It shouldn’t surprise those familiar with Greg’s work at FIRE that in light of the “Innocence of Muslims” fiasco, some of the strongest criticisms of the protections provided by the First Amendment have come from those within the academy. In an article for The Huffington Post, Greg responds to these criticisms.
Greg focused his attention on two recently published op-eds that have drawn national and international attention. The first was a piece in USA Today written by University of Pennsylvania professor Anthea Butler arguing that “Sam Bacile” (the purported maker of the “Innocence of Muslims” video) deserves arrest for depicting scenes that “incite and inflame viewers.” The second was written just this week in Slate, where University of Chicago law professor Eric Posner contends that the United States “overvalues free speech” and is “paralyzed by constitutional symbolism.”
Greg points out that what Butler and Posner seem to really want are blasphemy laws—laws that would criminalize some forms of expression that are critical of a religion or creed. But the futility and dangers of such laws should become immediately apparent.
“[W]e are quick to forget,” writes Greg, “that all of us hold beliefs that are rejections of sacred cows of the past, present, or future,” and that putting the government in the position of enforcing religious or cultural norms threatens all those who might harbor minority viewpoints.
Greg’s piece in The Huffington Post is the first in a series of posts that will address what he likes to call the “inaccurate and other times hackneyed arguments against freedom of speech that have become so prevalent in certain academic circles.” Be sure to subscribe to Greg’s Huffington Post author page to catch the next post in the series.