Almost 500 years ago, on the wall of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses, characterizing as "madness" the notion that papal pardons could absolve individuals for their sins. As viewed from Rome, Luther had maligned, even defamed, the church. Luther was eventually excommunicated. His conduct ultimately led to the creation of a Protestant Church in Germany and a Reformation throughout Europe.
It is difficult to believe that in the 21st century anyone would seriously propose that conduct such as Luther's should be deemed illegal. But a few weeks ago, the General Assembly of the United Nations took a giant step in that direction. It adopted - for the fourth straight year - a resolution prepared by the 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference calling upon all UN nations to adopt legislation banning the "defamation" of religion. Spurred by the Danish cartoons of 2005, some of which portrayed the Prophet Muhammed in a manner deemed offensive by the OIC, the resolution was opposed by the United States, most European nations, Japan, India and a number of other nations.
Nonetheless, it has now been adopted.