Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Is an Imam to be Our Inquisitor?

I am an American Exceptionalist. I believe that in the last half of the 18th century a group of men gathered in a colony of England and, synthesizing Classical Greek and Roman with Nordic and even indigenous Iroquois models of goverment, founded what is today the world's oldest democratic republic.

Every time I think that modern technology has taken us so far from the Founders that their writings may be becoming irrelevant, I encounter a tract, speech, or paragraph that give me a shiver of the uncanny at its current applicability.

This is the case currently with the question of whether or not newspapers will print the cartoons that have been used to incite riots throughout the Middle east. That Stalwart of Liberty, the New York Times, presents an article about the cartoons illustrated by a drawing of the Virgin Mary covered in dung.

In 1814, former president Jefferson's Philadelphia book dealer had some trouble securing a French astronomical work on the creation of the world. Jefferson wrote this:

"Is this then our freedom of religion? and are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule for what we are to read, and what we must believe? It is an insult to our citizens to question whether they are rational beings or not, and blasphemy against religion to suppose it cannot stand the test of truth and reason."
via The Corner

Thankfully I note that there are today a myriad channels of information, and yet there are still some people who long for "an inquisitor" to question "blasphemy against religion."

And no, kids, this does not refer to whether Mom and Dad can force you to go to Sunday school.

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