Question 127:

Is it allowed in Europe to insult Jesus Christ with caricatures?


Answer: From a legal point of view, yes. The moral evaluation of such an insult is a different matter. In Europe, Jesus Christ is insulted in caricatures again and again. All historical experience shows that special legal protection of religion has been abused repeatedly, and that it cannot be combined with the freedom of expression and freedom of scientific enquiry. I agree with the following comments by Professor Muhammad Kalisch at the University of Münster:

"The legal protection of faith and religious feelings is nonsensical and to be rejected not least because of the fact can never be defined precisely and any evaluation automatically tends towards arbitrariness. For lawyers in a constitutional state, however, arbitrariness is the strongest sign of an invalid verdict. That the facts cannot be defined is a consequence of the different views each individual has about when his or her religious feelings have been insulted. In the case of religious or philosophical views there is the added problem that what is utter rubbish for one person can be an absolute truth for another...


If you hold the Pope to be a criminal and Mohammed a murderer, you must be allowed to say it. If you want a society which recognizes the freedom of opinion and the freedom of scientific enquiry, you have to live with the consequence that there will be people who do not share your view of the world and who consider things to be nonsense which are holy to you.


It is possible to try to criticize the content of faith and at the same time try to show your discussion partner that you still respect his dignity as a human being, and to search for a way of criticizing that is as little painful as possible… It must nevertheless be noted that any conflicts arising out of the discussion cannot and must not be solved through the law. Within the area of conflict between the freedom of opinion and the freedom of scientific enquiry on the one hand, and religion on the other, there has to be the absolute freedom of opinion and science, even if this may hurt religious feelings. Any attempt at imposing restrictions cannot be confirm with the above mentioned basic freedoms, and all historic experience shows that no good can come of it.


However, there are limits. These limits do not concern the religious faith of other people, but their personal dignity. Where the followers of any religious faith, be they Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Baha'is or any other, are represented in word or caricature in a manner that they appear to be a mere homogenous mass, which without any individual differentiation can be ascribed negative characteristics such as lying, falsity, fraudulency or even a desire to kill, then there is no doubt that their human dignity has been violated and an insulting representation has been made.


It must not be that a person is automatically under general suspicion and considered to be a criminal simply because of his faith. This must indeed be strongly prosecuted by the Government." (CIBEDO (Frankfurt a.Main), 1/2006 , p. 22-23)!


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