www.mozilla.com Weather Central
Voices
Headlines

Unequal pay among genders -4/17/2014, 10:25 AM

Fighting for Kansas veterans -4/17/2014, 10:25 AM

School reductions -4/17/2014, 10:25 AM

Dress for safety -4/16/2014, 10:09 AM

Does losing due process create inadequacies? -4/16/2014, 10:09 AM

Hate crimes -4/16/2014, 10:09 AM

On with the prom -4/15/2014, 8:57 AM

Newman proud to be in western Kansas -4/14/2014, 8:57 AM

Waiting on revenue estimates -4/13/2014, 8:57 AM

Wake up, people, and see the danger we’re in -4/13/2014, 12:03 PM

Patronizing paychecks -4/13/2014, 12:03 PM

Stripping of teachers’ due process worrisome -4/13/2014, 6:11 AM

The Kansas Ministry of Truth -4/13/2014, 6:14 AM

Letterman, Hillary and Jeb: 21st Century symbols -4/13/2014, 6:10 AM

Expensive school bill -4/13/2014, 6:12 AM

How to assist evil -4/11/2014, 9:15 AM

Taxing life away -4/11/2014, 9:12 AM

Lying about Obamacare -4/11/2014, 9:17 AM

The talk radio party? -4/10/2014, 11:04 AM

Term limits -4/10/2014, 11:06 AM

Let's do what we do best -4/10/2014, 11:05 AM

Satisfying the court -4/9/2014, 10:45 AM

Late-night funding fight -4/9/2014, 10:44 AM

‘Farmland’ — art is life on screen -4/9/2014, 10:45 AM

Tradition not changing -4/8/2014, 12:02 PM

Flat as a pancake -4/8/2014, 11:22 AM

Willing to take a bet -4/8/2014, 11:24 AM

Exposure to violence threatens children’s future -4/8/2014, 11:23 AM

Battling MS -4/7/2014, 8:58 AM

Why Renewable Fuel Standard matters -4/7/2014, 9:23 AM

Rites and wrongs of spring -4/7/2014, 9:23 AM

Coming to terms with Brownback -4/6/2014, 2:11 PM

Are 'religious viewpoint' laws needed in schools? -4/6/2014, 2:11 PM

School non-funding -4/6/2014, 2:11 PM

Sex and race equality -4/4/2014, 8:08 AM

Rest of the story -4/4/2014, 8:08 AM

Bank on USPS to save 'bank deserts' -4/4/2014, 8:08 AM

Gambling and government -4/3/2014, 9:51 AM

Not merely water under the bridge -4/3/2014, 9:51 AM

Federal fine -4/3/2014, 9:51 AM

Twister time is here again -4/2/2014, 9:59 AM

School funding battle continues -4/2/2014, 9:59 AM

Watching for the flip-floppers -4/1/2014, 10:09 AM

Will Hays enter the 21st century? -4/1/2014, 10:09 AM

Tax breaks -4/1/2014, 10:09 AM

Hobby Lobby case a slippery slope -3/31/2014, 9:16 AM

Happy birthday, Gloria -3/31/2014, 9:16 AM

Unequal voting -3/30/2014, 11:37 AM

Protecting the pollinators -3/30/2014, 11:37 AM

Parties, politicians and seeking an advantage -3/30/2014, 11:37 AM

Healthy aging -3/30/2014, 11:37 AM

Threatened chicken -3/30/2014, 11:37 AM

As temperatures rise, pay attention to stored grain -3/30/2014, 3:49 PM

Bizarre arguments and behavior -3/28/2014, 10:06 AM

In your dreams -3/28/2014, 10:06 AM

Against the wind -3/28/2014, 10:05 AM

Discovering the salt of the earth -3/28/2014, 10:05 AM

Entrepreneurship key to economic growth -3/27/2014, 8:36 AM

Kansas goes Kremlin with arrests, secrecy -3/27/2014, 8:36 AM

Get ready for Arbor Day -3/26/2014, 2:03 PM

Reading between the lines -3/26/2014, 2:02 PM

Switching parties -3/26/2014, 1:53 PM

Putting a price tag on damages -3/25/2014, 10:13 AM

Privately piercing, serious sacrifice -3/25/2014, 10:13 AM

Autism bill passes House -3/25/2014, 10:13 AM

United stance -3/25/2014, 10:13 AM

Legislative session getting down to the end -3/25/2014, 10:12 AM

Taxation bill involving livestock successful -3/25/2014, 10:12 AM

STARBASE Day hits Topeka -3/24/2014, 10:13 AM

Judging based on accomplishments -3/24/2014, 10:14 AM

Who speaks for the voiceless? -3/24/2014, 10:14 AM

Fly Hays -3/23/2014, 1:12 PM

Learning from the candidates -3/23/2014, 1:12 PM

hedy -3/21/2014, 1:12 PM

-3/20/2014, 9:59 AM

Fred Phelps -3/20/2014, 9:59 AM

Is There Wage Stagnation? -3/20/2014, 9:58 AM

Cost of living, wages don't add up -3/20/2014, 4:01 PM

Legislative proposal raises questions -3/20/2014, 4:01 PM

No vote on war -3/19/2014, 3:32 PM

Wonder of St. Fidelis -3/19/2014, 4:01 PM

Protein for breakfast -3/19/2014, 2:58 PM

A pointed comment on guns -3/19/2014, 8:57 AM

Campaign madness -3/19/2014, 2:58 PM

Counting the cost of Kansas' Medicaid expansion -3/18/2014, 9:26 AM

Tax-relief spells a sure vote -3/18/2014, 9:26 AM

Tourney madness -3/18/2014, 9:25 AM

St. Patrick's Day -- The value of Irish humor -3/16/2014, 5:44 PM

Not all things are bad -3/16/2014, 5:44 PM

Supreme Court takes Legislature to school -3/16/2014, 5:43 PM

Parochial education -3/16/2014, 5:43 PM

Governed by rules, not men -3/14/2014, 10:00 AM

More guns: Merrier or scarier? -3/14/2014, 10:00 AM

The war on women -3/13/2014, 9:51 AM

Labeling the education can -3/13/2014, 9:51 AM

Taking exception -3/12/2014, 2:03 PM

Choose wisely in today's society -3/12/2014, 2:02 PM

Budget concerns -3/12/2014, 2:01 PM

Courting judicial changes -3/11/2014, 10:33 AM

House now on home stretch -3/11/2014, 10:33 AM

myTown Calendar

SPOTLIGHT
[var top_story_head]

Much of world wants freedom from speech

Published on -9/30/2012, 5:41 PM

Printer-friendly version
E-Mail This Story

I can say what I want, even if it offends you. And so can you.

No American government official, high or low, federal, state or local, can silence our freedom of expression -- whether it's our views on politics, public issues or religious faith.

If someone says something we don't like, we can freely express ourselves in opposition, even if that speaker is a mayor, governor or -- as we see clearly this election year -- the president or his opponent.

Not so in many other nations, where governments control news and information, and an intemperate remark or nonconforming view can bring condemnation, prosecution or even death.

Americans simply view freedom of speech differently from much of the world, where freedom from some speech also is seen as a right.

For example: Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, speaking Sept. 26 at the United Nations: "Egypt respects freedom of expression. One that is not used to incite hatred against anyone. One that is not directed towards one specific religion or culture. A freedom of expression that tackles extremism and violence. Not the freedom of expression that deepens ignorance and disregards others."

Under the First Amendment, and over the past 90 years in our courts, we have developed law that sets specific criteria for the rare times we can be prosecuted and punished for what we say. Threats must pose real, imminent danger against a specific person to run afoul of the law. Criticism and public commentary, however vile, are seen as less of a negative than the alternative -- government control of what we say, leading to control of what we think.

Vulgarity may shock public tastes, but no government officials have the right to silence us simply because they are offended. Bigotry may be condemned by the many even as it is embraced by the few, but no court sits in judgment on the viewpoint. Blasphemy may enrage the faithful or entertain the faithless, but no religious council has secular power to silence the blasphemer.

Still, in the wake of the video "Innocence of Muslims," angry mobs overseas have demanded prosecution of the film's maker and action by the Obama administration to force YouTube to remove it. Failure to do so is seen by many abroad as American government acceptance if not encouragement of the anti-Islam message.

Why the disconnect? The reasons for the violence, including the despicable attacks that killed the U.S. ambassador in Libya and three other Americans, are complex. But consider that in many nations, any public expression occurs with official approval or support. In those places with an official state religion, no blasphemy is tolerated.

Let's not forget that even in the United States, we're still trying to determine the proper role of religion in the public square more than 220 years after adopting the Bill of Rights. Think of prayer in public schools, posting the Ten Commandments in public buildings and religious influences on public policy on matters ranging from birth control to euthanasia.

There are some positive elements amidst the chaos of recent weeks.

We should not be too bothered by the Obama administration's request that Google, which owns YouTube, determine whether "Innocence" violated the company's own terms of service, and should be encouraged that, when Google said it didn't, nothing happened.

It's troubling when our government criticizes any free expression or the speaker, as it did with the film. But we should find some comfort in the fact that even when high officials condemn a message, they don't feel empowered to censor the speaker.

In some ways, we all -- Americans and those caught up in violence overseas -- are paying the price for foreign governments that control speech and religious liberty. Those rigid systems fear dissent and diversity, and teach by example that cabal and conspiracy are behind every public utterance.

Societies used to the give-and-take of public debate are not so easily shocked by a video or cartoon with a contrary view. In nations where religious liberty exists for all, no faith need fear for its survival.

The only long-term solution in the Middle East and elsewhere to the outrage, destruction and death over speech that offends rests in the First Amendment's core provision for more speech, not less.

Gene Policinski is senior vice president and executive director of the Washington-based First Amendment Center. gpolicinski@fac.org

digg delicious facebook stumbleupon google Newsvine
More News and Photos

Associated Press Videos