I don’t really like the word “tolerance.” Toleration suggests putting up with something that is substandard or otherwise unfortunate in the interests of civil peace. I prefer something more along the lines of “live and let live.” You do your thing, I do mine. Neither of us may approve of the other’s choices, but we respect our mutual right to differ.
My distaste for the word aside, I found it fascinating that The Heritage Foundation–that once-respectable, currently rabid source of right-wing “policy” positions–has announced its approval of a recent proposal out of Idaho, citing it as an example of “tolerance.”
Rep. Raúl Labrador of Idaho has proposed a new bill that would protect “religious liberty” by issuing licenses to discriminate against gay people. (I know that’s bizarre, but work with me here, people!) The “logic” of this measure is simple, if daft. Because evidently not being able to discriminate against gay people does discriminate against Christians, the bill provides that there would be no adverse consequences for any organization, business or individual who refuses to recognize same-sex marriage. The text reads as follows:
“The Federal Government shall not take an adverse action against a person, on the basis that such person acts in accordance with a religious belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.”
Under that language, businesses could refuse benefits to same-sex partners, hospitals could refuse visitation rights, landlords could refuse to rent to gay couples, and pretty much anyone at all could refuse services to LGBT people. Note too that this language isn’t intended to reinforce already robust Free Exercise protections that exempt churches and many religious organizations from compliance with civil rights laws. This language is far broader.
Why do I think that if they could get away with it, these proponents of “religious liberty” would grant a similar “license” to people whose religious beliefs included a distaste for Jews or blacks or Muslims?
In this profoundly upside-down view, after all, any and all anti-discrimination laws can be seen as invasions of my civil liberties. How dare the government tell me I can’t pick on people my religion tells me to dislike?
In what alternate universe is official government approval of discrimination “tolerance”?