-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger
A press statement issued in the name of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, condemns the attacks on the mission in Benghazi. Also include in the statement is:
The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.
What is deplorable is that nowhere in the statement is a commitment to free speech that goes back to the very beginning of our nation.
Our embassy in Cairo issued a statement saying that it “condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims.” The Constitution is clear, the First Amendment guarantees the right to religious “free exercise.” There is no right protecting religious feelings from getting hurt. There is no right protecting religious beliefs from denigration.
The freedom of speech in this case involves a movie that ridiculed the prophet Mohammed. While it would be reasonable to condemn the movie based on its fallacious arguments, criticizing the movie because it “hurt the feelings” of Muslims is pandering. Don’t hold your breath waiting for Romney to criticize the State Department for pandering to religious sensibilities.
Others have called the movie an “abuse” of the freedom of speech. The movie is an exercise of the freedom of speech and would only rise to an “abuse” if the rights of others have been violated. Since there is no right protecting your feelings from getting hurt, free speech, that only hurts feelings, is protected.
Debate in the marketplace of ideas leads inevitably to the denigration of ideas. If this denigration is valid, it should not be condemned but exalted. As Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. wrote in his dissent in Abrams v. United States:
… the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out. That, at any rate, is the theory of our Constitution.
Those who oppose free speech do so because they fear their own beliefs are incoherent. After a millennia of arguments from the greatest minds, religion is no more coherent today than when it was invented.