John Leo

"The simple practice of reading biblical texts teaching the sinfulness of homosexuality is now against the law in Sweden," said Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Eleven European nations have laws that criminalize "hate speech." After the Danish cartoons controversy, the European Union indicated it would try to draft a media code of conduct. "We are aware of the consequences of exercising the right of free expression," said EU Justice and Security Commissioner Franco Frattini. "We can and we are ready to self-regulate that right." Uh-oh. Here comes more censorship posing as voluntary restraint.

The fondness for censorship that doesn't quite look like censorship surfaced in an op-ed piece this month at the Baltimore Jewish Times. Dr. Robert O. Freedman called for the creation of an International Religious Court that could ask governments to penalize insults directed at religions or religious figures. "All governments must agree that the negative depiction of religion is out of bounds," he wrote.

But why? All belief systems should be equally open to criticism. Ordinary civility should make us cautious about attacking religions that so many people hold dear. But if you believe that any religion is dangerous or nonsensical, you should speak out.

Europe has put itself into a box on censorship. The ban on Holocaust denial was a mistake that launched what law professor Eugene Volokh calls "censorship envy." Multiculturalism worked hard to spread the envy. Now Europe is itching to ban negative comments against all religion whose adherents are likely to cut your head with a rusty saw when criticized. Since this doesn't include Christianity, double standards are clearly being set up. Wouldn't it be simpler just to defend free speech across the board?

John Leo

John Leo is editor of and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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