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Monday, September 24, 2012

What is the UN SG Actually Saying?

Over at the Volokh Conspiracy is a discussion of the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, talking about blasphemy and freedom of expression.  It is from a 19 September press conference.  The key quote:
When some people use this freedom of expression to provoke or humiliate some others’ values and beliefs, then this cannot be protected in such a way.
This quote can be found here, toward the bottom of the web page.

Law Professor Volokh comments:

This view on the part of the Secretary-General is not surprising; many governments and world leaders do indeed support banning supposed blasphemy, “defamation of religions,” and similar provocative or humiliating speech. But it’s still worth noting, I think, especially when we decide whether to legitimize U.N. action related to such matters.
So what are the limits?  If an angel speaks to me and gives me a new revelation, is that protected, or, if the revelation rejects previous faiths, am I committing blasphemy?  How about if your reason leads you to reject all faiths?  Are you free to state that and explain your position?

Sign me as still confused by this ongoing conversation.

Regards  —  Cliff


Mr. Lynne said...

Societies often privilege certain ideas over others. To outsiders' eyes the function of privilege can look like a corruption of freedom of conscience and speech. That's because it is. The typical one that looks tyrannical to western eyes is censorship of criticism of the government - which is corrupt because it lets the state's enforcement mechanism privilege the state itself in discourse.

Less obvious to many is the corrupting influence of privileging religious ideas or religions themselves. Most populaces with sizable religious components, of course, don't have a problem privileging religion from criticism.

It shouldn't be surprising that this concept is pretty muddy at the UN - it's pretty muddy everywhere - including in the US.

C R Krieger said...

Yes, but I think less muddy in the US.  We are fine with picking on Mormons on Broadway and it looks like the "Piss Christ" will be back for a private retrospective.

That said, for sure, the religious in the US think they are right, and those who reject the idea of God think they are right.  But, sometimes we actually work together on common issues.  Sometimes we are in stark opposition.

Not perfect, but I prefer it here.  And, I like my agnostic friends, and my friends who are agnostic and I don't even know it.  And any who are atheist.

On the other hand, maybe I am too privileged and don't recognize it.

Regards  —  Cliff

Mr. Lynne said...

" less muddy in the US."

Agreed, but that's my point - we shouldn't be surprised at the UN precisely because it is less muddy in the US compared to the UN.

I just bring up religion because its a good example of an issue of privilege that operates inside the US as a problem right now - which is a roundabout way of saying while our legal issues are clear, culturally we still have problems. How many school districts have to de-fund academic competitions because towns want to fight the losing side constitutional issues on principals?

Secular government is better for everyone on principal.

Mr. Lynne said...

Whoops - meant to provide a link.