Can We Talk About Religion, Please?

Randy Cohen in the New York Times Magazine:

ScreenHunter_03 Oct. 28 10.10 We do accord special status to religious groups, even writing it into our Constitution. Some actions that are generally forbidden are permitted if undertaken as a religious obligation: for instance, Sikh transit workers in New York may wear turbans. But not everything goes. Polygamy is outlawed. Nor would we allow human sacrifice, even if requested by a deeply observant Aztec. That is, we do not regard these things uncritically. And remember: it is not just religious practice but free expression that the Constitution protects. To muffle our discussion of religiously motivated acts is to dilute the discourse that is essential to democracy.

And so it is disheartening that the editorial pages of our most important newspapers did not castigate the Vatican’s invitation to misogyny and homophobia. Some blogs did so. Daily Kos headlined its coverage, “Vatican Welcomes Bigoted Anglicans.” But the discussion provided by, say, network news barely rose above the demure. That’s not courtesy; it’s cowardice. Perhaps the networks fear being charged with anti-Catholic bias. This is not an unreasonable concern. When I reproved that real estate agent, my surname was no shield against accusations of anti-Semitism. But surely it is possible to disagree respectfully. To criticize a particular practice of Orthodox Jews need not be anti-Semitism. To denounce this Vatican policy need not be anti-Catholic bigotry. Criticism is not contempt.

More here. [Thanks to Greg Segraves.]