The Washington Post's ombudsman, Deborah Howell, has posted a column on the reaction to a Pat Oliphant cartoon that ran on the Post's website Sept. 9. More than 750 people, Pentecostals and others, contacted the paper to say they were offended by what they saw as an attack on the religion. Here's the cartoon:
Howell interviewed several editorial cartoonists, including the Post's Tom Toles, about their work and their ideas of fairness. She says she wouldn't have run the drawing in the paper's print edition but seems fine with giving cartoonists greater leeway on the web.
My own take is that cartoonists shouldn't be slamming religions as religions. However, people who loudly carry their beliefs into the public arena or present their religious credentials as qualifications for elected office shouldn't cry "foul" if their claims of piety and divine guidance come in for some satiric scrutiny. This is particularly true if they are candidates, like Palin, who claim that the Iraq war is a "task from God" or who ask their fellow believers to pray for gas pipeline projects.