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Fearless Philosophy For Free Minds: The Sad State of Tolerance in America

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Sad State of Tolerance in America

I guess I was naïve in thinking that my country was one which was generally tolerant and generally believed in the rights of the individual. Not much surprises me anymore but the results of these gay marriage bans passed by voters in all states but one (Arizona) where the issue was on the ballot did. I was not surprised that the amendment to ban gay marriage in Colorado’s constitution passed but I was absolutely dumbfounded that Referendum i failed to receive support by a majority of Coloradans. As I wrote back in September, the purpose of Referendum i was to allow same sex couples to have the same basic rights such as inheritance rights, the right to visit the other in the hospital, the right to make medical decisions, and the right to make funeral arrangements. Even though the referendum specifically stated that it was for these legal rights and NOT MARRIAGE, Coloradans sadly denied such basic rights.

Of course we all know the story of Ted Haggard, the evangelical leader who engaged in gay sex with a prostitute and bought crystal meth from the prostitute. It is very intriguing to me how often those who actively lobby lawmakers to keep such activities as drug use and prostitution crimes (and pursuing even further restrictions among individuals and between consenting adults) while partaking in these very activities themselves. Ted Haggard, the same person who actively hid behind his religion as an excuse, not only to promote bigotry but also to make his bigotry the law of the land. To his credit, Haggard did say one thing that was true: “I’m a deceiver.” Of course he only came clean because he was caught and the fact that he is acting as though he is sorry seems to back up his statement that he is still a deceiver.

Despite this revelation, the bigoted campaign against homosexuals continued. I was appalled by some of the bigoted campaign ads that were being run on the Alabama news/talk station 770 AM WVNN (I listen to WVNN’s internet stream to listen to The Neal Boortz Show). It was bad enough that many of the ads urged support for a candidate based on the fact that he or she taught Sunday school and/or sang in a church choir (this is no joke; as if participating in church activities somehow qualifies someone to hold office) but the smearing of candidates who actually believe that individuals should be treated the same under the law was unconscionable. One ad that ran for several months prior to the election made an issue out of the fact that his opponent supported an (gasp!) openly gay (lesbian) candidate in another race. In response, the candidate who was the target of the ad responded by saying that he voted several times to ban gay marriage in Alabama. I thought Judge Roy Moore was extreme for Alabama but apparently his views are quite main stream in this part of the country. Is it any wonder that so many people regard Southerners as backward?

To be fair, these extreme Christian Right views are not isolated to the South nor is the bigotry limited to homosexuals; religious bigotry is also rearing its ugly head. I guess I was also naïve in believing that many people would not oppose an office holder or person running for public office based on his or her personal beliefs (although I realize that a majority of Americans would not support a skeptic, atheist, agnostic, or any other free thinkers). When someone would tell me that he or she did not believe a Jew (for example) could be elected president, I used to disagree strongly. After all, John F. Kennedy was elected president in a time when Irish Catholics where discriminated against. Now I am not so sure that a non-Christian candidate of any kind could be elected president. Here are two examples of why I’m coming around to this most discouraging view: Kieth Ellison (a Muslim) and Mitt Romney (a Mormon).

Kieth Ellison (D) is a Muslim who was elected to the congress in Minnesota. Apparently, Dennis Prager has a problem with the fact that Ellison has the “hubris” to be sworn in by placing his hand on the Quran instead of the Bible. Here is a sample of Mr. Prager’s ignorance in a column he wrote titled: Multiculturism run amok (bold text is my emphasis)

Keith Ellison, D-Minn., the first Muslim elected to the United States Congress, has announced that he will not take his oath of office on the Bible, but on the bible of islam, the Quran.

He should not be allowed to do so – not because of any American hostility to the Quran, but because the act undermines American civilization.

First, it is an act of hubris that perfectly exemplifies multiculturalist activism – my culture trumps America's culture. What Ellison and his Muslim and leftist supporters are saying is that it is of no consequence what America holds as its holiest book; all that matters is what any individual holds to be his holiest book.

First of all Mr. Prager, no matter how much you want to deny that the U.S. Constitution is a SECULAR document and that there is such a thing as the “establishment clause” of the First Amendment, the law is not on your side on this one. Furthermore, there is another little thing called Article VI, Clause 3 in the constitution that prohibits religious tests to serve in public office. Though it is tradition to swear on the Bible it is not a requirement nor should it be. Also, America does not have a holy book; individuals decide which book (if any) they wish to worship. It so happens that Mr. Ellison, who was chosen by the voters, is a Muslim instead of a Christian. Get over it!

On the Republican side, there is the 2008 presidential hopeful Mitt Romney. Doug Mataconis at Below the Beltway wonders if Romney’s Mormon beliefs will alienate many in the Christian Right.
Doug writes:

This, more than anything else I think, explains Romney’s recent courting of religious conservatives. Clearly, the evangelicals will be faced with a choice if Romney becomes one of the front runners for the GOP nomination (with, say, John McCain). Do they ignore the religious differences or let those differences determine their vote? It will be interesting to watch.

I believe Doug’s analysis is correct. Elsewhere in his post he cites an article about how Romney is attempting to shore up the Christian Right base by seeking the approval of the likes of Jerry Falwell and Franklin Graham (Maybe they would be okay with Romney as president provided that he promises not to use the Book of Mormon in his inauguration).

What’s stunning to me in the religious bigotry aimed at Mitt Romney comes from people who have very similar values (at least from what I gather). The fact that he is trying to secure the endorsement of the homophobic theocrat Jerry Falwell should give anyone who cares about personal liberty pause.

I personally do not know much about neither Kieth Ellison nor Mitt Romney at this point. For all I know they could both be horrible politicians for a variety of reasons. But to look only at their personally held faiths as a measure of either is qualified? Yes, there may be some concerns I might have because of their beliefs, that’s why the public should ask the tough questions. Questions such as “Are you going to uphold the law based on the constitution or your religion?” or “Do you want to remake the government in the image of your religion?” If either answers yes to either question, he is not fit to govern.

It’s very distressing to see how little we as Americans have learned from our mistakes of the past. Apparently we learned nothing from slavery, segregation, and other forms of ethnic and religious bigotry. For the most part, I believe that we have far less racial bigotry than ever before but how different is this from bigotry of certain religious beliefs or personal lifestyle choices (Though I am convinced that homosexuality is more biological than an environmental factor but either way, it’s a free country) ? When did Americans become more preoccupied with the personal conduct of others than the basic concept of life, liberty, and property? From what I gather, we only hold these values sacred when its our own life, liberty, and property that’s in jeopardy but we sure don’t mind trying to take these rights from others when we are not the ones affected.

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