How European „Hate Speech“ Laws Are Threatening Freedom of Speech
Despite the importance of freedom of speech and robust public debate, the nations of Europe have all adopted criminal laws against so-called “hate speech.” In Germany, for example, committing “an insult” is a criminal offence and in Poland “offending religious feelings” carries a two year prison sentence. In Cyprus, anyone who promotes “feelings of ill will” may be committing a crime, while in Sweden anyone who “expresses contempt” towards a group of persons may be imprisoned. Across Europe, such laws are readily being used.
Ministers of religion have been arrested for preaching sermons from the Bible, journalists have been routinely fined and even private conversations between citizens have resulted in criminal investigations. Yet remarkably, there appears to be almost unwavering support for “hate speech” laws among major European institutions and many non-governmental organizations.
Summarizing what appears to be the popular position on “hate speech” laws, two judges of the European Court of Human Rights recently held that “extremist opinions can bring much more harm than restrictions on freedom of expression.” This book seeks to challenge this prevailing orthodoxy by detailing the stark history of the internationalization of “hate speech” laws, their present day application and their possible future. Over thirty “hate speech” cases are discussed and a fully up-to-date compendium containing hundreds of European “hate speech” laws is included.
Paul B. Coleman is legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom at its office in Vienna, Austria, where he specializes in international litigation with a focus on European law.
By Paul Coleman, Kairos Publications, November 2012
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