Religious Studies Prof Values Free Speech So Much That She Keeps Calling for Filmmaker's Arrest


In my Tablet column from yesterday, I mentioned that University of Pennsylvania Associate Professor of Religious Studies Anthea Butler had tweeted: "How soon is Sam Bacile going to be in jail folks? I need him to go now." USA Today asked Butler to revise and extend her remarks, and she came up with a humdinger titled "Why 'Sam Bacile' deserves arrest." A glimpse into the academic mind:

My initial tweet about Bacile, the person said to be responsible for the film mocking the prophet Mohammed, was not because I am against the First Amendment. My tweets reflected my exasperation that as a religion professor, it is difficult to teach the facts when movies such as Bacile's Innocence of Muslims are taken as both truth and propaganda, and used against innocent Americans.

If there is anyone who values free speech, it is a tenured professor!

So why did I tweet that Bacile should be in jail? The "free speech" in Bacile's film is not about expressing a personal opinion about Islam. It denigrates the religion by depicting the faith's founder in several ludicrous and historically inaccurate scenes to incite and inflame viewers. […]

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called Jones on Wednesday to ask him to stop promoting Bacile's film. Clearly, the military considers the film a serious threat to national security. If the military takes it seriously, there should be consequences for putting American lives at risk.

While the First Amendment right to free expression is important, it is also important to remember that other countries and cultures do not have to understand or respect our right.

So if I'm understanding Butler correctly, we should factor in degree of teaching difficulty when figuring out when to criminalize speech, opinionated films are "not about expressing a personal opinion," the U.S. military is an appropriate domestic censor, and the importance of remembering that other countries don't respect the First Amendment means that we should weaken it. Why, if her professorship didn't automatically qualify her as a champion of free speech, I might suggest that she doesn't really understand the term!