How Free is Speech?

Bishop Richard Williamson says that no Jews were murdered in gas chambers during World War II; that the Twin Towers were brought down by American explosives on September 11, 2001; and that Jews want to dominate the world “to prepare the anti-Christ’s throne in Jerusalem.” Should he, and other hate-mongers of his ilk, be punished for their words?

NEW YORK – Bishop Richard Williamson has some very peculiar, and frankly odious, views: that no Jews were murdered in gas chambers during World War II; that the Twin Towers were brought down by American explosives, not by airplanes, on September 11, 2001; and that Jews are fighting to dominate the world “to prepare the anti-Christ’s throne in Jerusalem.” And these are just some of his opinions on secular matters.

On questions of Roman Catholic doctrine, his views were considered so out of line with the modern Church that the Vatican excommunicated him in 1988, along with other members of the ultra-conservative Society of St. Pius X, founded by the fascist sympathizer Marcel Lefebvre. Supporters of Williamson include the British historian David Irving, who was recently jailed in Austria for glorifying the Nazis.

The bishop, then, does not strike one as an attractive man. But does he deserve everything now hanging over his head? As a consequence of the views he expressed on Swedish television, he was denied re-entry into the Church, as was promised earlier by Pope Benedict, which is probably just as well. But he was also kicked out of Argentina, where he lived, and is threatened with extradition to Germany, where preparations are made to prosecute him for Holocaust denial.

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