Saturday, August 6, 2011

Responding to "The Response"

I haven't seen a more intelligent response to Texas governor Rick Perry's evangelical-Christians-only gathering, "The Response," than law professor Paul Horwitz's New York Times op-ed piece.
To hold that elected officials can’t publicly invoke their religion won’t help a country of believers, agnostics and atheists reach any kind of consensus. It will only impoverish the conversation, depriving many citizens of the ability to make, and judge, arguments that reflect their most cherished views.
The Supreme Court has held many times that the cure for offensive speech is more speech, not less. That principle is critical. It's the only way to make a pluralistic society work. (Responsible listening is the other component of this free-speech equation, but that's a different rant.)

I have no use for Rick Perry's exclusivist religious agenda. My desire, though, is for everybody else to reach that same conclusion by having their eyes opened as to what kind of narrowminded, bigoted, angry country he and his fellow religionists would create. (They've already taken us way too far down that road.) Convincing people of that is the crucial task, not trying (unsuccesfully) to keep Perry and his ilk from speaking at all.

What if I'm wrong about the public, and Perry's kind of zealotry takes hold of the American imagination? Well, in that case, I'll have to take a slightly larger view, and hope that the rest of the world will (rightly) see the U.S. as going in a tragically wrong direction that will impoverish it intellectually, emotionally, economically, and morally.

We try to do too much through the courts. It's way past time to recognize that a lot of things can't be regulated by laws or judges: they're matters that can only be addressed by fixing the human heart.

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