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.