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Behind the Lines: When Criticizing Religion
First Published Mar 18 2013 09:43 am • Last Updated Mar 18 2013 09:43 am

Welcome to Behind the Lines, a weekly conversation with Salt Lake Tribune cartoonist Pat Bagley and BYU economist Val Lambson.

Bagley: Habemos Papa Latinoamericano! It’s no surprise that the new Pope is a conservative elderly male religious type. What is news is that he is the first person from the Americas to ascend to St. Peter’s Bishopric. He seems like a nice guy, though some are calling into question his courage in the face of the military dictatorship that murdered its own people in Argentina’s Dirty War.

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Lambson: I am not familiar with his actions in Argentina. As a general rule, it is easy to criticize others for their decisions in difficult situations, but most people make the same decisions that, well, most people would make. I am curious about the future relationship between the outgoing and incoming Popes. An emeritus Pope hasn’t happened for so long that it might as well be unprecedented.

Bagley: Believe it or not, I generally avoid pulling out the knives when it comes to policies that religious institutions choose to follow. For instance, I find the Catholic ban on contraceptives nonsensical (as, apparently, do most Catholics), but if that’s the kind of thing that they think God cares deeply about, well, it’s their church. I certainly don’t know the mind of God on condoms. The same goes for the LDS Church and female inequality. I vividly remember a priesthood instructor saying that women would be under male priesthood authority so long as there was a single deacon left alive on the earth. Kind of weird, but, hey, it’s their church and no one is compelling people to stay.

However, I think the religious are fair game when they stop preaching and start meddling.

Lambson: Does this mean you are in favor of both freedom of religion and freedom of expression? Or does it mean you think that the religious should be allowed our freedom of religion as long as we curtail our freedom of expression?

Bagley: I’m pretty sure I’m against human sacrifice. Or marrying off 14 year-old girls to middle-aged men.

Lambson: Get serious. Of course I am on board with that. Unbiased readers will understand that my point is that the religious have as much a right to express their opinions (and have them criticized) as anyone else in our great nation.

Bagley: What if that expression includes, say, female genital mutilation?

Lambson: There you go again. You have decided to miss the point, but I will spell it out for the unbiased reader. In our country, the Constitution protects free speech, even for religious people. You don’t have to agree. You have the right to criticize. You even have the right to engage in caricature and innuendo. I suppose it is the cartoonist in you.

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As for meddling, the big government policies you advocate are far more meddlesome than anything I advocate. It’s the libertarian in me.

Lambson: The top comment award for last time goes to tt600: "The tax jump is going to come down to about the 40k/year level to pay for the government we have now. That’s where the big rates start in most socialist countries....and CA."

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