One of the most important liberties is the right to criticize religions. Jacob Mchangama wrote a splendid article on NRO last month about the efforts of the Organization of the Islamic Conference to criminalize such criticism by labeling it “hate speech” under international human-rights law. On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court sent a message on this issue: It declined to hear an appeal in the case of Catholic League v. San Francisco.
That a Supreme Court with six Catholic members would affirm the right of elected officials to issue harsh criticisms of the Catholic Church amounts to a powerful reaffirmation of some fundamental Western — indeed, human — values. The trend in recent years, in the U.S. and worldwide, has been in the opposite direction. To quote Mchangama:
Unfortunately, as democracies cower before the power of authoritarian states abroad and politically correct elites at home, the principled defense of freedom of expression — even when it seriously offends — has become the exception rather than the norm, even in liberal democracies. The latest example is the impulse of many in the West to blame the murder of innocents in Afghanistan on the admittedly bigoted Pastor Jones, who burned a Koran, rather than on the religious fundamentalists, who killed in cold blood.