The international trend toward criminalizing any insulting of religion has reached Austria, which has now convicted far-right legislator Susanne Winter for making anti-Muslim statements, including the oft-stated charge that Mohammed was a pedophile for marrying an underaged girl. Winter is an obvious wingnut and her statements obnoxious. However, the first amendment is being sharply curtailed by a movement to criminalize insults to religion, including a United Nations resolution.
The 51-year-old politician was sentenced to a fine of 24,000 euros (31,000 dollars) euros and a suspended prison term of three months. In addition to the Mohammed insult, Winter suggested that Muslim men commit bestiality rather than having relations with underaged girls.
Bestiality seems to be a dominant theme in the Winter house. Her son Michael, a former youth leader in the Freedom Party, was also convicted recently of humiliating religion by suggesting that Turkish Muslims often commit bestiality.
Neither are redeeming characters to be sure. However, free speech demands that all such speech be protected. Popular speech does not need protection. Religion is one of the most important topics of free speech. To criminalize the criticism of religion is an alarming trend around the world.
In the meantime, the Pope has reinstated four bishops who were excommunicated 20 years ago, including British-born Richard Williamson who made a number of statements denying the full extent of the Nazi Holocaust of European Jews.
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