David Bromwich, the incisive American scholar, says free speech has always been an aberration. What a daring thing to say about a basic right that elicits knee-jerk deference. It's a good thing he's free to say it. He claims it existed mainly in a small historical window between the rise of Puritanism and perhaps the Rushdie affair: about 400 years, and it's now in decline.
Free speech was always an arena for individuals; it's different from freedom of religion, which is about collectivities. You can have the latter without the former and you usually do. The case of whether Rev. Gretta Vosper can stay inside the United Church as an outspoken atheist is a good example.