480€ For Denigration Of “Religious Teachings”

An Austrian court fined Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff 480€ for saying of Muhammad’s marriage to Aisha, “If this does not constitute paedophilia, what does?” Ed Brayton says, “Well, guess what? Muhammad married a 9 year old girl. By any reasonable definition, that would seem to make him a pedophile.” But the standard used by the court wasn’t reasonable. It was legalistic. Courts are legalistic. It’s not clear the court was actually legalistic enough in this case. The conviction is under appeal.
But the root problem is not with the conviction or with what Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff said. The root problem is with such laws. The danger of denigration of religion laws is great and goes well beyond any 480€ fine. It goes to the heart of free speech. These laws are not about some risk that denigration will be endangered or threaten anyone’s life or property. They are about protecting opinion. An opinion, no matter how strongly held, is still an opinion. No law should protect any opinion from a free and open marketplace of conflicting opinions and ideas.