Does freedom of expression trump freedom of religion?
Answer: A big question that
opposes two sorts of freedom: expression (writing, speech, dress) and
religion. But is it really so? “Freedom” is desirable in some
circumstance, but not in others. As is often said, too much freedom can
infringe on human dignity and become licence or enslavement: sexual
bondage, for example. A few weeks ago, in San Francisco, a group
consisting mainly of men wanted the freedom to move about stark naked
in public places, including shops and restaurants. For a number of
sound hygienic reasons, the authorities reacted quickly with a proposed
bylaw to stop such “freedom.” One person’s freedom violates
Even the much touted “freedom of speech” has, and must have, its
limits. The classical example is shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theatre
when no fire exists. There are laws against hate speech because it
incites to violence and targets minority groups or other religions.
Religion limits some forms of speech with good reason. Vicious speech,
gossiping and backbiting have become in our day media entertainment.
Many earn their living by indulging the public taste for sensationalism
Bahá’u’lláh, the Prophet-Founder of the Bahá’í Faith wrote: “A kindly
tongue is the lodestone of the hearts of men. It is the bread of the
spirit, it clotheth the words with meaning, it is the fountain of the
light of wisdom and understanding.” Backbiting and all forms of hurtful
speech were forbidden by Bahá’u’lláh. He wrote that they harm the soul
of both perpetrator and victim: “Material fire consumeth the body,
whereas the fire of the tongue devoureth both heart and soul. The force
of the former lasteth but for a time, whilst the effects of the latter
endureth a century.” This last line is borne out by the fact that in
many cultures vendettas have gone on for centuries because of a vicious
remark made by one leader against another.
Freedom of religion must mean the freedom to freely choose or
to change one’s religion. When one accepts a religion, one chooses to
be governed by its laws. If a person feels that the religion in
question violates his freedom, no one should oblige him to join or stay. -