(Anti)Religious Speech and State Security Measures

A Conversation, organized by Dmytro Vovk
of the Center for Rule of Law and Religion Studies, Yaroslav Mudryi National Law University (Ukraine)

In the realm of religion, freedom of expression may manifest itself as freedom of religious expression and freedom to discuss and criticize religion, its virtues and vices, and its role in society. Both freedoms are essential for democratic states. Freedom of religious expression is crucial for people of faith as it enables worshiping and sharing beliefs, proselytizing, promoting religious values, and enriching public discourse with religious perspectives. On the other hand, in pluralistic societies religion should not be immune from criticism, even strong criticism that targets religious dogmas, manifestations, or believers’ way of life. (more…)

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Symbols, Speech, and Security

Elizabeth A. Clark is Associate Director, International Center for Law and Religion Studies and Regional Advisor for Europe at the J. Reuben Clark Law School, Brigham Young University

I recently had the opportunity to be part of a panel at a conference sponsored by the International Association of Religion Journalists. I was particularly struck by how the difficult challenges journalists face in many parts of the world – prison terms, lawsuits, harassment by displeased religious or civic leaders – paralleled those of religious believers in their countries, particularly religious minorities. This similarity shouldn’t have been surprising. Research has shown a strong correlation between restrictions on religious freedom and decreased access to a large number of other fundamental rights and economic goods, including freedom of speech.[1] As Nobel-prize winning economist Amartya Sen notes, freedoms tend to come as “bundled commodities.”[2] (more…)

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Modern Book-Burning: Protected Speech?

Jane Wise is an Associate Director, International Center for Law and Religion Studies, J. Reuben Clark Law School, Brigham Young University

Throughout history, book burning has been a tool wielded by both secular and religious authorities in efforts to suppress minority views perceived as threatening to the prevailing order. The Old Testament recounts King Jehoiakim of Judah burning a scroll dictated by the prophet Jeremiah stating that Babylon would destroy the land. Chinese Emperor Qin Shi Huang burned books and buried scholars who he believed were subversive to his reign more than two thousand years ago. In 1244 in the streets of Paris, 24 carriage-loads of Jewish religious manuscripts were burned by French law officers, alleging they contained passages blasphemous to Christians. In encounters between Europeans and indigenous American civilizations, Mayan and Aztec books were destroyed in the 1500s. English Roman Catholic abbeys and monasteries were stripped of their manuscripts and books by citizens loyal to the Church of England in the 1600s and burned or destroyed. During the Nazi regime in Europe starting in 1933, the government decreed broad grounds for burning books that acted subversively or struck at the root of German thought, the German home, or the “driving forces” of German people. (more…)

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