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As english author Edward Bulwer-Lytton wrote, "the pen is mightier than the sword." Our words and ideas carry great power, for good or ill.

For many, freedom of expression is the foundation on which all other human rights are built, but free speech unchecked can often lead to conflict especially when it addresses our core beliefs. When does the right to communicate one's opinions and ideas interfere with the rights of others? When does free speech become hate speech? What is the value of satire and social critique? When is censorship necessary? Just how far is too far?

Here Patheos writers evaluate the razor-thin line between protected speech, and speech that causes harm —attempting to define the limits of free expression.


Reflections on Reformation: Then and Now

We Need Reformation

We Need Reformation

Brandan Robertson

The Christian Church was always meant to be undergoing Spirit-led, Scripturally based reformation, harkening to the voice of God as we move forward in history.

Is the Reformation Mostly Over?

Is the Reformation Mostly Over?

Jeremy Neill

Today, nearly 500 years after the Protestant reformation, orthodox Protestants and Catholics are closer to each other than they perhaps have ever been.

Past, Present, and Future

Past, Present, and Future

Eric Smith

There are too many texts in play to account for here, so you’re on your own for some of them. But I’ve chosen the most interesting–and pertinent–ones to look at here.

Other Reformations

Other Reformations

Philip Jenkins

Events fitting the "Reformation" model quite well have occurred repeatedly through history, both within Judaism and Christianity.

Celebrating the Reformation

Celebrating the Reformation

Anne Kennedy

Why celebrate a divorce? Why celebrate a division, a breaking apart?

Most Recent Posts

We Are Better Than the Hate

We Are Better Than the Hate

Dilshad Ali

More than ever, Muslims face great challenges and animosity from some people and politicians.

Outrageous

Outrageous "Justification" of Shooting of Tamir Rice

Roger E. Olson

Something is desperately wrong in American police culture, especially if we as a society cannot cry out for justice for black teenagers.

Anti-Islam Rallies Contradict the Gospel

Anti-Islam Rallies Contradict the Gospel

Kathy Schiffer

We must reject hatred and strengthen interfaith understanding.

Too Kumbaya About the Situation in Phoenix?

Too Kumbaya About the Situation in Phoenix?

Nancy Qualls-Shehata

I think the response to the protest in Phoenix was measured and correct. Allah blessed us with safety and no one was injured.

Charlie Hebdo and the Inner Soul of Humor

Charlie Hebdo and the Inner Soul of Humor

Morgan Meis

If we're in the midst of a civilizational war, it's not a war between Islam and the West, but between those who get the joke and those who don't.

Conversions at the Phoenix Islamic Cultural Center

Conversions at the Phoenix Islamic Cultural Center

Max Lindenman

Together, the people who resisted Ritzheimer's followers proved it's possible to express love and righteousness loudly, or even brashly.

Cashing in On Drawing Muhammad

Cashing in On Drawing Muhammad

Hemant Mehta

Jon Ritzheimer, host of the "Draw Muhammad" event in Ariz., is crowd funding $10 million for personal security.

Civilizations Clash at the Phoenix Islamic Cultural Center

Civilizations Clash at the Phoenix Islamic Cultural Center

Max Lindenman

The crowd has grown to about forty. Some have arrived on Harleys, others in pickups or cars. Most are wearing pistols on their hips.

"Mommy, Can I Draw Muhammad?" Acknowledging Disrespect

Dilshad Ali

Even though a lot of Muslims would like others to respect their beliefs, not everyone is going to do that.

"Mommy, Can I Draw Muhammad?" Free Speech for Kids

Ryan Bell

Wendy Thomas Russell, invited a group of people to participate in a group blogging project.

Answering Children

Answering Children "Can I Draw Muhammad?"

Kaveh Mousavi

A virtual roundtable discussion on the issue of drawing Muhammad.

Understanding Free Speech and Religious Conflict

"Mommy, Can I Draw Muhammad?" Patheos Writers Weigh In

Wendy Thomas Russell

Part of a series called "Mommy, What's That?" — aimed at giving secular parents some straightforward, and open-minded ways to discuss religious concepts.

Extremists Versus Free Speech

Extremists Versus Free Speech

Robert Hunt

Ours is a society in which self-restraint is a mandate. The law says we cannot repay words with violence.

More Commentary

Discussing Intentions: Charlie Hebdo vs. Pamela Geller

Discussing Intentions: Charlie Hebdo vs. Pamela Geller

Hemant Mehta

Is there a difference between the cartoons at Geller's event in Texas and those in Charlie Hebdo?

When Anti-Muslim Bigots and Muslim Extremists Follow the Same Playbook

When Anti-Muslim Bigots and Muslim Extremists Follow the Same Playbook

Dilshad Ali

If you're a person of faith, then you know that God will see what is good and hold accountable what is not.

We Must Criticize Islam – Responsibly

We Must Criticize Islam – Responsibly

James Croft

Freethinkers must couch their criticism responsibly and thoughtfully, keeping in mind our moral duty.

The Idolatry of Free Speech

The Idolatry of Free Speech

Adam Ericksen

If Christians are going to take Jesus' command to follow him seriously, then we need to stop this defense of drawing pictures of Muhammad.

Free Speech Is Worth Fighting For

Free Speech Is Worth Fighting For

Hemant Mehta

While I've sometimes held back on social media out of fear of saying the wrong thing, I've never had to worry about my physical safety.

Can We Square a Free Speech Circle?

Can We Square a Free Speech Circle?

Elizabeth Scalia

Because the world is filled with bullies and cowards, and because the two are often the same, it is more important than ever that people keep talking.

Justifying Violence: the Limits of Free Speech

Justifying Violence: the Limits of Free Speech

Richard Haynes

We freethinkers pride ourselves in defending the right to mock the religious, but what about speech we find hateful?

Pentecost and Free Speech

Pentecost and Free Speech

Paul Louis Metzger

Throughout the history of the world, empires have used language as a tool to subject the peoples they conquer.