CFI Announces Free Expression Essay Contest Winners

March 19, 2010

Terri Murray

The Center for Inquiry is pleased to announce that Terri Murray is the winner of its Free Expression Essay Contest, in which students were asked to expound on the topic, “The Importance of Free Expression and Its Limits (If Any).” For submitting the best essay, Murray will receive the $2,000 grand prize.

In her 6,300-word essay, Murray described the importance of free expression and then considered several common objections to freedom of expression. Her detailed analysis of these objections showed that the reasons for governmental censorship are unconvincing, and that no significant limits on freedom of expression are justified. Among the objections she dismantled were the claim that extreme speech incites violence and hatred, that discussion of progressive ideas threatens the traditional values that bind society together, and that too much tolerance will destroy tolerant societies.

“Ms. Murray’s essay provides a defense of free expression that is thorough, carefully crafted and persuasive” said Ronald A. Lindsay, president and CEO of the Center for Inquiry.

Murray was born in Ohio and educated in New York City. She currently lives in London, England, and is pursuing a research Ph.D. in social and contextual theology at Westminster Institute of Education, Brookes University, Oxford. 

Tauriq Moosa

The runner up and recipient of the $500 second-place prize is Tauriq Moosa, a 23-year-old Cape Town, South Africa student who is working on a master of philosophy degree in applied ethics at the Centre for Applied Ethics at Stellenbosch University.

In his 8,000-word essay, Moosa defends free expression as not simply a means of promoting freedom, but as a necessary condition for our ability to engage in open dialogue, leaving room for open-minded debate and discussion. Moosa refuted the claim that religious beliefs should be immune from criticism, pointing out that any belief can be mistaken and free expression is necessary for us to discuss and consider the truth or falsity of a belief.

“Mr. Moosa’s essay eloquently establishes the key role free expression plays in the testing and assessment of beliefs and ideas, while emphasizing how suppression of free speech affects our ability to engage in open discourse,” Lindsay said.

Click the PDFs below to read the full essays, which will be excerpted in a forthcoming issue of FREE INQUIRY magazine.

The Campaign for Free Expression is a CFI initiative to focus attention on one of the most crucial components of a free society: the right of individuals to express their viewpoints, opinions, and beliefs about all subjects—including religion. The Center for Inquiry and its sister organization, The Council for Secular Humanism, sponsored the Free Expression Essay Contest to encourage students worldwide to consider the importance of free expression, at a time when many would curtail it because it may be “dangerous” or “offensive.”