Ayn Rand Institute Press Release
Brigitte Bardot Punished for Political Opinions
June 4, 2008
Irvine, CA--"The conviction of Brigitte Bardot by a French court for 'inciting hatred against Muslims' is a gross violation of her right to free speech and should be denounced by every civilized nation," said Thomas Bowden, an analyst at the Ayn Rand Institute.
Bardot was fined $23,325 on Tuesday--barely escaping a jail sentence--for a statement made in a letter to France's interior minister, protesting Muslims' refusal to stun animals before slaughtering them during religious holidays. The fine was levied for the following statement: "I've had enough of being led by the nose by this whole population which is destroying us, (and) destroying our country by imposing their ways."
"Bardot's statement was an expression of political opinion and obviously did not constitute coercion, or threat of coercion, against anyone," said Bowden. "As such, the French government has no right to fine or penalize her in any way for the exercise of her individual right of free speech.
"Moreover, there is no rational basis for a crime of 'inciting hatred.' Hatred is the emotion one feels in response to evil. Thus, to criminalize the incitement of hatred is to criminalize the expression of moral judgment, inasmuch as any moral denunciation may cause others to hate the alleged evildoer.
"The law may punish only those individuals who presume to take the law into their own hands by inciting unlawful violence against others. In the absence of physical force, individuals--such as Muslims in this case--who find other people's views or emotions objectionable are free to ignore them or argue against them.
"A society that outlaws the expression of opinions, either moral or political, is doomed to destruction. Such judgments are essential to rational individuals' pursuit of values, including orderly, peaceful change within a legal system. Once free speech is outlawed, the way is paved for dictatorship. The conviction of Brigitte Bardot for expression of her political opinion demonstrates that free speech is in great jeopardy in France.
"Other nations should take note of what's happening in France, and realize that they will tread the same path if they fail to uphold the principle of free speech."
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Thomas A. Bowden is an analyst at the Ayn Rand Institute, focusing on legal issues. A former lawyer and law school instructor who practiced for twenty years in Baltimore, Maryland, his Op-Eds have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Philadelphia Inquirer, Miami Herald, Los Angeles Daily News, and many other newspapers. Mr. Bowden has given dozens of radio interviews and has appeared on the Fox News Channel's Hannity & Colmes.
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