Thursday, January 15, 2015

Pope Francis defending Charlie Hebdo killers? “You cannot provoke, you cannot insult the faith of others. There’s a limit”

Pope-Francis-I-550x366-300x199Sorry, but the Holy Father is wrong on this one. There is no justification for the terror attack on Charlie Hebdo or the murderous tactics used by radical terrorists in the name of Islam.

On Thursday, Pope Francis seemed to be defending free speech while speaking about the recent attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris. However, the Pope said there are limits on free speech and "you can't make a toy out of the religions of others."

"If my good friend Dr. Gasparri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch. It's normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.

"There are so many people who speak badly about religions or other religions, who make fun of them, who make a game out of the religions of others. They are provocateurs. And what happens to them is what would happen to Dr. Gasparri if he says a curse word against my mother.

"There is a limit," Pope Francis said while standing next to his friend Alberto Gasparri.

Pope Francis said that freedom of expression as not only a fundamental human, but there is also a responsibility to speak "without offending."

“I think both freedom of religion and freedom of expression are both fundamental human rights. Everyone has not only the freedom and the right but the obligation to say what he thinks for the common good.

"We have the right to have this freedom openly without offending," Pope Francis said.

The Pope also addressed reports that he could personally be the target of terrorists.

"I am in God's hands. Am I afraid? You know that I have a defect, a nice dose of being careless.

"If anything should happen to me, I have told the Lord, I ask you only to give me the grace that it doesn't hurt because I am not courageous when confronted with pain," Pope Francis said.

I think the Pope misses the point of free speech. Without free speech, new ideas can't be expressed and new paths are repressed. Unfortunately free speech allows for horrible ideas as well as great ones.

I personally do not like the harsh nature of the cartoons/articles that were produced by Charlie Hebdo. However, I would rather live in a world that allows free speech then a world that is not free to express itself.

You can't talk out of both sides of your mouth, condemning killing in the name of religion while simultaneously justifying reprisal if religion is insulted. Punching someone is not the same as murdering over a dozen people, some of which had nothing to do with the cartoons.

If I punch you after you insult my mother, then I can be prosecuted for battery (or possibly more, depending on the extent of the beating).  My mother may be a saint and your comments may have been horrible, but I still don't have a right to hit you.

Taken a step further, let's say we legally allow punching someone who insults our mother, then where does this right to attack for insults end.  What about sisters and wives?  What about a step-mother?  What about my friend's mother who raised me like her own son - can I beat up people who insult her?

Or what if I believe my religion is the creator of my existence, just like my mother?  By that logic, then I can attack anyone who insults my creator and we end up back where we started.

Pope Francis, I think you have made a significant error with your statement.

The Pope needs to understand, that offensive language is in the eye of the beholder. To simply say Jesus is the son of God will be offensive to many Muslims. It's tolerance the Muslim world needs to understand and preach.

You know, when I first read the Pope's comments, I thought by 'cannot' he meant that the Islamic faith (or any faith) should be so strong that the drawings of a satirical magazine would be of no consequence to the truly devout. But now I see he is (tactfully) showing an opinion that is similar to Muslims and that is that free speech should be tempered if it crosses some religious boundary over which folks will always differ.

The fighting won't stop until all religions accept that some folks don't believe (in their version, in any version, etc) and that those non-believers can't harm solid religions with offensive words. Free speech must trump religion in all circumstances and the strong religions (like Christianity) must take that position.

Most people would agree that mocking a religion is not a nice thing to do, and that doing so may provoke a reaction. The things I would hope people (including the Pope agree) is that (1) the government should not limit speech and (2) over-reacting by killing people is wrong and should be punished.

Just because certain speech is not nice, or is even distasteful or obnoxious, the trouble is that if you open the door to regulating it, then the regulation only increases and soon free speech is gone.

You can't condemn the violence, and then give an example of why/how it is justified. I've seen some of the cartoons - they are offensive, and they're directed at Jews, Catholics, Islam, politicians. Charlie's journalists weren't brutally murdered by Catholics, Jews or politicians, though, were they?

In the minds of Islamic terrorists, they are entirely justified, directed actually, by their holy book to kill anyone who insults their prophet. As a matter of fact, they are directed to kill for any number of other "crimes" for which civilized people have long since found alternative "punishments". Any justification of the acts of these islamic terrorists is the first step down a very slippery slope.

There can be no "but" at the end of condemning the violence against freedom of speech. And Charlie Hebdo is not about being polite, it's all about freedom of speech.

The law says there is no limit to freedom of thought, ideas and speech -nor should there be.  Unless it is clearly identifiable and legally demonstrable incitement to hate.

Charlie Hebdo was over the years dragged before court after court by a broad variety of groups that felt that its irreverent satire was in fact hate speech directed at them.  Not in one single case did the courts find the accusations to be valid.

George Orwell taught us: "If there is one liberty, it is the right to tell others what they don't want to hear".

You either have unfettered freedom of thought and the freedom of speech that belongs with it or you have various degrees of self-censorship, also known as political correctness.

The latter is the Pope's message.  If you want to see where that process leads, have a closer look at North America where political correctness has made key issues unfit for public discourse -killing off the flow of ideas.

I grew up with Charlie and am the better for it.  My children too.

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