American flag waving in blue skyWritten by Don Byrd

Writing in today’s Washington Post, Michael Gerson discusses the relationship between robust free speech and religious liberty, particularly when it comes to the freedom to express ideas that mock religion or are considered blasphemous. U.S. law, Gerson writes, is neutral toward religious and anti-religious speech alike. And that is a good thing for religious freedom.

At the same time, our ethics of mutual respect should counsel us against being rude to our neighbor.

Here is an excerpt from the op-ed.

[L]egal neutrality on religion has produced a society remarkably amenable to religion. Those who attempt to intimidate or silence the believer or the blasphemer are attacking a central tenet of the American creed. And if they resort to violence, they may end up as chalk outlines on the pavement. At the same time: Under most moral codes, setting out to demean or mock the deepest, defining beliefs of your neighbor is rude and cruel. While permissible in our constitutional order, it is ethically disordered behavior — malicious and dehumanizing. It violates the Golden Rule and all its variants across the faiths. It deserves protection but not sympathy.

There is no contradiction between First Amendment absolutism and a moral commitment to the cultivation of mutual respect among the Abrahamic faiths (and outside them).

Read the whole thing.