Offensive Speech, Religion, and the Limits of the Law


Offensive Speech, Religion, and the Limits of the Law

Nicholas Hatzis
Publication Date
May 2021


  • relates discussions of discrimination, tolerance, and religious minorities to the problem of offensive speech.
  • examines the distinction between hate speech and offensive speech as well as the significance of religious speech in public conversation.
  • the amount to which there should be a legal right to be protected from being offended, and the idea of offence as a mental condition.

Is it ever permissible for the government to censor offensive speech? Regarding messages that hurt religious sensibilities, this subject has grown in importance. It is frequently asserted that insulting someone's beliefs is equivalent to disrespecting them as a person; that insults are a form of intolerance or hatred; that the right to religious freedom includes a more specific right not to have one's beliefs insulted; that religious minorities have a particularly strong claim to be protected from offence; and that the censorship of offensive speech is necessary to prevent social unrest and violence.

All of those justifications lack merit. This book makes the case, drawing on law and philosophy, that while religious freedom is a crucial right that underpins both negative and positive obligations for the state, it is unpersuasive to construe constitutional and human rights provisions as having a right not to be offended. Instead, we should consider public discourse as a forum for the expression of all ethical perspectives, even those that some people may find objectionable. The ability of a civilization to reflect on itself and change depends on this.

TABLE OF CONTENTS of Offensive Speech, Religion, and the Limits of the Law

1:The Nature of Offence
2:Reasons for State Action
3:Responses to Offensive Speech
4:Religious Speech in Public Discourse
5:Blasphemy and Defamation of Religions
6:Discrimination and Toleration

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ISBN: 9780198758440

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