Free speech roundup

  • Spirit Airlines v. DOT: “Government Can’t Silence Speech Criticizing Its Actions, Even If That Speech Is ‘Commercial'” [Ilya Shapiro/Sophie Cole, Cato]
  • Virginia Supreme Court speedily rejects prior restraint against Yelp review [Paul Alan Levy, Volokh, earlier]
  • Why schools crack down on speech [Hans Bader]
  • “Mann v. Steyn — CEI SLAPPs Back” [Adler, earlier]
  • Hellhole jurisdictions? “The seven countries where the state can execute you for being atheist” [Max Fisher, WaPo] “Egyptian court sentences Christian family to 15 years for converting from Islam” [FoxNews] Pakistan mob burns man accused of desecrating Koran alive [Reuters] And see, via Volokh, blasphemy penalties from Tunisia (seven years for posting Mohammed cartoons) and Egypt.
  • “Congressman-Elect Kerry Bentivolio Sued Me For Calling Him a ‘Deadbeat Santa'” [Mike Betzold, Deadline Detroit]
  • UK government agrees to rollback of law criminalizing insults [Telegraph, Independent]


  • It’s not execution, but many American states have Constitutional discrimination against atheists:

    Arkansas State Constitution “No person who denies the being of a God shall hold any office in the civil departments, nor testify as a witness in any court.”

    Maryland’s Declaration of Rights “all persons are equally entitled to protection in their religious liberty … provided, he believes in the existence of God”

    Massachusetts’ State Constitution “Any every denomination of Christians … shall be equally under the protection of the law” amended to “all religious sects and denominations .. shall be equally under the protection of the law”

    North Carolina’s State Constitution, Article 6 Section 8
    “Disqualifications of office. The following persons shall be disqualified for office: First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God.”

    Also Mississippi, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas officially bar atheists from office.

    Lo! How long will our people languish in the smug superiority of our reality-based worldview? How long before our quiet snickering at magical beliefs can ring throughout the land?

  • Yes, a post early in this blog’s run noted that such laws linger on in some states, though “widely considered unenforceable” under current Supreme Court precedent.

  • Why would perfect strangers be concerned about whether I believe in God? During our evolution as human beings we lived in small groups with shared resources. Expulsion from the group would lead to early death and few children. Anybody being somewhat paranoid would have an advantage in being less likely to be caught taking more than his fair share. A belief in being watched by a God or other ephemeral creatures is common to all peoples. Obviously everybody has a stake in protecting common resources from misuse, so a belief in God by others would cut back on cheating from them.

    Once human cognition allowed for an understanding of societal responsibility, the need for a belief in God would subside. My own experience is that atheists are very good folks.

  • In the case in the UK in which a boy who said “woof” to a police dog was charged with criminal insult, I wonder on what basis did the police decide that “woof” is an insult? Do they purport to understand the language of dogs, and claim that the boy speaks it?