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Steven Edwards on The Trouble with Religious Hatred Laws:
There is, in fact, little historical basis to the claim that the Weimar Republic was a bastion of free speech, tragically overwhelmed by unfettered Nazi agitation. Paragraph 166 of the Weimar Criminal Code stated ‘whoever publicly insults one of the Christian churches or another existing religious society with rights of corporation in the federal jurisdiction, its institutions, or customs … will be punished with a prison term of up to three years’ (emphasis added). This included hate speech against Jews, and there were plenty of such convictions under Paragraph 166 and other provisions.
For example, the oft-prosecuted Nazi publisher Julius Streicher (author of the anti-Semitic weekly newspaper Der Sturmer and a contemptible and marginal individual widely hated by his own party colleagues), was handed a two-month prison sentence in 1929 for ‘libelling the Jewish religion under Paragraph 166 of the Weimar Penal Code.’ As a result of the jail sentence, ‘Streicher’s racial views received more publicity than if Der Sturmer had been allowed to publish unchallenged … within weeks of the verdict, the Nazi Party tripled its 1927 vote in the Thuringian Landtag elections’—an outcome that should give pause to any aspiring censors…
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