I’m going to try to make this short and sweet, so I can point back to it whenever I need to. There’s something we all need to get clear, in our discussion of ideas and ethics and social mores and what have you. It is this: There is a distinction between granting a right, and bestowing approval.
Do we have that? This is important. I can defend and advocate someone’s right to do something, without at all believing that it’s what they should do. I can defend and advocate someone’s right to do something while at the same time trying to persuade them to do otherwise.
To take two recent, topical examples: that dude in Florida had every right to burn his Koran. Those Muslims in New York have every right to build their community center near Ground Zero. I don’t approve of either action. I could write long posts arguing reasons for both of those parties not to go through with their plans. And if I did this, someone would inevitably respond with, “Yeah, but they have a perfect right to do so, so why are you arguing?”
I’m arguing because I, as a thinking person, have every right to criticize and disapprove of other people’s legitimate choices. Full stop.
To take a more everyday example: I have the right to eat meat. If an animal-rights-activist-vegetarian friend disapproves of my eating meat, they have the right to say so, to argue with me, to show me reasons why perhaps I shouldn’t eat meat. If this friend and I care about our friendship, we will find a way to strike a balance between discussing this issue all the time (because it’s so important to my friend) and never discussing it (because it’s a source of conflict.)
When I say, “People shouldn’t do X,” please don’t take that to mean, “People shouldn’t be allowed to do X.” Those are two very different questions.