Sire, give freedom of thought!

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Between 1783 and 1787, at the height of the German enlightenment, the German playwright Friedrich Schiller wrote the drama “Don Carlos”. Carlos is Prince of Asturias and, as the son of the Spanish King Philip II, “Infant” to the Spanish throne, i.e. the designated successor of King Philip. Don Carlos sides up with the Dutch insurgents who want national independence, individual freedom and a constitution. His friend, the Marquis de Posa, petitions the despotic King with the famous words “Sire, give freedom of thought!” and dies for the liberty of the Dutch, while Don Carlos is delivered to the Inquisition by his own royal father for his heretic views.

Majesties have never had much tolerance for dissent and criticism. This is why in all monarchies there were laws against being critical of his or her majesty, the autocratic monarch. But even democracies had and in part still have laws prohibiting and penalizing critique or ridicule of those in power. These are the so-called “Lese Majesty” laws.

The English term “Lese Majesty” comes from the French term “lèse majesté”, which means as much as “to do harm to majesty”. These laws or rules reflect the sensitivity of majesty and government authorities in general to criticism and ridicule.

Let’s look at some of the lèse majesté rules of some of the nations of the world.


Germany had a “Majestätsbeleidigungsparagraph” (Lese Majesty – Penal Code Paragraph 103) until 2016, when the Turkish President Erdogan tried to sue the German TV host Böhmermann for publishing a disrespectful poem about Erdogan. Ms. Merkel suggested at the time that a Lese Majesty law may no longer be in sync with the spirit of a democratic state.


Belgium’s Constitutional Court cancelled its Lese Majesty law on October 28, 2021.


Denmark still has a libel law (§ 267 Penal Code), under which a person can be punished with up to four months of imprisonment for saying something bad about the Danish Royals.


Estonia has a law that provides punishment of up to two years of imprisonment for insulting foreign dignitaries or desecrating a flag or an anthem etc. (Penal Code §§ 247 and 249).


Iceland has similar legal provisions.


In Italy, impugning the honor or prestige of the president of Italy is punishable with one to five years in jail. This includes personal offences made regarding his/her exercise of powers or otherwise, with no distinction between past or current events or between the public and private spheres.


The Netherlands only abolished its Lese Majesty laws on January 1, 2020.


§ 135 of the Polish penal code states that anyone who publicly insults the President of Poland is punishable with up to three years of imprisonment. Prior to March 2021, the Polish Constitutional Tribunal declared the law consistent with the Polish constitution and Polish international treaty obligations, arguing that the effective carrying out of the duties of the president requires having authority and being especially respected.


In March 2019, the Russian Federal Assembly passed a law criminalizing the publication of online statements that “are found indecent or disrespectful” towards the Russian state or government officials (including President Putin), stipulating fines of up to 100,000 Rubles for first-time offenders, and 200,000 Rubles, or up to 15 days imprisonment, for repeat offenders.


In Spain, articles 490 and 491 of the criminal code govern lèse-majesté. Any person who defames or insults the king, the queen, their ancestors, or their descendants can be imprisoned for up to two years.


In August 2014, Mohammad Saeed Baker, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood‘s shura council, was arrested in Jordan and sentenced to six months in prison for lèse majesté. He was released in February 2015. In April 2021 following an incident where a female Jordanian was sentenced for lèse-majesté after saying that she believes her father is better than the king, King Abdullah II instructed courts to abandon ruling in cases related to lèse-majesté in Jordan


In the State of Kuwait, lèse-majesté is punishable with two years in jail, if charged.


In 2013, a Qatari poet was sentenced to 15 years in prison for criticizing former Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani.

Saudi Arabia

Under the counterterrorism law that took effect in 2014, actions that “threaten Saudi Arabia’s unity, disturb public order, or defame the reputation of the state or the king” are considered acts of terrorism. The offense may carry harsh corporal punishment, including lengthy jail terms and even death, the sentences may be determined on a per case basis due to the arbitrary nature of the Saudi legal system


Under Turkish law it is illegal to insult the Turkish nation, the Turkish Republic, Turkish government institutions, and Turkish national heroes. It is also illegal to insult the President of Turkey, with the scope of such indictment affecting comical and satirical depictions.


Moroccans are routinely prosecuted for statements deemed offensive to the king. The minimum penalty for such a statement is one year’s imprisonment if the statement is made in private (i.e. not broadcast), and three years’ imprisonment if it is made in public. In both cases, the maximum is 5 years.


Although Bhutan transitioned from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy in 2008, the country’s royalty are considered gods incarnate, making criticism of the royalty punishable under blasphemy laws.


In February 2018, the Parliament of Cambodia voted to make insulting any monarch punishable with up to one to five years in prison with a fine of 2 to 10 million riels.

North Korea

Although rarely reported on, there are at least three known cases of the severe penalty for disrespecting the North Korean regime. The first was an execution. President Kim Jung Un sentenced a top official to death for “dozing off” at a meeting he attended. The North Korean government denies that this occurred. The second was for “not clapping hard enough” for Kim Jung Un. The third was the well documented case of Otto Warmbier, an American citizen who was detained for tearing down a poster and “undermining the government”. Warmbier was eventually released in a vegetative state and died soon after his release.


Malaysia uses the Sedition Act of 1948 to charge people for allegedly insulting the royal institution. In 2013, Melissa Gooi and four other friends were detained for allegedly insulting the royal institution. In 2014, Ali Abd Jalil was detained and sentenced to 22 days in prison for insulting the royal family of Johor and the Sultan of Selangor.


Thailand’s criminal code has carried a prohibition against lèse-majesté since 1908. In 1932, when Thailand’s monarchy ceased to be absolute and a constitution was adopted, it too included language prohibiting lèse-majesté. The 2016 Constitution of Thailand, and all previous versions since 1932, contain the clause, “The King shall be enthroned in a position of revered worship and shall not be violated. No person shall expose the King to any sort of accusation or action.


Laws against offending the Emperor of Japan were in place between 1880 and 1947, when the law was abolished, during the Allied occupation.


The 1902 Penal Code, article 101, provided a fine or up to five years of prison for lèse-majesté. Following the 2005 Penal Code (introduced in 2015), lèse majesté is no longer considered a criminal offense.


Sweden cancelled its laws for lèse majesté in 1948.


Yes, even Switzerland! It is illegal in Switzerland to insult foreign heads of state publicly. Any person who publicly insults a foreign state in the person of its head of state, the members of its government, its diplomatic representatives, its official delegates to a diplomatic conference taking place in Switzerland, or one of its official representatives to an international organization or department thereof based or sitting in Switzerland is liable to a custodial sentence not exceeding three years or to a monetary penalty.

United Kingdom

The Treason Felony Act of 1848 made it an offence to advocate for the abolition of the monarchy. Such advocation was punishable by up to life imprisonment under the Act. Though still in the statute book, the law is no longer enforced.

Section 51 of the 2010 Scottish Criminal Justice and Licensing Act abolished the common law criminal offences of sedition and “leasing-making” in Scottish law. The latter offence was considered an offence of lèse-majesté or making remarks critical of the monarch of the United Kingdom. The last prosecution for this offence occurred in 1715.

Lese Majesty laws constitute an arbitrary pretext for the governing, monarchic or democratic, to silence the governed. Which takes us to 1776, the year of the Declaration of Independence and the starting point of the United States.

The founders of the American Republic knew what they were talking about, when they wrote the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Free speech, free thought, and freedom of the press are actually the same, because what good does it do a man to be able to think what he wants, if he cannot express it?

The fight over free speech or freedom of thought and freedom of the press is as old as despotism. Autocratic rulers have never liked opposition, criticism, humor, ridicule, satire, sarcasm, or even comedy. They want their subjects to follow government rules and orders and not think for themselves or develop ideas that differ from those of the despot.

Convenient speech never needed protection. Hardly any despotic government will protect flattering and submissive words of adoration and consent. The speech that needs protection is inconvenient speech, the speech that is dissenting, disrespectful, offensive and, yes, insulting. The speech that is nonconforming, critical, and, yes, negative.

In the United States of today, we live in a cultural and political environment that has replaced lèse majesté with political correctness and an “offense and insult culture”, while at the same time journalism has voluntarily abdicated its vital role as a critical counterweight against government power and has turned itself into a bunch of cheerleaders and butt-kissers of the power elite.

It is ironical that the politics of collectivism have spawned a culture of subjectivism. There are few generally recognized standards for feeling insulted or offended. It is in the very nature of the concepts of “offence” and “insult” that they are defined subjectively. An insult exists, when somebody “feels” insulted. An offence exists, when somebody “feels” offended.

Our First Amendment implies that we must tolerate being insulted or offended, as long as what insults us is only words or non-aggressive behavior, which we happen to dislike. If we accept that everybody can randomly and subjectively decide to feel offended or insulted by words regardless of whether they are intended to be insulting or not, we open the floodgates to massive censorship.

Politics is about power. Political correctness is a behavioral and speech code demanded and dictated by power groups. The underlying logic is: If you do not speak and/or behave the way the power group demands and condones it, the group will threaten you with violent and repressive measures of retaliation that may destroy you, your family, your good name, your business, and your ability to earn a living. Those who declare themselves offended may even go so far as to threaten your life and to instigate violent riots. In this day and age of digital communication, the Big Tech companies can even cancel you out of social media. In the USA today, majesty has been replaced by the mob. What difference does it make to Us the People whether we get muzzled, silenced, censored, and pushed around by monarchic despotism or by the despotism of political correctness?

It makes no difference. Both want Us the People to shut up and do as they are told. Silencing our words aims at deleting our thoughts and manipulating our minds.

Our current culture of political correctness and speech control is the perfect counter piece of autocratic mind control. The words of the Marquis de Posa are just as relevant today as they were in 1580 or 1785. Stifling free discourse and discussion, suppressing the free exchange of thoughts and ideas will halt the progress of human thinking in science and culture and can only be deemed useful by people who adhere to the secular religion of Marxism, which prophesies that classless society is the inevitable end of all human history.

To all of you who still believe in our Constitution and our God-given right to think, speak, and write freely, I say:

Don’t let these hypersensitive snowflakes take your God-given rights away!

And to all of you Marxists, Socialists, Communists, CRT believers, globalists, climate savers, and snowflakes I say – with a slightly Southern flavor:

Hey, y’all, give freedom of thought and speech! Dammit.

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