As for religious leaders, they certainly do not deserve the kind of deference they currently receive, or the megaphones they are provided by the news media for their pronouncements. They do not deserve to be looked upon as moral or community leaders, or to be given a privileged voice in public debate. Some – such as those Protestant fundamentalists who claim the Earth is only 6000 years old or the celibate, white-haired dinosaurs of the Vatican who think that the use of contraception is a sin – deserve to be accorded little more intellectual credibility than would be given, in a modern city such as Melbourne, to a slavery advocate.
Not all ideas deserve to be taken seriously and considered respectfully, and not all people deserve to be accorded intellectual legitimacy. We can argue about who and what falls into which category, but there is no doubt that some speech deserves to be marginalised … and that certainly applies to a lot of religious speech. There’s no need to be backward about saying so.