The relationship between hate speech and religion or belief is complex. As Christians, we oppose any expression of hatred toward fellow human beings. But laws against hate speech are sometimes used to prevent legitimate religious expression.
In response to a request by the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Religious Freedom, the WEA has submitted a document entitled “The Paradox of Hate Speech Legislative Restrictions.” Authored by Janet Epp Buckingham, Director of Global Advocacy, it discusses specific incidents and legal cases and depths and presents five practical recommendations.
In her introduction, Buckingham explains that hate speech is often used to incite religious violence. On the other hand, she notes, “We are currently witnessing a trend among states, particularly in the West, of instituting increasingly strict laws restricting free speech on the grounds that it could constitute hate speech. For evangelical Christians, this causes concern when the restrictions prohibit legitimate religious beliefs, particularly about the sanctity of life and human sexuality. Although courts have upheld the right to religious expression thus far, the fact that some Christian leaders have faced criminal trials for publicly expressing religious views is concerning.”
Here are the report’s recommendations. Although they are directed to the UN Special Rapporteur, they can be applied by anyone who cares about protecting religious freedom globally.
1. Call out governments that incite hatred against religious minorities in their countries.
2. Make a strong statement against blasphemy laws and urge their repeal. (Currently, 10 countries have laws permitting death sentences for blasphemy.)
3. Encourage global religious bodies to speak against promotion of hatred by those in their religious tradition.
4. Encourage Western countries to include exemptions for religious expression in their hate speech prohibitions.
5. Publicly recognize the role of the spread of hate speech in fueling the ongoing conflict in the Middle East and the ensuing violence around the world, particularly as it endangers Jews and Palestinians all over the world.
You can download the complete submission (6 pages) here.