Responding to the guest editorial by Arnold Besier in defense of religious displays on public land (“Another View: Religious displays on public property attest to a society’s tolerance,” Jan. 19), there are two important points to be made.

First, there is a false dichotomy in pitting tolerance for “violent, degrading and sexualized dialogue” on public airwaves against public sponsorship of religious messages.

These are two entirely separate realms, although oddly enough, they share a common denominator. The U.S. Constitution protects the one and prohibits the other. Speech that Mr. Besier and I would agree is violent and degrading is, with certain careful exceptions, protected by the First Amendment.

This same article in the Bill of Rights protects the free exercise of religion, but explicitly forbids government “establishment” of religion. This includes sponsorship by placement of religious symbols on public land, because it implies official establishment of religion. This is important even, perhaps especially, if it is the religion of the majority.

Constitutional protection of free speech and prohibition of “established” (i.e., government-sponsored) religion are both essential to a free society. As the state Legislature is being called upon to remember, when privilege is challenged, it feels (to the privileged) like an attack.

The Rev. Andrea Thompson McCall

South Portland