Does America Still Believe in the Right to Be Wrong?

The whole idea of a free society is based on a very simple idea that is very hard to live by: People have the right to be wrong.

.. In the “modern” era, its status as one of the defining ideas of Western civilization can be traced to the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. After a century of bloody religious wars between Catholics and Protestants — with Jews often getting caught in the crossfire — the exhausted rulers of Europe reluctantly agreed to a fragile truce. While every nation would still officially follow the faith of the ruler, it was understood that religious minorities would be afforded some tolerance.

.. Cromwell’s Puritan-dominated parliament declared a real “war on Christmas,” banning celebration of the holiday. The Colonial city of Boston followed a similar practice, imposing a fine on anyone who celebrated Christmas.

.. If he thought he could get away with it, he would have made mandatory compliance with his faith the law of the land. But Cromwell recognized that he had to compromise with reality if he was going to end the religious conflicts plaguing his country.

.. The religious conflicts of the past were ultimately about which values, rituals, customs, and ideas should be imposed on everybody.

.. We are a long way off from putting beliefs of the mind to the judgment of the sword, but that is the logical destination of the path we are on, because we have lost faith in the utility of upholding the right to be wrong.