The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion No point of view should enjoy greater legal protection than other perspectives

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on June 6. (T. Narayan/Bloomberg News)
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The June 15 editorial “A response to India’s intolerance” calls for members of the Indian government to stop disparaging Islam. This might have some pragmatic value, considering how desirable it would be to reduce tensions between India and Pakistan.

However, there is another aspect to this. We can never allow considerations of comity and goodwill to be a Trojan horse for blasphemy laws, or for the automatic assumption that religious believers have a greater right than anyone else to be insulated from offensive comments. The notion that all religious beliefs deserve to be respected should be redirected to a concern for equal legal rights for adherents of all points of view, whether on matters of religion or anything else. No point of view should ever enjoy greater legal protection than other perspectives just because it contains belief in a supernatural being or beings.

In a truly free society, no belief or idea can be legally protected from doubt and ridicule. That it might be prudent to avoid saying certain things can never be elevated to an enforceable prohibition. An expression should never be banned for just being extremely offensive, regardless of whether it scandalizes a religious or any other type of cherished concept.

Edward Tabash, Los Angeles

The writer, an attorney, is chair of the board of directors of the Center for Inquiry.