Monday, February 20, 2006

Imprisoned for opinion

A British historian has been sentenced to three years in jail for denying that the Holocaust occurred.

While I have no sympathy for people who attempt to revise history, it is simply wrong to jail or fine people for opinions or beliefs -- however repugnant those beliefs may be. Criminal punishment chills discussion without eliminating the problem. In the face of legal pressure, people who deny the Holocaust will simply go underground, where their claims cannot be examined, refuted and then discarded from public discourse.

Europe in general has a free and vigorous political culture and a strong committment to free speech. But cases like these illustrate why the United States is lucky to have a First Amendment -- even if we don't always like some of the speech that it protects.

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