Shortly after the Charlie Hebdo shooting in France, Pope Francis expressed that, despite freedom of speech being a fundamental right, there should be limits when it comes to faith.

In many dystopian novels*, people that act/speak against the ruling force (often religiously affiliated) are quickly charged “accordingly”; often imprisoned if not archaic punished though public execution or even mutilation. To conclude that speaking against faith as a whole should not be allowed could theoretically end badly.

However, to target a person because of their religious affiliation would be considered hate speech. As would doing so for other important parts of their identity such as race, class, gender, culture, or sexual orientation.

Hate speech should be discouraged (as it can escalate to verbal harassment) but not illegal. Being able to voice an opinion (however hateful it may be) is what ultimately constitutes freedom of speech. this is a fundamental right and cannot be taken away.

I would like to emphasize that it may be appropriate to moderate free speech in order to promote a safe society with a potential for growth. When hate speech begins to insinuate violence or oppress people, intervention to prevent bodily or economic harm should be put in place.

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*See also: Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale (it has recently just become a television series on Hulu).

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