The Satan statue controversy is of course absurd, but absurdities are often useful in illuminating more substantial issues.
America is becoming vastly more diverse — ethnically, culturally, religiously, and morally. In a great many ways that’s a good thing. But in this life, no good thing comes without a downside.
Consider immigration, historically a boon to America. Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam (a liberal in good standing) found that increased immigration hurts “social trust,” causing people to “hunker down” within their own bands of friends or alone in front of the TV. Everything from trust in political leaders and the political process — both of which are at or near all-time lows, by the way — to voting and carpooling drops precipitously as more strangers move into a community.
Conversely, people increasingly look more to government — the police, local politicians, and bureaucrats — to solve problems that once could have been worked out in a neighborly conversation. This reliance on legal authority and entitlements further crowds out the charitable mechanisms and institutions of civil society, inviting yet more government intrusions.
By the way, Putnam explicitly rejects racism as the culprit here. Rather, the cause is a breakdown in shared norms, customs, language, and the other often invisible and intangible but no less real sinews that bind a community together.
Family breakdown, the decline in good blue-collar jobs, the decline of organized religion, etc., are all equally good or better examples of things sapping the strength from social trust and cohesion and encouraging government to pick up the slack. In Europe, charitable giving and voluntarism are anemic because people think charity is what they pay taxes for. The churches are all subsidized but the pews are empty.
And when the connective tissues of an organic society are removed, all that is left is the bone of abstract principle. For conservatives, that mostly means invoking the Constitution — which is rightly silent on how people should live. For liberals, that often means shrugging and saying, “Who are we to judge?”
Neither response offers much of an argument against giving equal time to devil worshippers.