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28 March 2013

How about some tolerance for tolerance?

And so my respect for the Winnipeg Free Press continues its decline unabated, with yesterday's opinion piece by John Kass (a Chicago Tribune reporter, apparently), entitled "How about some tolerance for Christians" (with question mark omitted, for reasons unknown). In the article, Kass muses that permitting gay marriage may infringe on the rights of good, God-fearing Christians. (What rights? Presumably the right to cause awkward social situations when confronted by the fact that gay people exist.) Also, being called a bigot makes him sad, or something.

I have neither the time nor the energy to dive into it in grand detail, but I'll offer up a few choice morsels.

Is it possible to be a traditional Christian or Muslim or Orthodox Jew — and hold to one's faith on what constitutes marriage — and not be considered a bigot?

That odd religious persecution complex never disappoints, does it?

In answer to the question: sure, probably. If marriage means "one man, one woman" to you, then that's fine. Enter into a marriage in which there are exactly two participants of different genders (and close your mind to the wonderful diversity that actually exists on the spectra of gender and sex). But the moment you start trying to force other people to adhere to your particular religious code, you're an ass. It's just that simple.

"If you don't believe in gay marriage," as the saying goes, "then don't get gay married." Try to prevent other people from getting gay married? You are a bigot, and no one should hesitate to call you on it.

The federal government has already told religious institutions that run hospitals that they must provide contraceptives to their employees, even if it runs counter to their beliefs. So now, if the government ultimately compels us to describe same-sex unions as marriage, what's next?

If we must give this group equal rights, what's next? Why, it would be a slippery slope to God-knows-what!

Also, I feel compelled to point out that neither hospitals nor religious institutions actually have "beliefs"; they may have codes of conduct or dogmas, but in order to actually believe something, you need to, you know, possess some sort of nervous system or something. The people running these institutions have the right to believe whatever they want—but they shouldn't have the right to force those beliefs on their employees. Is a Catholic hospital permitted to refuse to hire a doctor for being Muslim or a ward assistant for being Mormon?

And if you don't want to provide your employees with government-mandated healthcare, then perhaps, at the very least, you should get out of the healthcare business.

In this media world, I sometimes wonder whether the word "sin" has been outlawed by the high priests of journalism for fear of offending one group or another. And I'd rather not ask.

I'm tempted to pass over the hyperbolic (and frankly boring) contention that the author's editors are trying to silence dissent to conform to some quasi-religious dogma, as this sort of conspiracy mongering is nothing new, but I will note that this accusation is particularly amusing, coming as it does from an Orthodox Christian. I will venture that perhaps the reason his editors don't want Kass calling people he don't happen to agree with "sinners" may be that they want their readership to be somewhat broader than a small number of conservative Christians. Or it could be that his opinion on whether some act or thought may offend some god or other has little to do with accurate reporting of the news. That's also a possibility.

Again, I don't oppose same-sex unions. I think Americans should have the right to associate as they please. My wife and I have had friends and family members who were gay, and died of AIDS. We loved them, and still do.

...and here's where I blew a gasket. I had to retype this paragraph a half-dozen times before I managed to restore any semblance of politeness (which, admittedly, is much more than the author deserves). Good for you, John Kass, for not hating people for having different innate preferences than you. Would you like a cookie?

This paragraph has all of the class of "some of my best friends are black", while serving to remind the reader that some number of gay people die of a horrible disease. I can't be sure what the author's mention of AIDS is supposed to accomplish, but I think that the most charitable interpretation would be that it's a non sequitur. The only other rationale I can come up with is that Kass wishes us to infer that these deaths attributable to a "lifestyle choice" (or "sin", as he'd probably prefer to phrase it), and that in some sense these "loved ones" brought it on themselves. To which I'm afraid I must respond, "Why yes, you do in fact seem to be a bigot!"

Kass ends his article with a plea for tolerance:

Tolerance for those whose faith and traditional beliefs put them in what is fast becoming the minority.

And good riddance.

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