Let us return, for a moment, to that interesting quote the other day from the former Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams. You may recall that he said, concerning public debates in the West about religion:
“Persecution is not being made to feel mildly uncomfortable. I am always very uneasy when people sometimes in this country or the United States talk about persecution of Christians or rather believers.
“I think we are made to feel uncomfortable at times. We’re made to feel as if we’re idiots — perish the thought! But that kind of level of not being taken very seriously or being made fun of; I mean for goodness sake, grow up.”
Quite a vivid quote, that.
So, thinking about this journalistically, where is the bright-red line in the public square between “discrimination” or “hostility” and behavior that can truly be called “persecution”?
This is actually a pretty good question, in an era in which journalists are facing an increasing number of debates about how to cover hot-button topics — think Health & Human Services mandates, for starters — that are linked to debates about basic First Amendment rights, such as free speech, freedom of association and freedom of religion.
It is also interesting to note that Williams has issued a rather unusual clarification, or public apology, in a letter to the editor at The Guardian, about the fierceness of his recent statement. Here it is: