Brazil, Blasphemy, and Free Speech: Why the US Must Maintain Strong Freedom of Expression Protections in Spite of International Pressure to Punish Anti-Religious Hate Speech
27 Pages Posted: 4 Feb 2013
Date Written: December 15, 2012
Violent protests widely thought to have been caused by a YouTube video called "Innocence of Muslims" have increased international pressure for the United States to punish anti-religious hate speech. It is probable that a law which punished blasphemous expression would violate the First Amendment's Free Speech Clause. However, a Brazilian judge recently ruled that YouTube was required to block access to the "Innocence of Muslims" film in that country even though Brazil's constitution purports to protect freedom of expression. This article uses a variety of Brazilian constitutional law authorities to critically examine the reasoning in that case, and argues that it is preferable for countries to constitutionally proscribe laws which ban blasphemous speech. Though some blasphemous speech generates substantial social unrest, the Brazilian example suggests that banning religious hate speech endangers socially valuable expression.
Keywords: Brazil, free speech, First Amendment, freedom of expression, blasphemy, Innocence of Muslims
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