The United Nations General Assembly has adopted a resolution on the need to combat “defamation of religions.” The US rightly voted against the resolution, which includes statements like this:
10. Emphasizes that everyone has the right to freedom of expression, which
should be exercised with responsibility and may therefore be subject to limitations
as provided by law and necessary for respect of the rights or reputations of others,
protection of national security or of public order, public health or morals and respect
for religions and belief
No, no, a thousand times no. Much of the resolution deals with the need to do away with discrimination and violence on the basis of religion, and that is of course laudable (though it would be far more compelling if it also condemned discrimination and violence fomented by religion). But the notion that governments can mandate “respect” for religion, or that religious people have some sort of right not to be disrespected or criticized is utter nonsense.
We need to get rid of this horrible idea that there is such a thing as group right. All rights are individual in nature and no one has a right not to have their beliefs criticized. Every individual has an unalienable right to express their opinions even when – especially when – those opinions are harshly critical of someone else’s ideas. Religion is a set of ideas, many of them bad. Religious ideas are no more protected from “disrespect” than any other set of ideas.