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Author Topic: Pope Francis' Comments on Freedom of Religion  (Read 1825 times)

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Offline KythiaTopic starter

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Pope Francis' Comments on Freedom of Religion
« on: January 16, 2015, 09:27:42 PM »
I'm not sure if you've heard, but Pope Francis recently made comments in a press interview about Freedom of Religion, this links in to a conversation towards the end of this thread but I felt it was off topic enough to merit its own.  You can find the official transcription (in Italian) here  and below a spoilered Google Translate translation of the relevant bit.

English translation
(Sébastien Maillard)

Holy Father, yesterday morning during Mass spoke of religious freedom as a fundamental human right. But in respect of the different religions to what extent you can get in the freedom of expression, that even that is a basic human right? Thank You.

(Pope Francis)

Thank you for asking, it's smart. I think both are fundamental human rights: freedom of religion and freedom of expression. You can not ... think ... She's French, we go to Paris! We speak out. You can not hide a truth, that everyone has the right to practice their religion without offending, freely. So we do, we want to do all. Second, you can not offend, to war, to kill in the name of their religion, that is, in the name of God. For us what is happening now makes us a bit '... surprising. But always think of our history: how many religious wars we have had! You think of the "Saint Bartholomew" ... as you understand this? We have also been sinners on this. But you can not kill in the name of God. This is an aberration. Killing in the name of God is an aberration. I think this is the main thing on freedom of religion: it has to do with freedom, without offending, but without imposing and kill.

Freedom of expression. Everyone not only has the freedom, the right, also has an obligation to say what they think to help the common good. The obligation. Think of a deputy, a senator if he does not say what he thinks it is the true path, does not cooperate for the common good. And not only these, many others. We have an obligation to speak openly, to have this freedom, but without offending. Because it is true that you can not react violently, but if Dr. Gasbarri, great friend, I said a bad word against my mother, comes to him a punch! And 'normal! And 'normal. You can not lead, you can not insult the faith of others, you can not make fun of the faith. Pope Benedict in a speech - I do not remember where - had spoken of this mentality post-positivist, post-positivist metaphysics, which eventually led to believe that religions or religious expressions are a kind of subculture, which are tolerated, but are a few things, not part of the culture illuminated. And this is a legacy of the Enlightenment. So many people who slanders of religions, the teases, say "giocattolizza" the religion of the other, they cause, and can happen what happens if the dr. Gasbarri says something against my mom. There is a limit. Every religion has dignity, every religion that respects human life, the human person. And I can not make fun of her. And this is a limit. I took this as the limit, to say that the freedom of expression, there are limits as that of my mother. I do not know if I could answer the question. Thank You.


First, this is the Pope speaking in a press conference - this isn't (necessarily) the position of the Catholic Church, although obviously his opinions weigh heavily on the official ones.  The last official statement from the Church on the issue that I'm aware of was Dignitatis Humanae (On Human Dignity) from Vatican 2, and this doesn't seem to clash.

In brief, his view is that there are certain statements that are offensive enough to mean that a reaction is understandable - essentially, as I understand it, the "defect of reason" of insanity pleas.  He uses the example of someone criticising yo momma (you know, for being so fat and stupid) and then getting a punch.  He stops explicitly short of condoning murder, obviously, and is talking in general terms about whether there are/should be limits on the right to criticise religion, not in specific terms about any recent incidents.  He also, to my reading at least, stops short of saying that such criticism should be illegal, simply that it should be understood that it could provoke a response.  Dude's not a lawyer though and generally avoids nitty-gritty and, yanno, actual fucking details so I'm not attaching too much weight to that.

Thoughts?  Should we consider the effect our speech has on others in general terms?  In this specific one?  Is it possible to be so offensive that you deserve a punch?  Should it be allowed to be that offensive?  Should it be allowed to get that punch?  And so forth.

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Re: Pope Francis' Comments on Freedom of Religion
« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2015, 10:00:07 PM »
always the difficult question: How far does freedom of X extend?

I wish I had an answer and could word it better but in my opinion I think it should really be a case by case thing. not just a catch all "They all go until this line here" kind of thing......yeah I suck at being smarts.  :P

Offline Ironwolf85

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Re: Pope Francis' Comments on Freedom of Religion
« Reply #2 on: January 19, 2015, 07:35:35 AM »
well wherever we draw the line, murder over art is unacceptable

Offline Hemingway

Re: Pope Francis' Comments on Freedom of Religion
« Reply #3 on: January 19, 2015, 09:01:25 AM »
It seems to me we ought to draw the line exactly where we draw the line when we're not dealing with religion: We're protected against death threats and defamation, but for basically anything else, the 'punishment' is that whoever made the statements seems like a dick. Which is their privilege. It's the right of everyone to be offended, and to be offensive.

If we do start drawing lines, we ought to do draw similar lines for religiously motivated speech. That is, you may no longer, on the basis of your religion, say offensive and baseless things about homosexuality, or birth control, or medical procedures, or anything else that is sensitive to many people. If the pope has not yet acknowledged this, I'd like to see him do that before I start taking his word for how I or others ought to treat the feelings of religious people. Because I am offended when I read what some people say about homosexuality, or abortion, or any range of topics. And while I don't often use my right to say offensive things about religion, I will reserve that right until there's no more reason for me to exercise it.

Offline Deamonbane

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Re: Pope Francis' Comments on Freedom of Religion
« Reply #4 on: January 19, 2015, 01:54:27 PM »
Yeah, he's probably giving it a little time, easing it on his folk. If he springs all this stuff on them he's liable to slash the Catholic Church all over the world in half...

Online TheGlyphstone

Re: Pope Francis' Comments on Freedom of Religion
« Reply #5 on: January 19, 2015, 02:42:24 PM »
Or suffer whatever the Catholic version of a coup is. They used to straight-up assassinate unpopular popes back in the days, I'm sure a sufficiently off-the-rocker pontiff could be internally 'persuaded' to 'retire' like Benedict XVI did, if the cost was genuine schism in the Church.

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Re: Pope Francis' Comments on Freedom of Religion
« Reply #6 on: January 19, 2015, 02:56:31 PM »
WRT religion, I'd probably defend anybody I felt was being persecuted - depending on the circumstances.  So yeah Lustful, I think a case-by-case consideration would dictate what I would do.

On other subjects, I really don't care what anybody says about me - as long as they stay away from a physical assault all they're going to get is the other cheek.  If they go after my kids or SO - totally different story.  Calling my daughter a fucking whore when she's with me WILL be followed by a sincere apology.

Why do I not feel bad about reacting that way?   I must be a bad person for feeling unbridled wrath even just sitting here and thinking about someone doing that to her.

Offline Oniya

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Re: Pope Francis' Comments on Freedom of Religion
« Reply #7 on: January 19, 2015, 03:43:19 PM »
Why do I not feel bad about reacting that way?   I must be a bad person for feeling unbridled wrath even just sitting here and thinking about someone doing that to her.

Nah - just a parent.  Even outside of religious stuff, I'll put up with a lot more than I'd put up with if it were directed towards the little Oni.

Online AndyZ

Re: Pope Francis' Comments on Freedom of Religion
« Reply #8 on: January 19, 2015, 09:46:20 PM »
Kythia, I don't know how much help I can be on this, but you were awesome to me in another thread and i want to try my best.



It seems to be a culture change.

When I was growing up, there was a little rhyme of, "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me."

Compare to today:

https://richgirlconfessions.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/tumblr_lmjbe4oufg1qbm9ico1_500.jpg (Linked: image of child. - Staff)

So, which is better?

One thing I've noticed is that, when you can't criticize someone, constructive criticism gets really difficult.  I remember vividly learning in 6th grade how much my feelings got hurt when a teacher told me about all the problems that I had with a project I was working on.  Contrast that with a few years ago when I paid someone to look over my novel and tell me what needed fixing.

There's a lot of things that hurt feelings, but if we attempt to stop any feelings from being hurt, we do ourselves a disservice.

There's a TV stereotype where a woman asks a man if she looks fat in this dress.  Now, some people might know they look terrible and simply want to fish for a compliment, but others are actively deciding which dress they should wear to a particular party.

Should we promote a society where we try to make each other feel as good as possible, or a society where we value honesty above everything else?

For my money, criticism gives us a chance to grow.  We learn new things and we try our best to be better as a result.  Although something may be temporarily upsetting, we can learn from it.

Now, admittedly, this seems like a far cry from the concept of dipping a crucifix in urine and calling it art, or doing whatever happened in Charlie Hebdo that so many news organizations feel completely justified in blurring out while claiming they support free speech.

The problem is that it's such a fine line.

I am horrified as well as offended that someone might believe in both God and Satan and choose Satan.  Yet people do.

I consider it offensive that two people who don't love each other would get married just for the government benefits.  Yet people do, and it makes perfect sense for them to do so, especially if they don't consider marriage sacred in the way that I do.

For the latter, I really think we'd be much better off not having the government involved in marriage whatsoever.  It's really the only way to be fair and make everyone happy.

I believe it was Russia where they went by Freedom of Worship instead of Freedom of Religion, where you could privately worship whatever you wanted but couldn't show any signs of it or attempt to proselytize.  That would be pretty bad also.

Now, I will agree that some things are just being a jerk (and use whatever synonym for jerk you like.  I used to say dick but someone didn't like that one), but I don't think I want being a jerk to be a crime.  It's way too subjective, for one thing.

I also also agree that we should be consistent.  Either we should stop banning prayer in public schools or we should ban insulting religion and various other types of speech.  I never did like the idea that we try to draw a line and say, "Okay, we like this but we don't like this, and we the government know what's best for you."

As far as the idea that certain speech can get you physically assaulted, I think we should absolutely strive away from that.  While it may be an emotional response, we may be able to sympathize with people who respond in that way, but we should strive to be better than that.
« Last Edit: January 20, 2015, 10:57:07 AM by Oniya »

Offline Sethala

Re: Pope Francis' Comments on Freedom of Religion
« Reply #9 on: January 19, 2015, 10:36:12 PM »
I also also agree that we should be consistent.  Either we should stop banning prayer in public schools or we should ban insulting religion and various other types of speech.  I never did like the idea that we try to draw a line and say, "Okay, we like this but we don't like this, and we the government know what's best for you."

I just want to pop in here and say that prayer isn't banned in public schools, only school-led prayer and worship is.  That is, a teacher can't start off the lesson by leading a prayer, but a student can certainly take the time to pray before starting on a test.  Granted, such things have to be non-disruptive; if your version of "prayer" is five minutes of yelling in tongues loud enough that no one can hear the teacher, then being told "you can't do that during class" is pretty reasonable.  I'm not sure just how on-topic this discussion would be though, so I wouldn't mind taking it to another thread if you'd like to continue it.

As for the thread itself, I think what you should be allowed to talk about depends on the medium.  If I were to go to a bar and start making fun of religion when standing next to a priest, he can't really get away from my comments without leaving the bar, so being told to shut up (or risk being thrown out myself) is reasonable.  If I were to instead publish such comments in a magazine however, it's easy enough for the priest to simply not read the magazine.  Now, this is where his free speech can come in; he can try to organize a boycott of said magazine as a way to tell the publisher "I don't want to buy your magazine any more if these comments are in it", and, if enough people agree, it's reasonable for the magazine to ask me to stop making such comments in it.

The only time I could see violence being acceptable is if the insulting person continues to be insulting after being asked to stop, there's no available authority that can force them to leave, and it's impractical for me to leave.  For instance, if someone were being incredibly insulting to me while standing at a bus stop, with no one else around.  I can't simply leave the bus stop as I need to get on the bus, there's no one nearby to tell him to leave because he won't shut up, and I've already asked him to stop saying such things.  Even then I would tell people to ignore them rather than use force, but some people may not have such restraint, especially if what the other person is saying is something incredibly personal.  However, the only violence I could think is acceptable is a punch to the face; murdering someone for comments like this is wholly unacceptable no matter what the circumstances.

Offline Oniya

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Re: Pope Francis' Comments on Freedom of Religion
« Reply #10 on: January 19, 2015, 10:41:10 PM »
I just want to pop in here and say that prayer isn't banned in public schools, only school-led prayer and worship is.  That is, a teacher can't start off the lesson by leading a prayer, but a student can certainly take the time to pray before starting on a test. 

In fact, there's a common saying that as long as algebra is taught, there will be prayer in school.  ^_^

Online AndyZ

Re: Pope Francis' Comments on Freedom of Religion
« Reply #11 on: January 19, 2015, 11:13:26 PM »
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/nov/11/colorado-springs-student-sues-high-school-banning-/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/02/michigan-football-prayer_n_3535414.html

http://www.christianpost.com/news/christian-student-banned-from-passing-out-flyers-promoting-prayer-session-at-middle-schools-flagpole-131924/

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/mom-banned-praying-loud-public-school-steps-article-1.1413244

Granted that it's not widespread, but some places have to deal with it.



Now, one of the ideas I've been playing with goes by "limits" instead of "rights."  We consider whether it's more of a burden between two people for X or Y.

I have no idea how well it actually works, but it's something I've been wanting to play with for a while.

It works easy enough in some cases.  Obviously the burden of not murdering people is less important than someone's not being murdered.  The old saying goes about how the right to swing your fist ends where someone's nose begins.

I would venture that the burden of hearing someone else's words is usually less onerous than the burden of hearing words which cause you pain, but I could understand someone's reason for the contrary.

To decide where words can be met with violence, we would need to create some form of correlation between physical and emotional trauma.  I don't even know where to begin there.

Offline Sethala

Re: Pope Francis' Comments on Freedom of Religion
« Reply #12 on: January 20, 2015, 12:21:35 AM »
Right, there's always going to be fringe cases where people step out of their bounds and ban something they shouldn't.  I didn't mean to say that no school ever bans religion, just that there's not a widespread ban on religion in schools.

I only skimmed the articles, but my responses:

For the first one, assuming the bible club wasn't doing anything that another club couldn't do, I see no reason to break them up.  If other clubs were able to use those rooms at those times, and there wasn't something wrong with the bible club (i.e. they weren't being disruptive, they followed any bylaws the school required, etc), they should be allowed.  Note that this assumes the school would be equally receptive about allowing other clubs; if someone wanted to start a quran club and could meet whatever requirements the school set for the bible club, they should be allowed to have it as well.

The second story however, I think it was right to stop the prayer sessions.  Unlike the bible club, the football team doesn't have a religious affiliation as part of its purpose, and people from any religion should be allowed to be part of it.  Because of that, having a religious action as part of that club means you're forcing that religion on everyone that wants to take part, regardless of their own affiliation.  If the team wanted to, say, have a prayer session before practice and make it clear that not everyone's required to show up (e.g. practice starts at 4, prayer is at 3:30 for those that want to join but you can show up at 4 instead), it wouldn't be an issue, but having it right after a game means that people who don't want to join are still almost forced to be a part of it.

The third and fourth stories are where we can have an interesting discussion however, because they both have the same problem: someone is promoting their religion in a public location that people are forced to go to (I'm assuming the mother's "loud prayers" are of the "you must convert" type, considering her location and that she wants to have everyone in the school pray, essentially).  As the fourth story says, a large part of the complaint was that the school should protect students from religious influences that their parents may not consent to.

Offline Caehlim

Re: Pope Francis' Comments on Freedom of Religion
« Reply #13 on: January 20, 2015, 12:44:10 AM »
I am horrified as well as offended that someone might believe in both God and Satan and choose Satan.  Yet people do.

Just to offer a minor correction. The Florida Church of Satan, who produced the colouring book you've linked the article about, do not actually believe in God and Satan. They are a branch of The Church of Satan which practises Laveyan Satanism. This confusingly named religion does not worship Satan, nor God but rather preaches the self as deity and excludes all outside divine or profane forces.

"Satanists do not believe in the supernatural, in neither God nor the Devil. To the Satanist, he is his own God. Satan is a symbol of Man living as his prideful, carnal nature dictates. The reality behind Satan is simply the dark evolutionary force of entropy that permeates all of nature and provides the drive for survival and propagation inherent in all living things. Satan is not a conscious entity to be worshiped, rather a reservoir of power inside each human to be tapped at will. Thus any concept of sacrifice is rejected as a Christian aberration—in Satanism there's no deity to which one can sacrifice."
- Peter Gilmore, head of the Church of Satan.

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Re: Pope Francis' Comments on Freedom of Religion
« Reply #14 on: January 20, 2015, 12:47:10 AM »
Indeed. It's more like Atheism wearing a funny hat - no offense intended to any self-titled atheists around.

Offline KythiaTopic starter

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Re: Pope Francis' Comments on Freedom of Religion
« Reply #15 on: January 20, 2015, 12:51:34 AM »
Indeed. It's more like Atheism wearing a funny hat - no offense intended to any self-titled atheists around.

But offense intended to funny hat wearers? 

I think there's been a good point made upthread about insults to your child.  Let's say, Oniya and Lrrr, that I say something simply horrifically insulting to your kid - do you think your violent reaction is something I should have predicted (your hypothetical violent reaction to my hypothetical insult, obvi) and something I need to accept as the "cost" of that insult?  Would I be justified in prosecuting for assault after I receive that violent reaction?  I'm not talking strictly legally, I'm talking about if you could design your own legal system.

Online AndyZ

Re: Pope Francis' Comments on Freedom of Religion
« Reply #16 on: January 20, 2015, 12:59:07 AM »
I'm almost PROCed out and will likely take a break for a bit, but I wanted to ask:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/12/07/in-florida-tis-the-season-for-satan.html

Is this the same group or a different group, and if the same, why such a clear depiction of Paradise Lost?

Granted that I realize that Satan in the Bible is different from what Paradise Lost has with Lucifer.

Also, thanks for the correction.

Online TheGlyphstone

Re: Pope Francis' Comments on Freedom of Religion
« Reply #17 on: January 20, 2015, 01:12:40 AM »
But offense intended to funny hat wearers? 

I think there's been a good point made upthread about insults to your child.  Let's say, Oniya and Lrrr, that I say something simply horrifically insulting to your kid - do you think your violent reaction is something I should have predicted (your hypothetical violent reaction to my hypothetical insult, obvi) and something I need to accept as the "cost" of that insult?  Would I be justified in prosecuting for assault after I receive that violent reaction?  I'm not talking strictly legally, I'm talking about if you could design your own legal system.

Funny hat wearers are jerks anyways.

Offline Caehlim

Re: Pope Francis' Comments on Freedom of Religion
« Reply #18 on: January 20, 2015, 01:15:59 AM »
I'm almost PROCed out and will likely take a break for a bit, but I wanted to ask:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/12/07/in-florida-tis-the-season-for-satan.html

Is this the same group or a different group, and if the same, why such a clear depiction of Paradise Lost?

Granted that I realize that Satan in the Bible is different from what Paradise Lost has with Lucifer.

Honestly I suspect it's because they're trolling people. I can't confirm that, I'm not a member of their group nor do I have any inside sources beyond public commentary. But it seems pretty clear that the intent there was a deliberate mockery of governments sponsoring religious displays so they tried to create something offensive to Christian sensibilities on purpose.

Offline Sethala

Re: Pope Francis' Comments on Freedom of Religion
« Reply #19 on: January 20, 2015, 01:33:13 AM »
Honestly I suspect it's because they're trolling people. I can't confirm that, I'm not a member of their group nor do I have any inside sources beyond public commentary. But it seems pretty clear that the intent there was a deliberate mockery of governments sponsoring religious displays so they tried to create something offensive to Christian sensibilities on purpose.

Yeah, that seems about right.  I don't agree with it, but I do kind of enjoy the schadenfreude of giving them a taste of their own medicine after having religious propaganda shoved at me for a good chunk of my childhood.

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Re: Pope Francis' Comments on Freedom of Religion
« Reply #20 on: January 20, 2015, 06:50:57 AM »
personally I hate trolls. I find trolling a waste of brainpower, and lord knows people need as much as they can spare.
guys I've met that follow that stuff are kinda... selfish jerks.

Seriously some folks try to make religious trolling an art, now imagine if they put that towards science or an actual understanding of a natural, cultural, or spiritual nature...

Offline Oniya

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Re: Pope Francis' Comments on Freedom of Religion
« Reply #21 on: January 20, 2015, 09:54:13 AM »
But offense intended to funny hat wearers? 

I think there's been a good point made upthread about insults to your child.  Let's say, Oniya and Lrrr, that I say something simply horrifically insulting to your kid - do you think your violent reaction is something I should have predicted (your hypothetical violent reaction to my hypothetical insult, obvi) and something I need to accept as the "cost" of that insult?  Would I be justified in prosecuting for assault after I receive that violent reaction?  I'm not talking strictly legally, I'm talking about if you could design your own legal system.

I think that getting a 'violent reaction' from a parent after verbally assaulting their child is something to be expected.  It's a primal thing, as anyone whose late relative has ever messed with a bear cub can tell you about.  'Violent reactions' do not need to be exclusively physical, however.  I can't speak for Lrrr, but my own 'violent reaction' would be a returning verbal harangue that would shock sailors and change hair colors and textures for a good block around.  (I know my strengths, what can I say?) 

Online Lrrr

Re: Pope Francis' Comments on Freedom of Religion
« Reply #22 on: January 20, 2015, 04:03:38 PM »
Quote
I think there's been a good point made upthread about insults to your child.  Let's say, Oniya and Lrrr, that I say something simply horrifically insulting to your kid - do you think your violent reaction is something I should have predicted (your hypothetical violent reaction to my hypothetical insult, obvi) and something I need to accept as the "cost" of that insult?  Would I be justified in prosecuting for assault after I receive that violent reaction?  I'm not talking strictly legally, I'm talking about if you could design your own legal system.

I think that getting a 'violent reaction' from a parent after verbally assaulting their child is something to be expected.  It's a primal thing, as anyone whose late relative has ever messed with a bear cub can tell you about.  'Violent reactions' do not need to be exclusively physical, however.  I can't speak for Lrrr, but my own 'violent reaction' would be a returning verbal harangue that would shock sailors and change hair colors and textures for a good block around.  (I know my strengths, what can I say?)
I'm exhausted from two days of no sleep and I'm hurting badly from lack of the proper medicine so maybe I shouldn't answer right now - but I'm going to anyway.

As with any social interaction, my response would depend on the circumstances.  If the verbal assault came from someone randomly mumbling and wandering from young woman to young woman screaming at them, I would probably let it go figuring they had mental problems I wasn't going to solve no matter how I responded.  In that case, I doubt the person would be able to properly anticipate the response to whatever she did to others.

If they are an adult of sound mind I would agree with Oniya - they should be able to anticipate a parent's reaction to an assault on their child.

WRT being prosecuted, I doubt a verbal reprimand on my part would lead to legal ramifications under any set of laws.  If I physically assaulted the name-caller I would expect to be prosecuted even if we were using my personal set of laws.  I'm perfectly capable of over-reacting to a situation like that and flattening someone with a swift right to the nose.  I'm also perfectly capable of recognizing my mistake when I return to a non-agitated state of mind.  In our current legal system I believe I'd be given a break due to what would be termed extenuating circumstances (parent protecting child).

Offline Hemingway

Re: Pope Francis' Comments on Freedom of Religion
« Reply #23 on: January 20, 2015, 04:47:39 PM »
personally I hate trolls. I find trolling a waste of brainpower, and lord knows people need as much as they can spare.
guys I've met that follow that stuff are kinda... selfish jerks.

Seriously some folks try to make religious trolling an art, now imagine if they put that towards science or an actual understanding of a natural, cultural, or spiritual nature...

Insults are not classy.

It's too easy to dismiss it as 'trolling'. It's designed to get a rise out of people, yes - but any reaction on the part of religious people is no different from what non-believers may have to seeing religious displays, billboards, religious literature handed out, and so on. If these groups - the religious groups - want the right to display their religion in public, then they must also respect the rights of others to do the same with other religions, even if those religions aren't considered 'serious'. How is this selfish at all?

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Re: Pope Francis' Comments on Freedom of Religion
« Reply #24 on: January 20, 2015, 07:34:49 PM »
WRT being prosecuted, I doubt a verbal reprimand on my part would lead to legal ramifications under any set of laws.  If I physically assaulted the name-caller I would expect to be prosecuted even if we were using my personal set of laws.  I'm perfectly capable of over-reacting to a situation like that and flattening someone with a swift right to the nose.  I'm also perfectly capable of recognizing my mistake when I return to a non-agitated state of mind.  In our current legal system I believe I'd be given a break due to what would be termed extenuating circumstances (parent protecting child).

This is sorta kinda a little bit what I was getting at.  There are people who feel the same way about their faith as they do a child.  To me, what PF was saying was that hauling off and punching someone has extenuating circumstances.  That juries shouldn't convict and, by extension, that such reactions are (should be?  Its not clear from his comments) understandable and to a greater or lesser extent sanctioned by society. 

I dunno.  In all honesty I've never heard an overly good defence of free speech as an abstract principle and I think I'm considerably less...errrr... "bothered" by limitations on it than E as a whole.  Part of this may be a cross Atlantic thing, but it may not and I lack the energy to poll my fellow countrymen to find out how typical my attitude is.

The US - and I'm not a lawyer and even if I was I still wouldn't be one who knew the laws in the US - has "fighting words" which, according to wikipedia are:

Quote
"insulting or 'fighting words,' those that by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace" are among the "well-defined and narrowly limited classes of speech the prevention and punishment of [which] … have never been thought to raise any constitutional problem."

Is my insulting your daughter fighting words and hence shouldn't be protected?  In your own moral code, I mean, not the law?  If it is, is there a difference between that and an insult to the religion of someone who felt very strongly about it?