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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Letters to a Satanist: Do you believe that free speech protects hate speech and false statements?

Posted By on Thu, Jan 15, 2015 at 11:28 AM

click to enlarge LEE DEVITO
  • Lee DeVito

Do you believe that “Free Speech” protects hate speech and false statements?

Free Speech allows for the inquiry and critical scrutiny by which falsehoods are openly exposed. Free Speech does not, and should not, protect willful slander and/or defamation. The American Bar Association defines “hate speech” as “speech that offends, threatens, or insults groups, based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or other traits.” We should be careful to never allow a ruling body to limit even “hate speech” but for the most compelling of reasons – such as that the speech in question is likely to directly incite immediate violence against the party toward whom such speech is directed.

Freed Speech embodies the freedom to commit “heresy”, and the freedom to offend. Freedom of Speech should not be confused with freedom from criticism, critical inquiry, or mockery. To the contrary, Freedom of Speech protects all of these things, and to expose bad ideas through reasoned ridicule is to serve a legitimate function in the marketplace of ideas.

We believe in transparency. Free Speech means very little in an uninformed dialogue, nor is each opinion of equal value. Opinions based most closely on evidence-based conclusions hold greatest weight. Governments that conceal their activities for self-serving purposes, outside of reasonable, narrowly defined, National Security concerns, can’t be said to operate a free society. Organizations which maintain Secret doctrines almost certainly do so in recognition that their teachings are too ludicrous to withstand the critical scrutiny of unindoctrinated believers. Freedom of Speech is only meaningful in conjunction with freedom of information, and both are essential to maintaining an anti-autocratic governing structure. Organizational transparency can and should respect individual privacy. I believe in strengthening mechanisms of anonymity in communication and I support Net Neutrality (believing that many others in TST do as well).

We believe in the primacy of scientific knowledge. Just as Justice is lauded for being “blind” – applying equally to all individuals regardless of race, creed, or religion — Education should be equally blind to all three, persistently unconcerned as to whether empirical facts may insult those committed to aged and unworthy mythologies. While it is appropriate to appreciate that there is much that we do not not know, and much that we may be proven wrong on, it is not appropriate to treat speculative metaphysical answers that presume to fill those gaps as having equal or greater value to empirical fact. Nor should the possibility of error in any assessment of probability be used to leverage a relativism that allows the grossly improbable an equal status in questions of fact.  

Lucien Greaves is the pen name/pseudonym for Doug Mesner, spokesman for The Satanic Temple.

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