03/20/2012 11:23 EDT | Updated 05/20/2012 05:12 EDT

Is the New York Times Afraid of Islam?

Rarely is a double-standard so obvious in the media -- and so reflective of society in general -- as a full-page ad in the New York Times attacking Catholicism and urging people to "consider quitting the Catholic Church."

Mind you, it wasn't the NYT advocating this, but a $38,000-ad from an atheist group -- the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) -- that ran IN mid-March.

The ad was in the form of a letter that asked Catholics: "Why send your children to parochial schools to be indoctrinated . . . sex scandals involving preying priests, church complicity, collusion, and cover-up going all the way to the top."

The ad was accompanied by a cartoon of a bishop bellowing and ranting and was signed by FFRF co-presidents Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker.

The anti-Catholic ad continued to rant: "Think of the acute misery, poverty, needless suffering, unwanted pregnancies, over-population, social evils and death that can be laid directly at the door of your church's precious doctrine that birth control is a sin and must not be allowed."

Furor erupted when Pamela Geller, president of something called Stop Islamization of Nations, submitted a mimicking ad, with a cartoon of a wild-looking mullah, basically substituting "Islam" for "Catholic" in the wording.

The anti-Islamic ad railed: "Why put up with an institution that dehumanizes women and non-Muslims . . . identifying with the ideology that threatens liberty for women and menaces freedom by slaughtering, oppressing and subjugating non-Muslims . . . . Join those of us who put humanity above the vengeful, hateful and violent teachings of Islam's 'prophet.'"

Double-standard comes in because while the NYT accepted the anti-Catholic ad, it refused to run the anti-Muslim ad. In a letter, the Times said it might consider the ad later, but to run it now "could put U.S, troops and/or civilians in the (Afghan) region in danger."

This is a shameless rationale -- yet another case of camouflaging cowardice with the pretense of principle and concern for troops.

What it reveals of society is a willingness, nay eagerness, to avoid truth if it risks reprisals. Or, as someone asked, "Why aren't they afraid of Catholic terrorism?"

Clearly, Catholics are safe to criticize. A case can be made that the Times should not have run either ad -- both are insulting and demeaning. By stressing its belief in the U.S. First Amendment (Freedom of religon, speech and the press) when it applies to Catholics, should not the Times apply the same standard to Muslims?

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, has called the anti-Catholic ad an example of either anti-Catholic bigotry or fear of Islamic violence. Take your choice.

By way of observation, Geller noted that regardless of the Times' declared belief in the First Amendment, it would never openly attack something like Shariah law which some Muslim clerics want introduced in North America, and which are already in practice in parts of Britain and Europe.

If the NYT can be intimidated, what does that say of other media?

The message is, or seems to be: If you don't like your religion being mocked, threaten or actually commit acts of violence, and the media will refrain from criticism.

That is not freedom. It is coercion dependent on cowardice of the media.