Archive for July 24th, 2009

Oh well.

Every time a law curtailing freedom of speech happens to pass in a Western, supposedly liberal nation (other examples: hate speech laws, holocaust denial laws) I am astounded by the foresight of the founders of the US, who put in — as the very first entry on the bill of rights — a law that guarantees free expression. I am referring of course to the First Amendment, which I have often described as the greatest piece of law ever implemented. This little clause on the US constitution put in over 200 years ago is the primary reason why a blasphemy law (or for that matter hate speech and holocause denial laws) cannot be passed in this country.

It is of course true that courts played their part in the current reading of the First Amendment, and in some cases they didn’t do a god job (for instance, obscenity law still exists in the US, though weakened by the Miller judgement) but overall, speech protection in the US still exceeds that of every other country and we have to thank the founders for it.

Update: Here’s Eugene Volokh weighing in on the new Irish statute.

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