I’m not a supporter of Boris Johnson. I have no interest in him or his political ambitions. [But] I do defend people who make jokes about religion. I was part of a campaign to oppose a Parliamentary bill [the Racial and Religious Hatred Act] in 2006 because I draw a distinction between race and religion, and I think religious practices and beliefs can and should be lampooned. It’s been quite a British tradition for many hundreds of years.
But it sort of bleeds through into the challenges of free speech in the modern era, and this new definition of free speech — which is free speech is fine as long as it doesn’t offend anybody. And free speech to me is completely meaningless if you can’t offend.
(Katharine Shattuck, “For Rowan Atkinson, Comedy Isn’t Always a Laughing Matter,” NYTimes, 11-3-18)