Europeans — They Still Don’t Get It

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On March 30, a Finnish court dismissed charges against two people — a member of Parliament and a bishop of the Lutheran church — who had been charged with “hate speech” for expressing what they regard as biblical views of sex, views unfavorable to the attitudes and practices of others.

I have no interest in the ideas that got these two worthies into so much trouble, but I’m happy they weren’t fined, imprisoned, burnt at the stake, or whatever happens to Finns who get on the wrong side of the law. I do find it quaint that “the prosecution alleged that the use of the word ‘sin’ can be ‘harmful.’” So it’s a sin to talk about sin.

But there’s something nauseating about this apparent victory for freedom. “The Court,” we are told, “recognized that while some may object to [one of the defendants’] statements, ‘there must be an overriding social reason for interfering with and restricting freedom of expression.’ The Court concluded there was no such justification.”

Even here in America, the intelligence needed to sustain the idea of inalienable rights is often sadly lacking.


So the question was not, Do people have a right to freedom of speech? but only, When shall freedom of speech be permitted?

Any court that operates on the premise that freedom is subject to permission and regulation should be congratulated for its extraordinary lenity in not forbidding everyone from saying anything. There is always a “social reason” to shut people up.

It may be exceptionalist for me to note that the evil premise of freedom-by-permission operates everywhere in Europe and, indeed, in all countries that do not have a traditional American understanding of rights. Even here, the intelligence needed to sustain the idea of inalienable rights is often sadly lacking. Even sadder, though, is the thought that from its nightmare adventures with communism and fascism Europe should have learned nothing more than a feeble, managerial, complacently “social” view of the sacred right to freedom.

One Comment

  1. Scott Robinson

    Dear Stephen,

    Your article commenting on the weak understanding of rights in Europe as coming from God (Higher Power) and not from humans was thought provoking. I think about the controversy today about schools preaching LGBT practices to kids and think that this is really no different than if schools preached Shiite Islam practices to kids. The right being infringed here is the right of each individual to have and publicly practice whatever faith they believe in. It is written in the First Amendment to the US Constitution that, “congress shall pass no law establishing a national religion.” This is why schools can’t be preaching religion to students. I think that schools likewise can’t be preaching sexual orientation to kids. Kids can freely practice their religious faiths and their sexual orientations, but no one can force their beliefs upon others. Least of all the teachers. Can teachers teach about these subjects? Yes, and this is the hang-up, they have to teach about ALL of the possible faiths and sexual orientations. This is why the First Amendment says that the government may not establish a national religion (separation of church and state) and can’t prohibit any individual’s faith and the public practice of it. The limitation of individual practice is that the individuals may not impose their practice on others, therefore, when it is class time, individual pursuits are subservient to the class pursuits. This is why we need courts, because juggling all these variables is not easy.

    Best Wishes,
    Scott Robinson

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