Religion, Expression and Freedom: Offense as a Weak Reason for Legal Regulation
Cahiers de Recherche sur les Droits Fondamentaux, No. 8, pp. 53-66, 2010
22 Pages Posted: 9 Aug 2011
Date Written: 2010
Some forms of religious expression tend to stir controversy among citizens who share a secular conception of public morality, whether or not they are themselves religious in the 'private sphere.' As well, religious individuals are often shocked by expression criticizing their beliefs or desacralizing the religious figures that they worship.
This paper examines some difficult questions raised by the interplay of freedom of expression and freedom of religion. Drawing on Raymond Boudon’s distinction between strong and good reasons, it offers a reflection on the quality of reasons invoked in support of claims demanding the censorship of either public manifestations of religious belief or anti-religious expression, observing that several of them, being neither strong nor good, are more often than not rather weak. It defends the thesis that the equilibrium between the two freedoms cannot be judged in the abstract but must instead be resituated within the particular historical and legal context within which it is established. However, it warns against the creation of double standards between religious expression and anti-religious expression, arguing that if the former is strongly protected, the other should be protected as strongly, irrespective of believers’ offended sensitivities. Secular moralities are no more, but no less, important, than religious ones.
Notes: Downloadable document is in French.
Keywords: freedom of religion, freedom of expression, anti-religious expression, secularism, blasphemy, offence, freedom
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