Pope Francis weighed in on the free speech debate and said that "in freedom of expression there are limits." Unfortunately, he is horribly wrong.
January 16, 2015

Soon after the horrendous attacks on Charlie Hebdo, the world began to rally for freedom of expression which is how it should be. But then the French government began a crack down of freedom of speech and arrested French comedian Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala, for not liking his uses of free speech.

The crackdown by French authorities, including the arrest of a controversial French comedian for comments he posted on Facebook, has sparked a backlash among some free speech advocates who see "cherry picking" in the application of laws surrounding speech.

And what did Dieudonne write that landed him in hot waster with the authorities?

The apparently criminal viewpoint he posted on Facebook declared: “Tonight, as far as I’m concerned, I feel like Charlie Coulibaly.” Investigators concluded that this was intended to mock the “Je Suis Charlie” slogan and express support for the perpetrator of the Paris supermarket killings (whose last name was “Coulibaly”). Expressing that opinion is evidently a crime in the Republic of Liberté, which prides itself on a line of 20th Century intellectuals – from Sartre and Genet to Foucault and Derrida – whose hallmark was leaving no orthodoxy or convention unmolested, no matter how sacred.

Even if his views are obnoxious and offensive, he should be allowed to say and write what he wants. That's freedom of expression. Too many governments, world leaders and religions icons only care for free speech when it aligns up with their own beliefs and sensibilities and not the actual framework of what freedom of expression really is.

I've been a big fan of Pope Francis lately, but he took a rather stilted view of what free speech is and then all but sanctioned violence when he used a violent analogy to prove his point, which is weird enough on it's own merits.

Pope Francis suggested there are limits to freedom of expression, saying in response to the Charlie Hebdo terror attack that "one cannot make fun of faith" and that anyone who throws insults can expect a "punch."

The pontiff said that both freedom of faith and freedom of speech were fundamental human rights and that "every religion has its dignity."

"One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people's faith, one cannot make fun of faith," he said. "There is a limit. Every religion has its dignity ... in freedom of expression there are limits."

"It's true that we can't react violently, but, for example if Dr. Gasbarri here, a great friend of mine, says a curse word against my mother, then a punch awaits him," the pontiff said

Let's say agree with the Pope, in that if I use my free speech to denigrate someone's mother, I might get punched in the face. Well, that's my choice because my words may have a cause and effect element, but it's not for the state or a religion to tell me what I can and cannot write or say. I can't stand the words of many right wingers in this country as they blame all Muslims for terrorism, but they are free to say them. And you can't discuss "freedom of expression," and then outline what isn't free. If you hate when South Park mocks Jesus, turn the channel and never watch the show again.

Robert Wright has a great piece up about this debate and wrote:

W]\hy not take the model that has worked in America and apply it globally? Namely: Yes, you are legally free to publish just about anything, but if you publish things that gratuitously offend ethnic or religious groups, you will earn the scorn of enlightened people everywhere. With freedom comes responsibility.

Can you help us out?

For 18 years we have been exposing Washington lies and untangling media deceit, but now Facebook is drowning us in an ocean of right wing lies. Please give a one-time or recurring donation, or buy a year's subscription for an ad-free experience. Thank you.


We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Any comments that are sexist or in any other way deemed hateful by our staff will be deleted and constitute grounds for a ban from posting on the site. Please refer to our Terms of Service for information on our posting policy.