the same post; I just saw no evidence or notification that my first attempt had got through).

    I’d be interested to hear whether Jonathan or anybody else has anything to say about my post below (which I’ve already posted to The Washington Post, where it will presumably get lost among 260 other comments so far):

    With regard to The Free World Bars Free Speech (April 12, 2009 Washington Post Op-ed by Jonathan Turley ), my personal experience is that my freedom to express my views on religion (partly illustrated below) is primarily limited by the unwillingness of our media to grant them a platform, possibly for fear of offending readers and advertisers, as well as by the possible threat of terrorism (mostly Islamic, but not necessarily only Islamic) to me and anybody associated with me. State prosecution would probably be welcome publicity for me, if it weren’t for the risk of it triggering the afore-mentioned terrorist threats.
    The following is a slightly modified copy of the Group description of my discussion Group ( http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Christianity_As_Unwitting_DevilWorship ):

    ——————————————————- Start of Group Description ———————————-
    We discuss this:

    ‘Christianity is Unwitting DevilWorship, basically because it is literally infinitely evil of God to inflict or allow people to suffer eternal agony in Hell. Other religions and belief systems may also be Unwitting Devil Worship, or be close to being so. It is not self-evident that this is solely due to human folly, rather than the purposes of some quasi-supernatural beings, and there is indeed some inconclusive evidence to support this. None of this should be taken as justifying persecution of religious people, who are mostly misguided but decent people.’ (For more details, see Messages 240 to 261, found at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Christianity_As_Unwitting_DevilWorship/messages/240 ).

    Is the above view correct? What is the evidence referred to above? If it is correct, what are the implications? How, if at all, does it tie in with other topics such as Christian Sex-Hatred, War Cycles in the history of Christendom, questions about Free Will and a possible Afterlife, or the threat of literal Hell-on-earth brought about in the near future by some devilish quasi-super-intelligent machine or person (DevilQuasimp for short), and so on…?

    The hope is that members will discuss all the above primarily from an agnostic perspective (meaning ‘I don’t know whether there is a God or not’), or an atheistic/humanist/free-thinking or similar one, though religious and other people are welcome to try to answer back. It is also hoped that the discussion will be polite, and will confine itself to criticising ideas rather than people, particularly in view of the severity of charges such as Devil Worship. But this cannot be guaranteed, as the group is currently open and unmoderated, so anybody can say whatever they like (subject to Yahoo’s ability to delete postings that they deem unacceptable, if they become aware of them).
    ——————————————————— End of Group Description ———————————-

    The group description contains no explicit reference to Islam, partly because at first I was unclear about the Koranic on Hell, and later because experience taught me that Yahoo might delete the Group if Yahoo thought it offensive to Islam (see below for an example of such an experience). But I do make clear at considerable length that Islam is seemingly also Unwitting Devilworship in about the last quarter of Message 242 ( http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Christianity_As_Unwitting_DevilWorship/message/242 ).

    Please note that many of these messages need to be updated to reflect the evolution of my thought since they were written in 2002, particularly in such above-mentioned areas as trying to reduce the threat of literal Hell-on-earth brought about in the near future by some devilish quasi-super-intelligent machine or person, which I have been calling a DevilQuasimp for short (see especially, among many others, Messages 241, 247, 255, and 273), but which others tend to refer to by the far nicer-sounding name of ‘Technological Singularity’ (see Wikipedia and associated links at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technological_singularity ) . However I’m still understating the risk as I haven’t yet properly written up why advanced civilisations need to studies of the threat of Devilquasimps emerging from relatively primitive worlds such as ours, nor fully spelt out the logic and evidence explaining why ours is likely to be a created sub-universe, and quite likely one of the sort needed for such studies.

    Also please note that the links in my Messages no longer work, as Messages 240 to 261 come from a website of mine deleted by Yahoo, possibly accidentally or possibly as some kind of cleverly unprovable censorship.

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Christianity_As_Unwitting_DevilWorship/message/264 documents on of my experiences of Yahoo Censorship. Nearly two years later I’m still waiting for them to tell me what rule I’m supposed to have broken, tho I now suspect it’s the unwritten rule which says that at Yahoo you can say what you like against Christianity, but do nothing that might oblige Yahoo to try to uphold freedom of expression against Muslim terror. In fairness to Yahoo, I use a penname partly to try to avail of the limited protection it offers me and anybody associated with me from the possibility of being murdered fo so-called blashemy (meaning speaking the truth as I see it). And Yahoo have also done far more to enable me to exercise my freedom of expression than the 50 or so publications (probably including the Washington Post) that seemingly chose to refuse me any kind of platform for my views on Christianity in 2002; and I somehow doubt if anything has changed since.

  21. A point seemingly not made in Jonathan’s post, and perhaps not made sufficiently clearly in my previous comment, is that anybody charged under Incitement to Religious Hatred laws in places like ‘free’ Britain probably only risks a fairly minor punishment upon conviction if the offence is against Christians, Buddhists, Jews, etc. But if it’s against Muslims, he/she may well in practice be risking the death penalty for him/her (and possibly also anybody associated with him/her), whether convicted or not. Or he/she may reasonably fear that that is what’s being risked, which in practice may silence him/her even if the fear turns out to be mistaken. And the resources of the State are then available to remove whatever protection the anonymity of a pen-name may offer, by finding out the person’s real name so as to publicly charge him/her under that name.

  22. ESPECIALLY INTERESTING IMMEDIATELY AFTER OBAMA GOES OVERSEAS AND DECLARES THE UNITED STATES TO NOT BE A CHRISTIAN NATION, BUT A NATION OF “CITIZENS”.

    I found this very interesting.
    Do you know the Preamble for your state? . .

    Be sure to read the message in red at the bottom!

    Alabama 1901, Preamble
    We the people of the State of Alabama , invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God, do ordain and establish the following Constitution.
    Alaska 1956, Preamble We, the people of Alaska , grateful to God and to those who founded our nation and pioneered this great land.
    Arizona 1911, Preamble We, the people of the State of Arizona , grateful to Almighty God for our liberties, do ordain this Constitution…
    Arkansas 1874, Preamble We, the people of the State of Arkansas , grateful to Almighty God for the privilege of choosing our own form of government…
    California 1879, Preamble We, the People of the State of California , grateful to Almighty God for our freedom…
    Colorado 1876, Preamble We, the people of Colorado , with profound reverence for the Supreme Ruler of Universe…
    Connecticut 1818, Preamble. The People of Connecticut, acknowledging with gratitude the good Providence of God in permitting them to enjoy.
    Delaware 1897, Preamble Through Divine Goodness all men have, by nature, the rights of worshipping and serving their Creator according to the dictates of their consciences.
    Florida 1885, Preamble We, the people of the State of Florida , grateful to Almighty God for our constitutional liberty, establish this Constitution….
    Georgia 1777, Preamble We, the people of Georgia , relying upon protection and guidance of Almighty God, do ordain and establish this Constitution…
    Hawaii 1959, Preamble We , the people of Hawaii , Grateful for Divine Guidance …. Establish this Constitution.
    Idaho 1889, Preamble We, the people of the State of Idaho , grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, to secure its blessings.
    Illinois 1870, Preamble We, the people of the State of Illinois, grateful to Almighty God for the civil , political and religious liberty which He hath so long permitted us to enjoy and looking to Him for a blessing on our endeavors.
    Indiana 1851, Preamble We, the People of the State of Indiana , grateful to Almighty God for the free exercise of the right to choose our form of government.
    Iowa 1857, Preamble We, the People of the St ate of Iowa , grateful to the Supreme Being for the blessings hitherto enjoyed, and feeling our dependence on Him for a continuation of these blessings, establish this Constitution.
    Kansas 1859, Preamble We, the people of Kansas , grateful to Almighty God for our civil and religious privileges establish this Constitution.
    Kentucky 1891, Preamble.. We, the people of the Commonwealth are grateful to Almighty God for the civil, political and religious liberties..
    Louisiana 1921, Preamble We, the people of the State of Louisiana , grateful to Almighty God for the civil, political and religious liberties we enjoy.
    Maine 1820, Preamble We the People of Maine acknowledging with grateful hearts the goodness of the Sovereign Ruler of the Universe in affording us an opportunity .. And imploring His aid and direction.
    Maryland 1776, Preamble We, the people of the state of Maryland , grateful to Almighty God for our civil and religious liberty…
    Massachusetts 1780, Preamble We…the people of Massachusetts, acknowledging with grateful hearts, the goodness of the Great Legislator of the Universe In the course of His Providence, an opportunity and devoutly imploring His direction
    Michigan 1908, Preamble. We, the people of the State of Michigan , grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of freedom, establish this Constitution.
    Minnesota, 1857, Preamble We, the people of the State of Minnesota, grateful to God for our civil and religious liberty, and desiring to perpetuate its blessings:
    Mississippi 1890, Preamble We, the people of Mississippi in convention assembled, grateful to Almighty God, and invoking His blessing on our work.
    Missouri 1845, Preamble We, the people of Missouri , with profound reverence for the Supreme Ruler of the Universe, and grateful for His goodness . Establish this Constitution…
    Montana 1889, Preamble. We, the people of Montana , grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of liberty establish this Constitution ..
    Nebraska 1875, Preamble We, the people, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom . Establish this Constitution.
    Nevada 1864, Preamble We the people of the State of Nevada , grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, establish this Constitution…
    New Hampshire 1792, Part I. Art. I. Sec. V Every individual has a natural and unalienable right to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience.
    New Jersey 1844, Preamble We, the people of the State of New Jersey, grateful to Almighty God for civil and religious liberty which He hath so long permitted us to enjoy, and looking to Him for a blessing on our endeavors.
    New Mexico 1911, Preamble We, the People of New Mexico, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of liberty.
    New York 1846, Preamble We, the people of the State of New York , grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to secure its blessings.
    North Carolina 1868, Preamble We the people of the State of North Carolina, grateful to Almighty God, the Sovereign Ruler of Nations, for our civil, political, and religious liberties, and acknowledging our dependence upon Him for the continuance of those…
    North Dakota 1889, Preamble We , the people of North Dakota , grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of civil and religious liberty, do ordain…
    Ohio 1852, Preamble We the people of the state of Ohio , grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, to secure its blessings and to promote our common.
    Oklahoma 1907, Preamble Invoking the guidance of Almighty God, in order to secure and perpetuate the blessings of liberty, establish this
    Oregon 1857, Bill of Rights, Article I Section 2. All men shall be secure in the Natural right, to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their consciences
    Pennsylvania 1776, Preamble We, the people of Pennsylvania, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of civil and religious liberty, and humbly invoking His guidance….
    Rhode Island 1842, Preamble. We the People of the State of Rhode Island grateful to Almighty God for the civil and religious liberty which He hath so long permitted us to enjoy, and looking to Him for a blessing…
    South Carolina , 1778, Preamble We, the people of he State of South Carolina grateful to God for our liberties, do ordain and establish this Constitution.
    South Dakota 1889, Preamble We, the people of South Dakota , grateful to Almighty God for our civil and religious liberties .
    Tennessee 1796, Art. XI..III. That all men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their conscience…
    Texas 1845, Preamble We the People of the Republic of Texas , acknowledging, with gratitude, the grace and beneficence of God.
    Utah 1896, Preamble Grateful to Almighty God for life and liberty, we establish this Constitution.
    Vermont 1777, Preamble Whereas all government ought to enable the individuals who compose it to enjoy their natural rights, and other blessings which the Author of Existence has bestowed on man .
    Virginia 1776, Bill of Rights, XVI Religion, or the Duty which we owe our Creator can be directed only by Reason and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian Forbearance, Love and Charity towards each other
    Washington 1889, Preamble We the People of the State of Washington, grateful to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe for our liberties, do ordain this Constitution
    West Virginia 1872, Preamble Since through Divine Providence we enjoy the blessings of civil, political and religious liberty, we, the people of West Virginia reaffirm our faith in and constant reliance upon God …
    Wisconsin 1848, Preamble We, the people of Wisconsin, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, domestic tranquility…
    Wyoming 1890, Preamble We, the people of the State of Wyoming , grateful to God for our civil, political, and religious liberties, establish this Constitution…

    After reviewing acknowledgments of God from all 50 state constitutions, one is faced with the prospect that maybe, the ACLU and the out-of-control federal courts are wrong! If you found this to be ‘Food for thought’ send to as many as you think will be enlightened as I hope you were.

    (Please note that at no time is anyone told that they MUST worship God.)

    GOD BLESS AMERICA

    GOD BLESS AMERICA
    =

  23. Winston Churchill warned that Islam was a very serious threat to Western Civilization. Look up his quotes on Islam. Unfortunately, modern politicians have adopted a policy of appeasement and are submitting to Islam. Islam means ‘submit’. It is the ideology of submission. We are in deep trouble and I fear for the future. If you understood the belief system and ideology then you too would also fear for the future. Put your trust in Churchill and not in any modern politician.

  24. EXCUSE ME??

    In what way is the characterization of Mohammed as one having sex with a 9-year old child “misinformed”????

    It happens to be true, ACCORDING TO ISLAMIC SOURCES THEMSELVES!
    (In particular the hadith collections of Bukhari, sahih Muslim, and many others)

    It might well be “insulting” to denounce Mohammad as a “pedophile”, about as insulting as denouncing any other pedophile for being a pedophile.

    The fact of the matter is that that charge happens to be JUSTIFIED, and it is therefore totally irrelevant if Muslims become “insulted” by it.

    Instead, why don’t they become decent individuals by developing shame towards their misguided reverence towards Mohammad?

  25. Looks like it’s time to start killing all religitards and introduce them to the figureheads they UNTHINKINGLY believe in.

  26. (It’s now June 6th. I first sent this post on April 28, and when it didn’t appear after an hour or so, I sent it again to be sure. Over a week later it still hasn’t appeared, and I’ve been given no explanation for why not. I hope there’s no censorship being applied in this supposed bastion of Free Speech).

    Anybody reading my two previous posts in this thread (April 13 and April 15) would immediately realise that I am no fan of Islam (or Christianity for that matter).

    But I feel somebody here ought to take issue with one line in AGN’s post of April 30, 2009 (‘Instead, why don’t they become decent individuals by developing shame towards their misguided reverence towards Mohammad?’), and with the whole of Phil E.Drifter’s post of May 12, 2009 (‘Looks like it’s time to start killing all religitards and introduce them to the figureheads they UNTHINKINGLY believe in.’).

    AGN first. Most Muslims don’t have to become decent individuals, because they already are decent individuals, in spite of their deeply misguided and often deeply unpleasant religious views. Many (and perhaps most or even all) decent people (not just Muslims) seem to have deeply misguided and deeply unpleasant views about something or other (and many people would probably say similar things about some of my own views).

    Less importantly, the pedophile charge is also somewhat dodgy. According to Wikipedia, Shia Muslims don’t accept the hadith collections of Bukhari and sahih Muslim as authoritative because they are mainly based on reports from people who opposed Ali at the time of the Shia – Sunni split. The rest of us have no reason to believe them because they were only collected over 200 years after Muhammad’s death. But many Muslims who accept them interpret them. I’m only familiar with one ot the relevant hadith, in which Aisha says she was betrothed to Muhammad aged 6 and married him aged 9. I’ve heard two Muslim defences: one is that the ages are misreported and that it should be 16 and 19. The other is that consummation is not mentioned and that the marriage was purely a political necessity to ensure tribal and/or religious unity. One could have a long and tedious pseudo-scholarly debate about the validity of such interpretations, but it would be largely beside the point, which is roughly that it is not self-evident that he was a pedophile, and it is not self-evidently perverse of decent Muslims to refuse to accept the charge that he was one. Incidentally, with my apologies for being a bit pedantic, as far as I know pedophilia (spelt paedophilia in British English) is technically the wrong charge, since there is no evidence that his principal sexual orientation was towards children.
    As for Phil E.Drifter, I hope he’s joking (this is not self-evident). If so, he might be well advised to say so explicitly (e.g. by adding something like ‘only joking, of course’) since incitement to murder is a serious crime in most or all jurisdictions, and probably rightly so in my view, and in the view of most defenders of freedom of expression. If it is a joke, it’s not especially funny, and it’s in rather poor taste. Many religious people have been mass-murdered by non-religious people since 1789 (mostly by communist dictatorships, but also by French revolutionaries in the Vendee, etc), usually helped by the non-religious seeing the religious as backward, retarded, etc (which I assume to be the meaning of ‘religitards’ in his post). So joking about it is a little bit like joking about the gassing of Jews or the lynching of blacks. And I might add that the number of ‘backward retarded’ Muslims killed by the ‘advanced civilised’ West, both since 1789 and since 2000, vastly exceeds the number of Westerners killed by Muslims (basically because, as Hilaire Belloc (I think) put it, ‘… we have got / the Gatling gun / and they have not.’).

  27. Hey, if you’re only for free speech when it’s not uncomfortable, you might as well not be for it at all.

  28. Jazzmoose’ s brief post of 1, June 8, 2009 at 1:48 am simply says:

    ‘Hey, if you’re only for free speech when it’s not uncomfortable, you might as well not be for it at all.’

    This post immediately follows a post of mine (of June 6th), and may well be a criticism of my post, though its position could also be pure coincidence, in which case the post may simply be agreeing with Jonathan Turley’s original article. Even in the latter case it may still be mistakenly seen by others as criticism of my post. So I feel I ought to respond on the assumption that it is a criticism of my post, while apologising here in advance if my assumption is mistaken.

    My two earlier posts (of April) show that I am aware that much of my own speech is bound to be uncomfortable to others. My post of June 6th did not express any opposition to freedom of speech, whether comfortable or uncomfortable, except when that speech constituted incitement to murder. I did criticise two other posts, but freedom of speech includes freedom to criticise the speech of others. I fully accept AGN’s right to say what he said, as well as my right to criticise it. This should normally be so self-evident in a forum like this that it never occurred to me to spell it out explicitly in my original post. Phil E.Drifter’s right to post his post seems rather less clear because it is not obvious, at least to me, whether his post is a joke in questionable taste (which he should normally be entitled to post, just as I should be entitled to criticize it), or incitement to murder (which I don’t think anybody has the right to do), or a bit of both, or something in between, or whatever.

    While a few Free Speech Fundamentalists may well insist that Freedom of Speech necessarily requires freedom to incite murder, such Fundamentalists would seem to be rather rare, since I for one have never come across a serious attempt to argue such a case. And indeed it isn’t just a question of incitement to murder, even if the nature of Mr Drifter’s post ensured that only incitement to murder got mentioned in my June 6th post. In practice, whether we realise it or not, all our liberal democratic societies accept a wide variety of restrictions on Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Expression. In the extreme case, unconditional Freedom of Expression would mean any crime was legal, including the deliberate slow agonising extermination of the entire human race, so long as this was the criminal’s way of freely expressing his contempt for his victims. But the Free Speech restrictions we mostly accept also include bans on slander, libel, perjury, conspiracy, divulging of commercial and national security secrets, speech that breeches copyright, incitement to crime (including murder, but not just murder), and who knows what else I haven’t thought of. In practice the whole Freedom of Speech debate necessarily becomes a vast number of complicated ‘where do you draw the line?’ arguments about who draws what line where in what circumstaces and with what safeguards, etc.

    In the cases Jonathan Turley is complaining about, what we mostly have is arguments about where you draw the line on real and/or alleged Incitement to Religious Hatred. I don’t like where this particular line seems increasingly to be drawn, among many other reasons because, as implied in previous posts, I see this line as a threat to me and everybody associated with me. But I don’t expect that unthinking demands by Free Speech Fundamentalists are likely to be a helpful way to fix my problem.

    That said, I’ve spent more time than I feel is useful on this whole topic, so I don’t intend to take any further part in the discussion, unless somebody says something provocative enough to make me change my mind (I hope nobody does).

  29. This subject seems to excite such extreme emotions that most people can’t think about the subject with any degree of sanity.

    Even in the most free of societies there must exist some restrictions on freedom of speech. Is it right to yell fire in a crowded theater?

    Speech can be used as a hate weapon to incite violence against others and to conspire and incite the breaking of many other laws.

    With freedom of speech, there must also be responsible use. Why are some people offended at restricting freedom of speech, and these same people are not offended by using this freedom to incite hate and even murder?

    Do we really want to give people the right to incite riots and to hang “niggers?”

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