Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | November 10, 2009

Free speech only for those who agree with you

It’s more a more common sentiment than you might think. Fred Oliveri, in a letter to the editor of the Morgan Hill Times, which runs my regular column My Point Exactly, objects to the paper publishing a recent column that advocated rational criticism of supernatural beliefs:

If she wants to practice non-religious beliefs and follow the dictates of a foul mouth like Bill Maher instead of a Rick Warren or a Joel Osteen that is up to her. But to promote her lack of belief in any type of what she calls supernatural and I call religion should be left out [of the newspaper]. … I would recommend that the Times take a closer look at what they publish.

Since when is the filter of “Fred likes it” appropriate for deciding what The Times, or any newspaper, publishes?

But that’s not all. PZ Myers, on his Pharyngula blog, reports that 22.3% of respondents to a Lakeland, Florida newspaper’s online poll believe that atheists do not have a right to display a billboard. That’s disturbing, as Myers explains, because “it reveals that 22% of the respondents don’t think a number of their fellow citizens … have the same privileges they do.”

Free speech rights are afforded to everyone, not just to those who hold majority opinions. Or, as Neil Boortz put it, “Free speech is meant to protect unpopular speech. Popular speech, by definition, needs no protection.”

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