Comparing the hue and cry over Indiana’s version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) with the media’s treatment of the Iranian theocracy, Liel Leibovitz argues that, in very different ways, ignorance and bigotry about religion are at play in both:
Those alarmed over [Indiana’s] RFRA legislation are vexed in part because they assume the worst about the men and women most likely to claim religious protection these days. In its editorial about the Indiana law, the New York Times was frank in admitting that the fault lies not in the law’s logic but in its likely champions: “Religious-freedom laws,” the Times wrote, “which were originally intended to protect religious minorities from burdensome laws or regulations, have become increasingly invoked by conservative Christian groups.” When you cannot imagine the faithful as anything but mindless boobs more likely to respond to coercion and hate than to reason, you’re likely to see the question of religious freedom not as an absolute good worthy of protection no matter who its benefactors but as just one component of a practical political worldview, colored by other considerations.
This is why the Times—as well as many, one suspects, of those crying foul over the Indiana law—is willing to accuse local conservative legislators of harboring the most benighted schemes while simultaneously cheering on talks with the murderous theocracy in Iran. When professed in Indianapolis by domestic political opponents, religion is a tool of oppression. When expressed in Isfahan with calls of “Death to America,” it’s just a quaint cultural affectation.