Separation of Religion or Belief and State




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Issue:  Free Speech and Association Rights in the Context of Terrorism


For: United Nations, Governments, Religions or Beliefs, Academia, NGOs, Media, Civil Society


Review: Right to Free Speech Collides with Fight against Terror, by Adam Liptak, New York Times: February 11, 2010; S.R Report on Freedom of Opinion & Expression; George Orwell & Freedom of Opinion & Expression.


Excerpts: “The Supreme Court will soon hear Mr. Fertig’s challenge to the law, in a case that pits First Amendment freedoms against the government’s efforts to combat terrorism. The case represents the court’s first encounter with the free speech and association rights of American citizens in the context of terrorism since the Sept. 11 attacks and its first chance to test the constitutional provision of the USA Patriot Act.”


“Mr. Fertig and other challengers to the law, told the court that the case concerned speech protected by the First Amendment ‘promoting lawful, non-violent activities’ including ‘human rights advocacy and peacemaking. Solicitor General Elena Kagan countered that the law allowed Mr. Fertig and the other challengers to say anything they liked so long as they did not direct their efforts toward or coordinate with them with the designated groups.”


UN Special Rapporteur: Freedom of Opinion and Expression: (A/HRC/7/14): The Special Rapporteur notes that a broader interpretation of these limitations, which has been recently suggested in international forums, is not in line with existing international instruments and would ultimately jeopardize the full enjoyment of human rights. Limitations to the right to freedom of opinion and expression have more often than not been used by Governments as a means to restrict criticism and silent dissent. Furthermore, as regional human rights courts have already recognized, the right to freedom of expression is applicable not only to comfortable, inoffensive or politically correction opinions, but also to ideas that “offend, shock and disturb.” The constant confrontation of ideas, even controversial ones, is a stepping stone to vibrant democratic societies.


George Orwell & Freedom of Opinion & Expression: Afterward by Erich Fromm.


The question is a philosophical, anthropological and psychological one, and perhaps also a religious one. It is: can human nature be changed in such a way that man will forget his longing for freedom, for dignity, for integrity, for love – that is to say, can man forget that he is human? Or does human nature have a dynamism which will react to the violation of these basic human needs by attempting to change an inhuman society into a human one?


The leaders are aware of the fact that they themselves have only one aim, and that is power. To them “power is not a means; it is an end. And power means the capacity to inflict unlimited pain and suffering to another human being.” Power, then, for them creates reality, it creates truth. The position which Orwell attributes here to the power elite can be said to be an extreme form of philosophical idealism, but it is more to the point to recognize that the concept of truth and reality which exists in 1984 is an extreme form of pragmatism in which truth becomes subordinate to the Party.


Attachments: Right to Free Speech Collides with Fight against Terror; Freedom of Opinion and Expression; George Orwell & Freedom of Opinion and Expression.