Religious Freedom, Government, and Moral Equivalence

The Daily Caller reports on a series of meetings between our government and representatives from several Islamic governments that have pressed us for years to terminate our ability to speak freely about Islam’s history and obligations.  We might think it’s entirely appropriate that we should engage those governments on the matter of religious and speech freedoms, the United States Constitution, and what must occur within our borders regarding our acknowledged inalienable rights.

Among other things under serious discussion, though, is those nations’ support for a UN resolution—which our government seems not to be opposing—titled “Combating Intolerance, Negative Stereotyping and Stigmatization of, and Discrimination, Incitement to Violence and Violence Against, Persons Based on Religion or Belief.”  While claiming to urge tolerance of all believers, though, it also urges all governments to counter “Islamophobia,” and declare opposition to “derogatory stereotyping, negative profiling and stigmatization of persons based on their religion or belief” (nor does it urge governments to counter “Christianophobia,” or “Judeophobia,” or Buddhisophobia,” or “atheistophobia,” or…).  Notice that: this isn’t a call for government-funded outreach programs (however ill-conceived government funding of such programs might be in the first place) with which private citizens might voluntarily engage, or not; this is simply a disguised effort to have government authorities dictate what is permitted speech.  The resolution, for instance, calls on government to define “derogatory” and “negative profiling” and “stigmatizing.”  Individual Americans (or Englishmen, or Frenchmen, or etc.) are not to be trusted to arrive at their own definitions and usages.

Hannah Rosenthal, head of the State Department’s Office To Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism(!?), reassures us, though.  This resolution carries no threat to our freedom of speech because, “[The government] would protect free speech.”  But then she says that hateful and Islamophobic speech needs to be called out, and when invited to define “hateful,” she insisted with a straight face that if critics of Islam’s ideology

are just taking out the hateful parts [of the Quran] or claiming [they’re] all superior to them…that can be very damaging.

On the other side of the religion coin is this,  concerning atheism.  Fox News‘ online facility carries this story about atheist messages having displaced most of the Christmas Nativity scenes that local churches had placed in a Santa Monica, CA, park for the last 60 years.  Some background: there are 21 spaces for such messages allotted in the park, and until this year, the churches had faced little competition for them, so they usually were able to put Nativity scenes into 14 of them (they never tried for more…).  This year, due to a much larger demand for the limited number of spaces, the city decided to allot them via lottery, with no single individual eligible to “win” more than 9.  Eighteen of the spaces were “won” by two atheists.  Leaving aside the legitimacy of such a lottery (that outcome is statistically possible), what else is going on here?

Damon Vix, reputedly behind this effort, says

For 60 years, it’s almost exclusively been the point of view of Christians putting up nativity scenes for a whole city block….

This year, by design, it will be even more “exclusively the point of view of atheists” that will be represented.


We cannot accept moral equivalency.  There is no such thing.  Some morals, some cultures, are superior to others.  Was it acceptable, for instance, that the Aztecs engaged in human sacrifice, just because that was a religious imperative for them?  Was it acceptable for NAZIs to butcher Jews, just because that was the internal affair of a sovereign nation?  Is it acceptable to mutilate women with female circumcision because a religious tenet demands it?  Is it acceptable to murder women for going against a man’s demands just because a religious tenet demands it?  Is it acceptable to send agents into another sovereign nation to murder a person who speaks against Mohammed or posts an image of him?

Religious freedom has nothing at all to do with individual criticism of religion generally or of another’s religion in particular.  It has nothing at all to do with the free competition of ideas or the free competition among differing religions, differing moral systems.  It has everything to do with proscribing a government role in the competition.

In the end, who is it that’s afraid of such competition?  Only those harboring a nagging fear that their own tenets won’t measure up, and so they demand special protections from that competition.  Let, for instance, an atheist’s message sit next to a religious message in the public square; let both of them especially into the public square.  The differences will be clear.  As will be the winners of such a competition.

It’s such a simple law.  It can’t be that hard to enforce.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof[.]

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