Blasphemy Prosecution: Wilders Trial Resumes Over Limits On Free Speech

The hate speech trial of Dutch politician Geert Wilders has resumed today amid some serious questions over the impartiality of the judge who overruled the prosecutors and a trial judge who had decided to drop the case. I have long been a critic of these blasphemy prosecutions, particularly in the West. However, these concerns are even greater in light of the actions of appeals judge Tom Schalken.

Wilders is accused of inciting hatred in his exercise of free speech in venting his anti-Muslim views. As discussed earlier, Wilders’ counsel presented the testimony of Hans Jansen, a retired professor of Arabic and Islamic studies. Jansen recounted how he was approached by Schalken to discuss the case. Jansen testified that he felt Schalken was trying to influence his testimony — a very serious allegation in any country.

The support of President Obama of an international blasphemy resolution remains one of the lowest moments for civil libertarians in the last few years. The West is allowing the gradual erosion of free speech to achieve the appearance of consensus and civility among citizens. It is a Faustian bargain that will cost us dearly as governments expand prosecutions of people who espouse unpopular thoughts.

Source: Times Union

10 thoughts on “Blasphemy Prosecution: Wilders Trial Resumes Over Limits On Free Speech”

  1. The biblical flood PRECEDES the Tower of Babel (by some 400 years). Presumably, the flood would have washed away Babylon had she existed (think: Japan/Tsunami).

    The account of the flood occurs in Genesis chapter 5. The account of Babel occurs in Genesis chapter 11 and according to the chart in the first link below, that is about 400 years AFTER the flood when the earth was wiped clean of human civilization. Babel is an ancient city, that according to the Bible, was probably built by Nimrod, a descendant of Noah.

    In other words, the flood does not occur because of what happens in Babylon since Babylon didn’t exist at the time.

    The flood occurs because all except Noah and his family had become thoroughly corrupt and completely violent continually. And while I I realize that Democrats, libs, leftists, and progressives adore violence and love to promote it on earth like pre-Noahic peoples, I do get it that God didn’t like it and wanted it stopped, even if it meant killing off its perps.

    Anyway. The flood did not occur because humand kind all spoke the same language. And God didn’t destroy most of mankind because he was a big fat intolerant meanie. I believe he destroyed the bulk of it because if he hadn’t the whole human race would have become extinct (because of the continual violence that had engulfed the whole human race).

    Once the flood was over and humankind reestablished, apparently, through the most non-violent strain God could find (Noah and family) they all still had only one language.

    God confounded the universal language of the resulting population descended from Noah only after the flood and after the Tower of Babel (and Babylon) was created.

    The Tower itself suggests centralized power. And, as you might know, centralized power is the most dangerous threat to human life known to mankind (it leads to slavery, oppression, and mass murder).

    Which explains why Democrats are such big advocates of centralized power.

  2. James M., I did a Google search on the keywords in this blog post. I got dozens of hits that describe this as a blasphemy trial, with the ground being that it is hate speech for Wilders to have been publicly critical of a particular religiono or religious group. Admittedly, Wilders does appear to be a nutcase.

    Since I do not read the language and have not seen a translated version of the charges, I can only go by what I read on news sites. Those accounts seem to conflate the charge of hate speech and blasphemy. The news accounts seem to be fairly uniform in calling this a blasphemy trial. It appears that if one engages in over the top criticism of a religions group or person, one might be charged with the strange “crime” of blasphemy. Even more troubling than the charges themselves is the apparent attempt to earwig a witness by a judge. That is a very big breach of judicial ethics, no matter where it takes place, as Professor Turley points out.

  3. OS,
    As usual you hit the nail on the head. To the religious right, you can say whatever you want, as long as you don’t say anything about their religion.

  4. OS,

    As an atheist, I agree with you. However, given the underlying facts of this case, the issue is “hate speech” (which from what I can gather from a quick look at Wikipedia wouldn’t be that out of place on Fox News, much less approach the levels of hate speech we care about here in the U.S.), not blasphemy. From what I can tell the Professor is simply wrong in describing it as a blasphemy prosecution. I’d be interested in hearing why I’m wrong and he’s right.

  5. James M. asks: “Am I missing something or is inciting hatred not remotely the same thing as blasphemy?”


    No. Blasphemy is in the eye of those who would punish others for exercising their right of free speech to criticism a religion or its teachings. Robert Heinlein was right.

    Showing a picture of Mohammad the Prophet (or the equivalent, thereof) is in the eyes of most rational people, not the same as echoing the rhetoric of a David Duke or the Aryan Nation screeds. It is the fanatical religious that get their panties in a wad if someone dares to ask critical questions about their religion. In the not too distant past, they burned people alive for this non-crime. Now, the philosophical descendants of those same religious cretins stone them to death or beat them with canes until they die. Now, who is the hater here?

  6. Am I missing something or is inciting hatred not remotely the same thing as blasphemy?

  7. Isn’t there this tower of bable story in the bible that says as much….

    According to the biblical account, a united humanity of the generations following the Great Flood, speaking a single language and migrating from the east, came to the land of Shinar, where they resolved to build a city with a tower “with its top in the heavens…lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the Earth.” God came down to see what they did and said: “They are one people and have one language, and nothing will be withholden from them which they purpose to do.” So God said, “Come, let us go down and confound their speech.” And so God scattered them upon the face of the Earth, and confused their languages, and they left off building the city, which was called Babel “because God there confounded the language of all the Earth.”(Genesis 11:5-8).


    A mind is a terrible thing to waste…

  8. Some detail from the Times Union article:

    Defense witness Hans Jansen, a retired professor of Arabic and Islamic studies, testified that he had been approached at a private dinner by appeals judge Tom Schalken to discuss the case shortly before the trial was to start. Defense lawyers argue that contact was inappropriate and grounds for dismissing the case.

    Schalken sat on the panel that ordered Wilders’ case to proceed, even after prosecutors had declined to press charges and a trial court had endorsed that decision.

    “Do you think that he (Schalken) tried to influence your testimony?” defense lawyer Bram Moszkowicz asked Jansen.

    “Yes. I think he did,” Jansen answered.

    Moszkowicz is expected to demand the case be dismissed as a result.

    end excerpt

  9. “Jansen testified that he felt Schalken was trying to influence his testimony — a very serious allegation in any country.”

    18 USC § 1512. Tampering with a witness, victim, or an informant

    (d) Whoever intentionally harasses another person and thereby hinders, delays, prevents, or dissuades any person from—(1) attending or testifying in an official proceeding;…. or attempts to do so, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 3 years, or both.

  10. Science fiction writer Robert Heinlein, speaking in the voice of his colorful character, Lazarus Long, wrote:

    Of all the strange “crimes” that human beings have legislated out of nothing, “blasphemy” is the most amazing — with “obscenity” and “indecent exposure” fighting it out for second and third place.

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