The Vatican has asked Israel to ban a gay pride parade due to take place tomorrow in Jerusalem. Thousands of gay activists are expected to march in Jerusalem even though violence is expected.
This, in and of itself, is not such a big deal. The Holy See has always claimed that the catholic Church has the right, the duty even, to interfere with other peopleâ€™s lives. If you have some time, you can go and read the official social doctrine of the Holy See. No, the really interesting part in the article is this:
â€œThe Holy See has reiterated on many occasions that the right to freedom of expression … is subject to just limits, in particular when the exercise of this right would offend the religious sentiments of believers,â€ the Vatican said.
Read it again. â€œYou are free to express yourselfâ€¦ as long as you do not offend religious sentiments.â€ Remember the Western indignity that followed the Muslim cartoon rage? Well, a gay parade is not even close to the level of profanity that was directed at the Muslim prophet. It is not even an attack on religion per se. It is tempting to see a grain of hypocrisy in all this – Catholics offended good, Muslims offended bad â€“ but the truth is far more complex. The Vatican is merely being consistent, since it used the same argument when asked about the Muslim cartoons. To cut a long story short, it is about protecting religion in general against some of our secular freedoms. As Eugene Volokh states:
This is not just an admonition about what’s right, decent, productive, or in good taste — rather, it’s a claim that the law ought to have a relatively free hand in restricting speech that “offend[s] religious feelings of the faithful,” which apparently includes some unstated amount of “excessive criticism or derision of others” that “denotes a lack of human sensitivity.” May we still publish the works of Martin Luther? How about of Christopher Hitchens? The Last Temptation of Christ? The religious works of the Jehovah’s Witnesses? A historical film in which some actor plays Mohammed? How about linking to the cartoons themselves (as I’ve done before)? Seeing the cartoons is, yet surely some who believe that any depiction of Mohammed is blasphemy can be offended even by a republication that’s aimed at exploring the controversy. This is not a marginal issue; it is at the core of the rights of free speech and religious freedom. Under the position the Vatican sets forth, large zones of religious debate, political debate, and art would be outlawed.
Just imagine your lives when you have to take into account each and every sensibility of any recognized religion. It is simply undoable. And, more to the point, Roman Catholicism and Islamism are truly brothers in arms when it comes to protecting religious sensitivities/authority. Unsurprisingly, since they have a lot more in common than many devout Christians may think:
[1 Corin. 11:5] But any woman who prays and prophecies with her head unveiled dishonours her head – it is the same as if her head were shaven, for if a woman will not veil herself then she should cut off her hair. But if it is disgraceful for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her wear a veil. JUDGE FOR YOURSELVES; is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?
This is, of course, but one silly and extreme example. We all know that the Church is more reasonable nowadays, do not we? Except when it comes to gays, but nobody likes them, so who cares, right? In any case, I provided the link to Abdul Rahman Dimashkiahâ€™s Let the Bible Speak not just because his text mentions the Christian veil. I thought a text from a Muslim perspective on freedom of speech, even when I am some sort of a Christian, could be refreshing (emphasis mine):
An apostate and heretic called Salman Rushdi wrote a book in which he reviled Islam, describing verses of the Quran as satanic and revealed by the Devil. He abused the Prophet of Islam, his companions and his wives, describing the latter as adulteresses. Britain, defender of freedom rushed headlong to support and defend this man using as a pretext, the necessity of freedom of expression, which is in this case, the freedom of revile and curse. Even in the west no one has a right to shout fire in a crowded hall and escape the punishment for causing a possibly fatal panic. Yet one month before the publication of Rushdi’s book, the partisans of free speech violated freedom of expression when they banned the book, SPY CATCHER by Peter Wright. This inconsistency makes it clear that their freedom is to do as they desire, not as people of other religions earnestly request.
Cuts both ways, I suppose. Maybe now some people will understand why, in my previous post, I used this quote:
Therefore, the problems posed by the incorporation of Muslim immigrants become consciously or unconsciously associated with seemingly related and vexatious issues concerning the role of religion in the public sphere, which European societies assumed they had already solved according to the liberal secular norm of privatization of religion.
Since Muslim immigrants became a social and political issue, religion in general has come to the front again. Not necessarily in a spiritual way, but notably to reclaim some of the territory it lost to secularism/humanism. The choice of arms? The sword of freedom of speech and the shield of religious sensibilities… Sensibilities that are offended merely by the sight of a few badly drawn cartoons or, possibly worse, people that are simply trying to be their gay selves.
PS: The gay pride parade was eventually toned down and became a stadium rally.