The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has warned against trying to "legislate" people "to good behavior," asserting that government regulation alone cannot be the answer to protecting freedom of speech.
In a parliamentary speech, the Anglican leader cautioned, "Freedom of speech sometimes means freedom for the powerful to bully and abuse," London's Evening Standard newspaper reported Dec. 10.
He spoke in Britain's upper chamber of parliament, the House of Lords, where the archbishop is an unelected member.
He led a debate on challenges to freedom of speech, highlighted the struggles faced without such privileges before telling fellow members of the chamber: "Our understanding of the importance of freedom of speech and the threat to it needs to keep pace with the threat to its existence. Government regulation alone cannot be the answer.
"I welcome the Government's moves to tackle online harms, but while we can protect those most at risk, we cannot – and should not – be trying to legislate ourselves to good behavior.
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop and principal leader of the Church of England, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and also the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury in the south of England.
He noted that "Dr. Martin Luther King said that we cannot restrain hatred, but we can restrain haters. That is the limit of the law.
"Fittingly robust and vehement debate should characterize our national life," said Welby, who was a business leader before working for the church.
"Online harms bills or cancel culture being itself canceled cannot make us obey the command to engage with opponents as people, to face them and to destroy our enemies not with forms of suppression or law but by making them our friends – that is another quote from Dr. King."
He said, "The way I can remember minorities being addressed 40 to 50 years ago shows that more concern about safety would have been good.
SOCIAL MEDIA'S VOICE
Welby said social media gives voice to those previously unheard and is "resented for that reason by those who have always been heard."
He also noted, "We hear much nonsense of the snowflake generation who seek safety.
"Younger generations are more concerned than their older counterparts about the safety and protection of minorities and more willing to call for restrictions on speech to achieve this.
"We need to keep a sense of perspective here.
"The way I can remember minorities being addressed 40 to 50 years ago shows that more concern about safety would have been good.
"Freedom of speech sometimes means freedom for the powerful to bully and abuse."