Archive for the ‘free speech’ Category

Respect My Religion, Infidels

January 4, 2008

I’m with Eugene Volokh: this UN resolution (if that link doesn’t work, try this one) is… pretty bad. Professor Volokh doesn’t specifically mention a provision (point 10) I find particularly obnoxious:

[The General Assembly] Emphasizes that everyone has the right to freedom of expression, which should be exercised with responsibility and may therefore be subject to limitations as provided by law and necessary for respect of the rights or reputations of others, protection of national security or of public order, public health or morals and respect for religions and beliefs;

I for one do not want legal restrictions on my freedom of expression, especially for the protection of public morals. Fortunately, since this is just a UN General Assembly resolution mostly made of pap, I imagine it will have no actual effect.

Now I’m all for respecting other people’s religions–no, wait, I’m not! I want the right to make fun of other people’s religions, especially if they are, for example, Scientologists or Madonna-style pseudo-Kabbalists (and by all means, make fun of my religion too, if you can figure out what it is. I can’t!). What I am all for is allowing people to practice whatever religion they want, no matter how stupid, as long as it doesn’t involve violence and general infringement of people’s rights (what rights are those? TBD, but to include, I don’t know, the right not to be stoned to death for dishonoring your family by getting raped).

No one has a right not to be offended, about religion or anything else. Yes, the world would be a better place if everyone respected everyone else, and lived by the rule, “Don’t be a jerk.” But that’s not going to happen, and no amount of laws–let alone UN resolutions–will make it so. In the real world, we often can only make progress by pissing each other off, and that’s OK. If the UN really wants to make us all more understanding and tolerant of each other (not the real motivation behind this resolution, I think; see below), then it should encourage free and open discussion, not legislate (or whatever the UN does) what we can discuss.

Note that this resolution was pushed by Pervez Musharraf, perhaps in an effort to get some political mileage out of that Danish cartoon fiasco. I guess that didn’t work out so well.