Winnie Sullivan, the enfante terrible of religion and legal theory, is at it again with a review of a new collection of essays on the Muhammad cartoons controversy over at Religion Dispatches. Applauding some of the authors at the expense of others, she takes up familiar cudgels against the Western understanding of its secular order as being somehow religiously neutral. No, she says, it’s a product of a specifically Western–especially Protestant–religious ideology that privileges the individual conscience and downgrades communal solidarities that define religion in other traditions.
The point is that Europeans embraced the cartoons as an act of their own cultural solidarity, while Americans shied away from them in order to respect the cultural solidarity of the Muslim minority. In the U.S., in short, Sullivanian principles prevailed. Indeed, it could be argued that Winnie’s book, The Impossibility of Religious Freedom, has had such an impact precisely because Americans are so susceptible to arguments on behalf of religious freedom. It’s impossible? In America? OMG, that cannot be .