Freedom of Expression-How Far is Too Far?


  • Man suspended and ultimately fired for quoting religious scriptures at a seminar for gays and lesbians in Britain.
  • Embassies in the Middle East being targeted for the action of their member countries allegedly disrespecting religious deities (burning the Koran and a cartoon mocking the prophet Mohammed)

We read these headlines from time to time, all in the name of freedom of expression. Freedom of speech and expression is an inalienable right, I’m sure we can all appreciate this. It encourages social evolution, fosters creativity and provides a sense of individuality, but where do we draw the line? Maybe when a religion, person, nation or group is offended in some way? Or maybe when the result of you expressing your opinion results in violence? How about as long as the expression of your beliefs does not compromise the national security of the country in which you reside? These limitations seem fine by me, if so simple why do we, on a consistent basis read headlines bearing much similarity to those aforementioned?

Here is a theory, freedom of expression requires one to be practical, incorporate logic and well, simply put, requires the use of common sense. This means being cognizant of the limitations associated with the freedom of speech and expression, it means knowing when to bend the boundaries.

We can always argue that once an opinion or an expression does not result in any person or group being subject to violence then by all means go ahead. But the fact of the matter is that most controversial opinions will offend one group or the other. Knowing this, all we can do, is try to minimize the likelihood of this occurrence through our approach. In doing so, be respectful of the opinions and beliefs of others. Example: Instead of showing up to a seminar dedicated to gays and lesbians to express your belief that gays and lesbians shall be going to hell for their lifestyle, try dedicating another forum in which you can voice your views on the matter. Taking this approach will be much to the disdain of other gays, lesbians and homosexuals attending the institution, however this is your forum to do so…

Consistency is also critical, restrictions should be balanced, applicable to everyone, regardless of religion, ethnicity, gender, orientation or social status. What this means, is in the same breadth Prince Harry’s Vegas escapade was removed from websites and banned from being printed, so should the cartoons printed by a French newspaper mocking the prophet Mohammed, out of shear respect for others.

This brings me to my next point, yes you have the right to express yourself, but why unable to do so without making reference to another’s way of life?  In other words, someone with strong Christian principles is free to proclaim that Jesus is their Lord and savior, quite keenly as well, without insulting or mocking another religion in the process. Back to the common sense rule, no one will take too kindly to someone making a mockery of their deity, irrespective of their religion. If at any point someone should depict Jesus in an obscene manner, be sure that Christians across the world will have something to say about it.

But I digress, knowing something in principle and applying it are two completely different things, furthermore with the abuse of these rights so rampant in Western society I’m sure this would require re-socializing an entire generation, a ‘right’ is not a pass to be  ‘inappropriate’ or apathetic.


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