The Limits Of Free Speech And Public Monuments

Recently there was a lot of disgust expressed against a “Man charged after ‘fornicating the statue,’ police say

Yes, this is the same monument Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was murdered at and, the same monument that saw teenagers in 2006 charged for urinating at.

In all the above cases the charge was ‘mischief’.

In the CBC video, the CBC commenter (About 1:30 in if you watch) refers to the monument and says “And Canadians gained a new sense that this is a hallowed place.”

Definitions for ‘hallowed’ include ‘sacred’, ‘holy’ and ‘consecrated’. Is this monument now a religious object? How so? and must we as a secular society respect the supposed ‘hallowness’ of an inanimate object?

A not dissimilar outrage was expressed against a teenager in Pennsylvania a few years back. Jerry Coyne discussed it on his website.


Obviously a statue on church grounds is a ‘hallowed object’.

And from the recent Huffington Post video on Ottawa by Chris Hau, I made this still.


Is this also public mischief? Go watch the video; he’s obviously ‘fornicating with a statue’ why wasn’t this actor charged with public mischief as well? I suppose the reason is this statue is not ‘hallowed ground’. This statue is of a ‘Metis fighter fighting in the war of 1812’, so I suppose that’s not holy enough.

If we are to become a secular nation, will we have honoured monuments that we must respect? Who gets to decide which monuments are honoured? Would ‘giving the finger’ to the concept of war in the form of the war memorial count as disrespect? Instead of ‘fornicating’ could one simply give the finger to a Jesus statue? (Blasphemy!) Could one be arrested for giving the finger?  Do people have a right to not be offended after all? Where are the limits to free speech to be drawn then? Must we have limits? It’s certainly obvious to me that religious reasons are not sufficient.

2 thoughts on “The Limits Of Free Speech And Public Monuments

  1. I’m opposed to hallowedness in general, and definitely opposed to punishing people for getting frisky with statues (as long as they don’t damage or deface the statues in the process). In any case, this article seems relevant here.

  2. If you are an atheist who believes in “free speech”, then you are in the impossible situation of defending people who advocate exterminating you. ” Free speech ” is a red herring and the content of speech should be scrutinized and that scrutiny is often muted by the term “free speech”.

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