Pope Francis Says Freedom Of Speech Has ‘Limits,’ Gets It Wrong Again

Justin Haskins Heartland Institute
Published January 18, 2015

Just two weeks after reports surfaced that Pope Francis plans to put significant pressure on global leaders to fight what he believes to be manmade, imminent global warming, the leader of the world’s largest church is receiving strong and worthy criticism from conservatives again — this time for suggesting there is a “limit” to freedom of speech in wake of the Paris attacks on magazine Charlie Hebdo.

According to the Associated Press’ Nicole Winfield, Francis responded to questions about the Paris attacks and the notorious cartoons and satirical articles published by Charlie Hebdo that inspired them, saying, “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,” Pope Francis said. “They are provocateurs. … There is a limit.”

France apparently agrees. According to CNN, French comic Dieudonné M’bala M’bala now faces up to seven years in prison for posting a Facebook comment in wake of the terrorist attack. He allegedly wrote “Je suis Charlie Coulibaly,” a combination of a popular French phrase in support of Charlie Hebdo and the last name of one of the attackers. M’bala has a history of making anti-Semitic remarks, and the French government is now claiming he should be charged with publicly supporting terrorism.

What the pope and the French do not understand is that freedom of speech is not the problem; radical Islamism mixed with violence is. This is not to say Charlie Hebdo‘s disgusting jokes and cartoons about the religious beliefs of others were moral, but the idea that freedom should be limited whenever there is a chance deeply held beliefs could be “insulted” is an idea far more dangerous to a free society than anything cowardly terrorists could ever do. 

If Francis is correct and speech ought to be limited, who gets to decide what permissible language is and what it isn’t? Which “moral” government agency decides which commentaries are too shocking or insulting?

The logical end result of Pope Francis’s comments is the majority population subjugating minority groups to whatever standards the majority determines acceptable. The pontiff can praise the virtues of liberty all he wants, but if he doesn’t support putting liberty into practice, his voice will ultimately be used to oppose freedom.

Pope Francis’s comments come just hours after Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo that took the lives of 12 people. The organization says plans for the attacks had been in the works for several years, and that they were motivated by France’s “crimes” against Muslims. AQAP did not claim responsibility for a second attack on a kosher grocery store in Paris.

The “limits” on speech the pontiff seems to be suggesting, which may be nothing more than society choosing not to tolerate offensive organizations like Charlie Hebdo, is precisely what Al Qaeda and other radicals want: to create an environment where people are afraid to speak freely.

If freedom of speech is abridged — even if it’s only limited by society and not by some sort of legal restraint from the government — and other potentially offensive behaviors are forbidden as an overreaction to the horrific attacks on Charlie Hebdo, the terrorists win. French society will become slaves to whatever politically correct fad comes next, and the voice of the minority will slowly and surely be drowned out by popular waves of emotion and irrational attacks on liberty.


[Originally published at the Daily Caller]