Rome has long cultivated an image as a gathering point for religious power. And of course that power at times has been biased toward a single viewpoint. Not so the "Fourth Interparliamentary Conference on Human Rights and Religious Freedom," organized by the Washington, D.C. based Institute on Religion and Public Policy and its president Joseph K. Grieboski. Almost 80 parliamentarians and a handful of nongovernmental organizational representatives (the Liberty editor among them) met at the Pontifical Gregorian University November 28-30, 2006, for a dynamic exchange of views on some of the major freedom issues facing churches and governments today.
Day two discussion centered on freedom of religion and religious expression in the aftermath of the Danish cartoon furor and the ongoing war on terror. This is a serious dynamic, and much more than freedom of the press is at stake. Michael Marshall, editor in chief for United Press International, said the debate is just beginning and that we are on the slippery slope of regulating all religious expression, not just dangerous manifestations. On the defensive, Ahmed Younis, national director for the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Washington, D.C., posited that the answer to Islamic violence is not less religiosity and looking to so-called moderates who may be seen as secularists by fellow Muslims, but instead a reclaiming of correct Islamic views. How effective this might be we shall see; but Liberty must always argue for the right of religious expression and decry a limiting of core religious views. Naturally all religious expression is subject to civil laws against violence and other abuses of the rights of others, but there must not be arbitrary restriction of religion or inhibition to its free expression.
The ambassador from Serbia warned against a developing threat to religion in many ostensibly democratic states, where a religious tyranny of the majority can easily develop. This is a real threat today, even in the United States. We must be on guard. The stakes are very high. But as Ambassador Oded Ben Hur from the State of Israel said, referencing his own country's situation, "We don't have the luxury of being pessimistic."
By Lincoln E. Steed, Liberty Editor
Author: Lincoln E. Steed
Lincoln E. Steed is the editor of Liberty magazine, a 200,000 circulation religious liberty journal which is distributed to political leaders, judiciary, lawyers and other thought leaders in North America. He is additionally the host of the weekly 3ABN television show "The Liberty Insider," and the radio program "Lifequest Liberty."