This from Richard John Neuhaus at First Things (scroll way down):
[A] recent national survey asked administrators and students about the First Amendment. Only 21 percent of administrators and 30 percent of students knew that the First Amendment guarantees religious freedom. Only six percent of administrators and two percent of students knew that religious freedom is the first freedom mentioned in the First Amendment. Only 41 percent of administrators and 32 percent of students believe that religious people should be permitted to advocate their views by whatever legal means available. On the other hand, 74 percent of students and 87 percent of administrators think it ?essential? that people be able to express their beliefs unless?and then come a host of qualifications, all amounting to the condition that their beliefs not ?offend others.?
Perhaps the most surprising thing about this survey is that it is not at all surprising. Religious bigotry is widespread, and circumspection is usually the safest strategy when it comes to religious conversations. Can you imagine the reaction if I stood before my class tomorrow and proclaimed, “Premarital sex is a sin; adultery is a sin; and homosexuality is a sin. If anyone here has engaged in these activities, you should repent and forsake your sins immediately.” [Shudder.] All of these statements accurately reflect my beliefs, and they all are official positions of the Church. Other than the fact that I teach Business Organizations and these statements would be wildly out of place, why should I be reluctant to make such a proclamation in front of my students? Or perhaps more to the point, why would so many people feel that the risk of someone being offended by my beliefs should override my freedom to express my beliefs?
One possibility is that the problem with those statements is not their substance, but rather the manner in which that substance is presented. It is too simple and too egocentric to suggest that conflicts over religion are all the fault of one side being intolerant or wicked (or both). In my experience, most instances in which a person takes offense are best explained by the manner in which an opposing view was presented. In words a lawyer might better understand, the problem is often procedural, not substantive.
Tomorrow, I am hosting a breakfast discussion with students at my law school. The topic is “Politics in the Classroom,” and as you can read here, my view is that the root cause of the conflicts that prompted this session is fairly simple to discern, and that is lack of respect.
Thanks to Professor Bainbridge for the pointer.