What does Anthea Butler think “freedom of speech” means?

Ed Brayton and PZ are already on this, but I wanted to throw my hat into the ring as well.

Muslims are rioting and killing over a poorly made movie that denigrates Islam.  Presumably the movie negatively impacts Islam more than Muslims rioting and killing over being insulted, which is quite a feat.

Anyway, a religious studies teacher at the University of Pennsylvania, Anthea Butler, thinks the film’s maker, Sam Bacile, should be arrested.

So why did I tweet that Bacile should be in jail? The “free speech” in Bacile’s film is not about expressing a personal opinion about Islam. It denigrates the religion by depicting the faith’s founder in several ludicrous and historically inaccurate scenes to incite and inflame viewers. Even the film’s actors say they were duped.

Bacile’s movie is not the first to denigrate a religious figure, nor will it be the last. The Last Temptation of Christ was protested vigorously. The difference is that Bacile indirectly and inadvertently inflamed people half a world away, resulting in the deaths of U.S. Embassy personnel.

The barometer for what can or cannot be said (not to be confused with what should or should not be said) is not how many people it pisses off.  Indeed, the very concept of free speech exists to defend speech that may offend someone.  Nobody needs protection for inoffensive speech.

There’s no demand from Anthea Butler for the arrests of those holding signs calling for the heads of those who insult their prophet.  Perhaps after the shitty filmmaker who has never killed anyone is behind bars we can worry about that other lot.

Priorities: religion fucks with them.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.


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