Vatican and Free Speech Again

It seems the Vatican has decided to throw it's 2 cents in on the controversy over a gay pride event in Jerusalem. Naturally, their 2 cents involves destroying the liberty of others:

Meanwhile, the Vatican said it asked its envoy to Israel to convey its regret over the decision to allow the parade to take place.

"The 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," the Vatican said.

"It is clear that the gay parade scheduled to take place in Jerusalem will prove offensive to the great majority of Jews, Muslims and Christians, given the sacred character of the city of Jerusalem," it said.

Once again, the Vatican declares itself and all religious believers to be the ones who determine what others can and cannot say. According to them, the limits of free speech are defined by whatever causes offense to them or any other religious person. Why does the offense of a religious person take precedence over the offense of a non-religious person? Good question, and good luck getting a rational answer.

I'm offended by the Vatican's irrational and absurd ideology. I'm offended that they think they have the authority to decide what I can and cannot say. I'm offended that they think that religious views are automatically afforded more protection from criticism and offense than non-religious views. The difference between me and the Vatican (and the other nuts who are trying to destroy the rights of others, nuts of all religions) is that I don't think my offense gives me the authority to censor their views. Unlike them, I support the rights of conscience for myself and for others.

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The Vatican has never been for free speech. Has it?

And yes, they think that religious views should automatically be afforded more protection from criticism than non-religious views. Most religious organizations feel this way. One might even say it's a defining characteristic of "religion".

Ok so I can say anything I want as long as the Vatican likes it. Wow, silly me, all these years I misunderstood the concept to free speech.

So athiest don't get to stop speech that offends them? Only religous people do? Ain't day special, huh?

Walter Benn Michaels' most recent book, The Trouble with Diversity (inflamatory title, fascinating little book) argues simply but beautifully that religion is not a culture, but a combination of cultural practices with truth claims. While it is inappropriate for a democracy to restrict the practices of a religion (unless they harm others' rights), it is absolutely essential that their truth claims be vetted and argued in the public sphere. I like this position of thinking about religion as a set of truth claims, because it frees us up from the irritating (and red herring) multiculturalism arguments that would even make us stop and consider the Vatican's absurd position that we cannot do anything in a democracy that "offends" believers' sensibilities. I really wish that people around the world would be forced to read J.S. Mills' On Liberty forthwith, so we can reaquaint ourselves with the basics of free speech.

[FWIW, for those interested, I reviewed/summarized the Benn Michaels book recently on my blog (excuse the shameless self promotion).]

"...In a related incident, diplomat Steve S has reportedly stepped down after responding to the vatican "Thanks, but we don't take advice from foreign pervert gangs."

Aww, the Vatican is offended? Good!
This brings to mind my personal motto:

Those who are easily offended should be. And often.

By G Barnett (not verified) on 10 Nov 2006 #permalink

The Harlot Vatican longs for the return of the times during which they were able to conspire with the earthly rulers to control the serfs.

*Steals G Barnett's motto for his own use. Giggles to himself over his evil plan.*

Bad news for the Vatican: I'm a believer and I find their position quite offensive, so they are no longer allowed to express it. They didn't say what you had to believe, after all...

By Michael Suttkus, II (not verified) on 10 Nov 2006 #permalink

"The 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," the Vatican said.

OK then. The Vatican should not be allowed to say anything that might offend muslims, which is pretty much anything the Vatican would want to say about anything.

By Mustafa Mond, FCD (not verified) on 10 Nov 2006 #permalink

OK then. The Vatican should not be allowed to say anything that might offend muslims, which is pretty much anything the Vatican would want to say about anything.

Thanks, but when they say "believers", they are really talking about the Vatican and those who agree with the Vatican. Nice try though!

What they really mean is not limited to free speech: since being gay is obviously offensive to "religious people" then you can't be gay. This makes their comments even more offensive to free thinkers -- or anyone with a half a mind.

Hey, compared to the other threats that they've been getting, this one is on the lighter side. Do you think they can get the Holy See to calm these nuts down a little bit?

It seems the Vatican has decided to throw it's 2 cents in

No. Apostrophe.

By FishyFred (not verified) on 10 Nov 2006 #permalink

The Vatican's demand is ridiculous. There is no such thing as a "right not to be offended", and the Vatican should recognize this, whether it's about the Pope criticizing Islam or guys waving rainbow-colored flags.

On a related note, I wonder if the media will be as sensitive to "religious concerns" as they were during the Mohammed controversy? Should I expect CNN to only show pixelated pictures of the event, to avoid hurting homophobic sensibilities?

Ed said:

"Why does the offense of a religious person take precedence over the offense of a non-religious person? Good question, and good luck getting a rational answer."

As far as rational answers go, I think "It doesn't" would do just fine.

By SomeRandomCanadian (not verified) on 10 Nov 2006 #permalink

There is no such thing as a "right not to be offended"

Maybe, but they're just engaging in what some of your more advanced theologians would call "apologetics". Basically they just pull whatever they feel like from out of the thin air, and if it makes everything turn out the way they want, then it makes a lot of sense to everybody except for the evil bad people who are out to get them.

See http://www.carm.org/ for more details.

I just find it incredible that the Vatican is speaking here for *all the Abrahamic faiths*. As opposed to, you know, the Catholic Church, which is what it actually has jurisdiction over.

While there is a Catholic presence in Jerusalem and I guess the Vatican has the right to make statements about how this gay march will hurt or offend it, what the hell are they doing saying the gay march offends non-Catholics? I mean why do they think anyone should care what they think about that?

Also, are gays offended by the rightwing religious calls for their deaths and offers of bounty? If so, can these religion leaders be quietly removed from office on the same grounds?

The Vatican would like Jerusalem to be designated an,
"international city," under the control of an entity in
which the Catholic Church would be a major player.

And I would like Boston to be designated an "areligious environment" in which everybody simply comes to me for recommendations as to what actions are moral. I don't see that happening either...

Ok, actually I do not want that. I just want everybody to do what makes sense to me without having to bother me. The likelihood of this coming to pass does not change.

By Anuminous (not verified) on 10 Nov 2006 #permalink

"I really wish that people around the world would be forced to read J.S. Mills' 'On Liberty' forthwith"

----------

I had two jokes for this:

1. The award for most ironic comment in a libertarian blog goes to...

2. Isn't that why we are in Iraq? To spread the blessings of 'On Liberty?'

unless they harm others' rights

One of those rights, according to the Pope are:

The pope, who will travel to mainly Muslim Turkey at the end of the month, said Muslims "have the right to our firm and humble witness for Jesus Christ."

Right. As long as it is not offensive to them, of course. Also says the Pope:

Such dialogue "obviously presupposes a solid knowledge of one's own faith," he added.

Right, obviously so. It doesn't get more obvious than that. No sir.

Let's just remember whose side the Vatican was on before and during World War II -- they were openly profascist in Spain and Italy, and weren't below working with the Nazis under the table.

I am so glad I left...

"The Holy See has reiterated on many occasions that the right to freedom of expression... is subject to just limits, ...

So far so good. You don't get to yell "fire" in a crowded theatre. And if you spread malicious lies, those hurt by your lies can sometimes collect damages. These are "reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society", as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms puts it. The Holy See is perfectly free to try and justify banning gay pride parades, but the arguments the previous pope has made (when he bothered to make any at all) have been pretty lame, and it's a high standard. (In fact Canadian laws go a bit beyond what I think can be justified, but the bar is nonetheless pretty high.)

... in particular when the exercise of this right would offend the religious sentiments of believers,"

... Speaking of lame arguments ... The Holy See is going to have to do better than that around these parts. He is offended. Ok, he can protest. And he can present counter-arguments to what he disagrees with. And if his counter-arguments aren't convincing, well, tough.
I don't doubt that some of the gays had unkind words to say about the Catholic Church. They have good reason to.

By Andrew Wade (not verified) on 10 Nov 2006 #permalink

The pope, who will travel to mainly Muslim Turkey at the end of the month....

Maybe he will, but it is highly questionable that PM Erdogan will meet with him. That is one of the issues that the Vatican is raising regarding the trip to Turkey. Rumor is that the Vatican would view a snub by Erdogan as--a snub.

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

My religious sentiments are offended every time the pope opens his mouth. Anything we can do about that?

The problem isn't just that religious people think they can censor views that they find offensive, it is also that they think their views are above criticism. Richard Dawkins, in _The God Delusion_, illustrates the double standard that society affords to religious views. If you say that you believe in aliens, you will be laughed at, and people will demand evidence for your assertion. But if you believe in angels, or demons, or God, and just claim that "It's my religion," you get off scott free. Religion is the ultimate trump card that blocks all further criticism.

So many idiotic beliefs have been protected by appeals to religion. Dawkins suggests that the time has come to dispose of this double standard and demand the same level of evidence that we do of any other belief. It is a sentiment with which I agree.

So many idiotic beliefs have been protected by appeals to religion. Dawkins suggests that the time has come to dispose of this double standard and demand the same level of evidence that we do of any other belief. It is a sentiment with which I agree.

And you do realize that this makes you nothing more than a stupid fundamentalist atheist doody-head, right? I mean, suggesting that religious views should be just as subject to rational inquiry as any other belief? I can't imagine how full of rage and hate you must be to believe that.

By Tyler DiPietro (not verified) on 12 Nov 2006 #permalink

And you do realize that this makes you nothing more than a stupid fundamentalist atheist doody-head, right? I mean, suggesting that religious views should be just as subject to rational inquiry as any other belief? I can't imagine how full of rage and hate you must be to believe that.

sarcasm correct?:-)

Sorry for the OT post but this is too funny to pass up:

According the Guardian's media diary, Sky, Rupert Murdoch's UK TV company, has renamed its office Christmas party the "Winter Party" after a couple of complaints. Will Bill O'Reilly denounce his own boss?

By Ginger Yellow (not verified) on 13 Nov 2006 #permalink

Martin said -
So many idiotic beliefs have been protected by appeals to religion. Dawkins suggests that the time has come to dispose of this double standard and demand the same level of evidence that we do of any other belief. It is a sentiment with which I agree.

To what point? Some countries in Europe have ridiculous laws that protect religion from verbal attacks but the U.S. doesn't. I just don't see what they are being protected from or how - you have absolute freedom to say that I, or anyone else who has religious beliefs is being irrational by having them. I have been questioned and pushed as have many others - I freely admit that there is no quantifiable rational behind my beliefs, as do many others. So what exactly is the point?

DuWayne, I think it's pretty claer that Martin and Dawkins are not necessarily talking about the legality of questioning religion- they're talking about the fact that it's incredibly taboo or even downright rude in most circles to suggest that a person justify their religious beliefs, many of which are harmful, discriminatory and downright stupid. Further, this bleeds into other areas of life such people voting for anti-gay legislation because most of them subscribe to a religion that tells us homosexuality is evil.

It isn't that we don't have the freedom to question religious belief ingeneral, it's that most people think it's rude to even suggest that religious belief should be justified.

And what's the point? The point is that religious belief doesn't exist in a vaccuum and that it's not always benign. If it's irrational and fueling stupid or discrimminatory ideas that get voted into law, it needs to be called into question. The point is that we ought to be able to demand from it the same standards of justification that we can for nearly every other aspect of life.

And "I know it's irrational but I don't care because it feels good" is just not good enough when we are talking about human rights abuses, social injustice, or inequality.

Leni -

I don't see what they are suggesting as being very clear at all. I especialy have serious issues with Dawkins charecterizations. They lend themseves to a direction that could easily lead to legal questions about religion.

I should also be clear that I know that my faith is irrational from the perspective of someone who only uses quantifiable measures as an absolute. I do not consider my faith to be irrational, I just accept how and why some people see it that way.

I do agree though that it is not "good enough" to justify human rights abuses, social injustice or inequality.

I am all for people calling beliefs to question. I think it is all important to get religion and religion based rules out of public policy altogether. It is happening all to slowly but it is happening. I believe that a signifigant reason behind this GOP's loss last week was due to backlash from the insane power that the religious right was given by them.

I just don't see where they are going with this. They have a right to question. Some people will engage - some won't - they have the right to listen or not. They have a right to express offense or not. Those who get offended that easily seam to me weak and sad creatures, but they have the right. Likewise, if a person who would question, would back off simply because someone is offended - but would continue the dialogue - they are being weak. Short of making laws, I don't really see any practical way to dispose of this double standard. In a society with both freedom of speech and freedom of religion, how would someone accomplish that without legislation?

"[S]omeone who only uses quantifiable measures as an absolute."

I don't know anyone like this. Can you provide some examples?

By Jeff Chamberlain (not verified) on 13 Nov 2006 #permalink

Jeff Chamberlain -

Richard Dawkins and PZ Meyers for a start. Nearly every atheist I know or read.

I don't see what they are suggesting as being very clear at all. I especialy have serious issues with Dawkins charecterizations. They lend themseves to a direction that could easily lead to legal questions about religion.

There are already legal questions about religion on the table, such as whether parents should be able to deny medical treatment to children on religious grounds. I don't see why having an open and honest dialog about religion is such a bad thing, especially given the current strength of religion is formulating public policy. While it is true that not all faith is dangerous, it remains the case that much of it is.

It is also true that secular beliefs can be dangerous in their own right, a good contemporary example being environmental and animal rights extremism which gives us the ELF, Greenpeace, PETA and the ALF. But the main attribute that separates religious nonsense with the former examples is cultural context: it is considered acceptable, and in many cases virtuous, to be utterly convinced of supernaturalism and whatever arbitrary morality happens to be associated with it. That is what Dawkins criticizes first and foremost.

By Tyler DiPietro (not verified) on 13 Nov 2006 #permalink

[S]omeone who only uses quantifiable measures as an absolute.

An absolute what?

DuWayne,

Martin was perfectly clear. He gave an example of the fact that people think it perfectly normal and even respectable to believe in angels, but ridiculous to believe in aliens. And that many, many people who believe in angels apparently see no irony in demanding evidence of aliens from people who believe in aliens. Those of us who believe in neither typically find this endlessly amusing.

That is less of a legal issue than a philosophical and social one. At least in most places nowadays. I think pointing at Europe and saying "but, but.." doesn't really change the fact that this irony does exist and in large numbers.