Ann Coulter has made herself the Paris Hilton of politics: pretty on the outside – ugly on the inside. So it shouldn’t be surprising that she would stir up more controversy by suggesting that Jews need to be “perfected”.

At the VCU Adcenter, we’ve been working on an assignment for the First Freedom Center, with the purpose of increasing religious dialogue to battle religious intolerance.

Communications Strategist, Nien Liu, asked me a provocative question, “What does the First Freedom Center think – do they consider this a crisis?”

Virtually every study on the topic suggests that when people feel comfortable discussing religion, intolerance of other faiths is reduced. Nien’s question was a good one. Here was an example of religion being discussed in a way that demonstrated ignorance and intolerance. Is this a good thing? I won’t speak for the First Freedom Center, but here are my own views:

First of all, this is unfortunate example of how ignorance leads to intolerance. The less you know about religious beliefs other than you’re own, the more likely you are to be intolerant. Coulter demonstrates not only ignorance of other religions, but also ignorance of her own.

Second, even intolerant discussions of religion can promote positive dialogue. When I did a blog search on Coulter’s remarks, I found over 2,500 blog entries on the subject. (General Google entries, which can include duplication, were over 400,000) Many of these were thoughtful and provocative, and many Christian commentators quoted scripture to counter Coulter’s point-of-view.

So to answer Nien’s question as to whether Coulter’s words created a crisis, I would say no. The powerful thing about free speech is that voices of hatred are almost always drowned out by voices of reason. It just takes a little time.

Links: Coulter’s Comments