David Harsanyi: What Pope Francis Got Wrong About Free Expression


Catholic Church England and Wales/Flickr

We heathens can leave the theological debate to others. But Pope Francis, the bishop of Rome and world leader of the Roman Catholic Church, has some ideas about laws governing the secular world. The pope, while en route to the Philippines, offered a number of comments about freedom of expression. More than simply saying that poking fun at religion is ugly, he argued that there should be limits on freedom of expression and limits on mocking faith. 

But why does "mockery" hold a special distinction in our debate?, wonders David Harsanyi. And what constitutes contemptuous language or behavior toward another faith? What if one religion feels mocked by the things that other religions put up with in society? What if those of a certain faith feel this is ridicule toward them? The right of people to be critical of religion—even their own—is a defense of the common good, argues Harsanyi. The pope's comments do not make clear that he believes the same.