EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Columns

August 5, 2012

Column: Freedom is under attack by those who oppose free speech

In Russia, Vladimir Putin’s government is prosecuting three women for a prayer to toss the president out of office. In the Netherlands and Denmark, officials have been putting people on trial for what they have said about Muslims. In Chicago, San Francisco and Boston, mayors are aim

ing to stop a restaurant chain from expanding its outlets because the owner does not believe in gay marriage.

Much of the world is still fighting freedom, insisting that either you bow to positions officially deemed right and pure or face sanctions. And yes, there is a significant difference in degree between what’s happening in these different places, but it’s the same tendency in all of th

em — something Americans, at least, ought to recognize as a demand for subservient serfdom contrary to all we stand for.

The charge against the Russian women is religiously hostile hooliganism, according to a Reuters account. The Russian Orthodox Church supported Putin’s return to the presidency, and the women — all in their 20s — danced on the altar of Christ the Savior Cathedral as a protest prayer. The women say they are anti-authoritarian, not anti-Christian, and in fact want Christian support in their fight a

gainst Putin. The top penalty: seven years in prison.

Any normal, balanced, halfway decent human being would say that, at the most, it was slap-on-the-wrist time, not destroy-your-life time, even as a threat. Protests have limits, but so does governmental mayhem.

Defenders of laws against “hate speech” would have you believe that prosecutions can be confined to limited circumstances of clear-cut mali

ciousness obviously endangering others. That’s not what happens in the real world. Such laws inevitably lead to the harassment of people like Lars Hedegaard, a Danish historian and journalist who had said Muslim men in some parts of the world engage in incestuous rape. The truth of his remarks wasn’t the issue as Hedegaard went through a series of trials in which he was eventually exonerated.

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