Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Oh, Canada...

Lately I've been reading reports from right-wing types that Canada (among other countries) has recently been adopting hate-speech laws that are far more restrictive than what would be allowed in the U.S. under the first amendment. This recent U.S. News piece reports on a new law that would prohibit "public criticism of homosexuality," as well as stories about people who have already been punished for expressing such views.

I'm not sure how accurate these reports are. But I'm very surprised to see a defense of these laws from law professor Brian Leiter. I don't know a lot about Brian Leiter, but he's apparently "the youngest chairholder in the history of the law school at Texas," as well as being a prominent law-blogger. His defense of these laws is basically that he considers them to be "civilized." David Bernstein offers a detailed rebuttal over at the Volokh conspiracy, which is worth reading. I'm shocked and appalled that a respected legal theorist at a top law school would defend these laws, especially with such a dismissive argument. I just hope the first amendment can stand up to a nation of lawyers trained by people like Leiter.

One surprising and ridiculous part of Leiter's rant that goes unmentioned by Bernstein is this quote:

It's also true that if you're skeptical about U.S. motives in Iraq (and elsewhere) and think the invasion was on a par, morally, with the Soviet invasion of Aghanistan [sic]; if you believe nationalized health care is preferable to a system which caters to the needs of the insurance industry; if you think redistributive taxation is a requirement of justice; if, in short, you dissent from the neoliberal paradigm and chauvinist nationalism that dominate the public sphere in the United States, you will have far more freedom of speech in Canada: for example, your views might be expressible outside your living room, perhaps, say, in major newspapers, or even on television.
Perhaps Leiter is being a bit facetious here, but I can't imagine what he's talking about. People say those things in the media all the time. And this is a guy who spends his days at a law school, where I'm sure it's more risky to disagree with any of the propositions he lists than it is to promote them. Talk about a persecution complex.

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