ACLU defends Islam-slamming kids
12/03/2009 - 14:39
James Besser

Since I'm on the subject of Islam bashing: I was struck by new reports describing the ACLU's legal defense of Christian students at a Florida high school who think it's cool to wear T-shirts with the slogan 'Islam is of the devil.”  (See a Florida ACLU release on the controversy here)

The adults who told these kids it's OK to wear slogans defaming another faith should be taken out to the religious pluralism woodshed. 

(The curiously named Dove World Outreach Center, which the ACLU says is the students' church, is big on the “of the devil” accusation; on its Web site, it says the same thing about President Barack Obama's policies).

While I understand the ACLU position – free speech is free speech, and when you start drawing lines, you guarantee it's no longer really “free” -- it seems to me such cases pit one important value, free speech, against others  – religious tolerance and pluralism.

I also wonder: would the ACLU sue on behalf of the right of Christian students to wear anti-Jewish T-shirts? Just how offensive would the shirts have to be to cross the ACLU's line?

Maybe the real issue here isn't a legal one at all, but a question of social and religious norms.

Why are overt attacks against other religions increasingly deemed acceptable by so many who call themselves religious?  I confess to uncertainty about the appropriateness of the ACLU's actions. What I'm not uncertain about: too many religious leaders condone religious bigotry – either directly or indirectly, by their failure to condemn those who wear their hatred on their sleeves – or their T-shirts.

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