Like most of you I watched the news of the attack in Paris with horror and anger.  It is especially unsettling to hear interviews with security and terrorism specialists who say there is little that can be done to stop such attacks and to expect more.  After considering the barbarity and evil of such an attack I, like all of you, watched as the western world rallied in support of Charlie Hebdo, the satirical paper which was the target.  I was impressed by the unity, and the cry Je suis Charlie! I am Charlie. A beautiful vast statement about the importance of free speech.  But as I contemplated the free speech at issue, cartoons ridiculing and, according to Muslims, blaspheming the prophet Mohammed, I grew troubled.  This is where the west will take its free speech stance?  Blaspheming a religion?

Free speech debates happen on the fringes.  One of the most important free speech cases is Hustler Magazine, Inc. v. Falwell., which dealt with a satirical advertisement in Hustler magazine in which Jerry Falwell, a very well known and politically active minister, described his “first time.”  He obtained a $150,000.00 verdict in trial, but the U.S. Supreme Court reversed, saying the “facts” in the satirical ad were never intended to be perceived as true, so there could be no libel.  The salacious and disgusting ad could not be stopped.


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