We have been following the steady decline of free speech in the West (here and here and here) and we have another interesting case on criminal charges for uttering prohibited thoughts. Germany has long made it a crime to deny the holocaust. Now, controversial British clergyman Richard Williamson has started a trial in Germany on Friday for his denial that the Nazis had systematically murdered millions of Jews.
Williamson, 70, was fined 12,000 euros (16,000 dollars) for comments made on a television interview during a 2008 visit to Germany. In the interview, he alleged that the Nazi gas chambers are a myth and “only 200,000 to 300,000 Jews” had been killed by the Nazis.
He caused a controversy for Pope Benedict XVI, who repealed his excommunication of Williamson.
There is no question that Germany has tried through this law to prevent the resurgence of Nazi propaganda and lies. However, the best way to fight fascism is to allow free speech, not to censor prohibited thoughts and utterances. In this case, Williamson says that he was assured that his interview would only run in Sweden, which allows free speech on the issue. Despite our personal revulsion with such accounts, it is important for civil libertarians to stand with free speech. This trial should not be over the historical fact but free speech. Williamson has a right to speak his mind as to his view of history while the rest of us have a right to denounce those views.
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