Archive for the ‘Legal Issues’ Category

Atheists in this country have made satire their friend.  Whether it’s Bill Maher’s roasts of religion, or the late Christopher Hitchens’ witty one-liners, atheism has enrolled humor in its debate with religion.

One atheist, Ernest Pearce, decided to dress up like a zombie Muhammad while his friend dressed up like a zombie pope for a Halloween parade.  Of course, this is disrespectful to Muslims who believe depicting Muhammad is strictly forbidden.  It is also disrespectful to Catholics who highly regard the pope.  But that’s all it is, disrespectful.

See, America is a country that permits you to show a less-than perfect respect toward positions with which you disagree.  Atheists are allowed to satirize my beliefs, and I am allowed to satirize theirs.  This is all part of the debate.  And it’s not a terrible thing when both sides lighten up enough to appreciate some humor.

Unfortunately for Pearce, he ran into a Muslim who was not entirely sympathetic to the view I’ve just expressed.  He reportedly choked Pearce, and followed him for several blocks during the parade.  Pearce filed a complaint with a local police officer, and the case headed to court.

What happened next is confounding and downright scary.  The judge dismissed the charges against the Muslim and chastised Pearce in his ruling.  Pearce, according to Judge Mark Martin, was well beyond his Constitutional rights.  Surely, these rights don’t extend to being offensive, do they?  Martin even referenced countries where Sharia law is enforced, rightly noting that Pearce would have faced severe punishment in a Sharia-observing nation.

The problem with all of this is that America is NOT a Sharia-observing nation. And, quite frankly, people are allowed to do things even if religious people find it offensive.  If Westboro Baptist Church is allowed to protest at funerals, atheists are allowed to dress up like zombie Muhammads, popes, Zarasthustras, etc…  Will religious people take offense?  Sure.  Does that mean the atheist loses their rights?  Of course not!

As a Christian, I’m deeply fearful that an individual’s rights were so ignored in this case.  You see, the Christian message is offensive to many.  But I don’t want my rights to be surrendered just because some people disagree and take offense.  Because I expect to have this right myself, I want it extended to other people, even atheists.

The freedom of religion is also the freedom of non-religion.  The freedom of speech is especially necessary when speech of offensive.  And without the freedom of speech there cannot be any true freedom of religion.  As a Christian  I believe in a revealed religion, a religion revealed through the written Word and the incarnate Word.  When speech is restricted, the ability of Christianity to express itself is hampered.

We, as religious people, must uphold the freedom of speech because there is no true freedom of religion without it.

At the same time, we would appreciate it if society recognized this and applied it to us.  If our atheist friends want to be able to express offensive views, they need to stop trying to criminalize Christianity for calling certain behaviors sinful.  True freedom cuts both ways, it extends even to those with whom we disagree.  Without this realization, freedom is just a guise for hypocrisy.