It was a very cold August night in Edinburgh, indeed the entire summer had been a cold one. Thomas Aikenhead turned to his companions and said, “I wish right now I was in the place Ezra called hell, to warm myself there.”
He was reported to the authorities. An investigation followed and it was discovered that the 18 year old Aikenhead had also said that the bible was not God’s word but the invention of the said Ezra, that Jesus had not performed miracles and the world was not created in seven days but had existed for all eternity.
Aikenhead was hanged for blasphemy on the 8th of January 1697.
Scottish courts have moderated since then. Mark Meechan does not face the death penalty.
His crime was to train his girlfriend’s pug to raise its paw in response to disgusting phrases such as “Sieg heil” and “Gas the jews”. In the resulting video which was posted on Youtube he says he did this to annoy his girlfriend by converting her cute little pet into a creature as bad as the nazis, which he detested.
He was found guilty of hate speech. He is yet to be sentenced. Fortunately the dog’s name is Buddha. If it had been Jesus I think it might be the gallows.
Freedom of speech is the essential freedom without which we cannot argue for any other freedom.
Ricky Gervais puts it quite well,
If you don’t believe in a person’s right to say things that you might find ‘grossly offensive’, then you don’t believe in Freedom of Speech.
This guy sums up my opinion rather more colorfully, if you’re in California bear in mind that swearing causes cancer of the ears.