The Archbishop of Canterbury is against “thoughtless and cruel” speech. So am I. The difference is that he wants to criminalize it, according to the Times of London:

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has called for new laws to protect religious sensibilities that would punish “thoughtless and cruel” styles of speaking.

Dr Williams, who has seen his own Anglican Communion riven by fierce invective over homosexuality, said the current blasphemy law was “unworkable” and he had no objection to its repeal.

But whatever replaces it should “send a signal” about what was acceptable.

This should be done by “stigmatising and punishing extreme behaviours” that have the effect of silencing argument.

The Archbishop is apparently unaware that a law such as he is proposing would have exactly the effect of silencing argument. I mean, if the United States had had such a law in the last couple of weeks, how many presidential candidates and their surrogates would have been arrested for “thoughtless” speech?

The Archbishop, delivering the James Callaghan Memorial Lecture in London this afternoon, said it should not just be a few forms of extreme behaviour that were deemed unacceptable, leaving everything else as fair game.

“The legal provision should keep before our eyes the general risks of debasing public controversy by thoughtless and, even if unintentionally, cruel styles of speaking and acting,” he said.

The Rt. Rev. Williams is, from what I gather, a brilliant theologian. As a legislator, not so much. He really should stick with what he knows, and not worry about protecting thin-skinned people from “thoughtless” speech.

(Via MCJ.)

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