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Law prof warns about European-style crackdown on free speech coming to US

European countries show that ‘once we cross the Rubicon into speech criminalization,’ it is ‘rarely possible’ to turn back, according to law professor Jonathan Turley.
Thu Dec 10, 2020 - 11:29 am EST
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Jonathan Turley PBS NewsHour / YouTube

December 9, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — A high-profile attorney and legal scholar is sounding the alarm on the United States’ current track to European-style anti-free speech laws. Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University in the nation’s capital, called on Americans to educate the public about where this path leads, as shown by countries like France, England, and Norway.

“Once we cross the Rubicon into speech criminalization and controls, Europe has shown that it is rarely possible to work back to liberties lost,” he argued.

“We are moving into potentially the most anti-free speech period of American history — and possibly the most anti-free speech administration,” Turley said.

The law professor pointed out that former Vice President Joe Biden, the likely next president, “has called for speech controls.” In January, Biden had criticized Facebook for refusing to remove a Trump “attack ad” at Biden’s request, calling Facebook’s response “unacceptable.”

Turley also noted that Biden’s recently appointed transition Team Lead” for the U.S. Agency for Global Media, Richard Stengel, is “one of the most pronounced anti-free speech figures in the United States.”

Stengel wrote what Turley described as a “chilling” 2019 op-ed for the Washington Post entitled, “Why America Needs a Hate Speech Law.” Stengel cited Quran burning and “circulation of “false narratives” by Russia” as examples of speech that should be restricted.

The views of Biden and Stengel on free speech are in keeping with what Turley calls the “core value” of “European-style speech controls” that have already taken root in the Democratic party. Democrats have already been successfully demanding internet censorship, which has recently become increasingly aggressive.

Turley is calling on free speech advocates to “educate the public on where this road leads in places like Norway,” which he says is “an example of this headlong plunge into speech controls and crimes in the West.”

Norway has held a hate speech provision in its penal code since 1970, and currently imposes a fine or imprisonment for up to three years to anyone who “with intent or gross negligence publicly makes a discriminatory or hateful statement.” This means “threatening or insulting a person or promoting hate of, persecution of or contempt for another person based on his or her” ethnicity, religion, or homosexuality.

This was recently found to be inadequate, since it did not explicitly provide for “hate speech” against gender-confused individuals. The legislature added “transgenders” to the list of those protected by hate speech law. The banned speech includes private, at-home conversations.

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Turley cited numerous examples of the suppression of free speech in Europe, with France and England claiming especially outrageous crackdowns on free speech.

In France, free speech protections are all but extinguished. In 2018, conservative French politician Marine Le Pen was “ordered into psychiatric evaluations” after posting graphic images of people executed by Islamic terrorists. Turley documented a list of other examples of anti-free speech measures in France that go back a decade or more, such as the fining of fashion designer John Galliano for public racial insults.

The situation is similar in England, which now also has a fairly well-established track record of crushing free speech. Back in 2010, a 15-year old girl was arrested for burning the Quran and posting video footage of it to Facebook. In 2013, a man was arrested for making a joke about Nelson Mandela online after a local elected representative complained.

More recently, the Law Commission of England and Wales “has disclosed plans to lower the threshold for hate crimes” to criminalize private “hate speech,” according to the U.K.’s Christian Institute.

Scotland is also considering a hate crime bill that has stirred up opposition from a wide cross-section of society, including Catholic Bishops, who have expressed concerns that owning a Bible could be considered possession of “inflammatory material,” an offense under the bill in question.

Sarah Phillimore, a family law attorney, said regarding the English proposal: “I cannot believe the government is being asked to consider surveillance of citizens in their own home. How will the evidence of such hate crimes be collected? Will we have an East German-style secret police like the Stasi?”


  free spech, joe biden, jonathan turley, richard stengel

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