by Dr. Benjamin Wiker:
In the early spring of 2009, the Equality Bill was introduced into Britain’s House of Commons. It is still churning its way through Parliament, now in the House of Lords. Anyone who wants to read the latest version of the bill, will find it quite in line with the usual chilling legally enforced advance of secularism. It is not really about equality, or even tolerance. Rather, it is simply a front door effort to enforce the secular agenda upon an already almost completely secularized Britain.
While not surprising, the Equality Bill is instructive as an example of what surely will be coming down the legislative pike for Americans in the clash between secular and Christian culture. Whatever its other merits, the goal of a large part of the bill is to force Brits to accept what Christians morally reject. For example, a church that rejects homosexuality will be forced to hire active homosexuals on its staff. Any public or private criticism of any sexual practice could land you in jail. “Tolerate—or Else!”
Pope Benedict XVI warned Britain that the Equality Bill violates natural law by demanding the acceptance of intrinsically immoral sexual practices. While a commitment to equality of opportunity is laudable, “the effect of some of the legislation [in the bill] designed to achieve this goal has been to impose unjust limitations on the freedom of religious communities to act in accordance with their beliefs.” In the name of equality, the bill could force churches to employ active gays and transsexuals.
Britain’s Anglican Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu, has also had enough. In his recent City of Peace Lecture, he stated “I want to persuade you why tolerance, as we experience it in Britain today is not enough as the core value on which to base our lives in civil society. In fact, I will go further, arguing that tolerance as it is practised in England today, is in danger of becoming a negative virtue, resulting in narrowness and in some cases, in oppression…. We…need to open our eyes to see what is actually happening in our society and in our cities today in the name of tolerance and the negative impact this is having.”
The archbishop rightly rejects the pitchfork of tolerance being used primarily to drive religion from the public square. Furthermore, society simply can’t tolerate everything. “Morally, if we don’t have any common vision or values, we can’t operate effectively either as individuals or as a society.” He concludes that “Using tolerance as [the] sole principle to determine our political and civil life doesn’t work.”
That’s an understatement. Contrary to what we’ve been repeatedly told, tolerance isn’t a virtue. It’s not even good enough to be a vice (although it resembles sloth, the resolution to be entirely irresolute about good and evil). The problem with enshrining tolerance as a moral principle is seen by the contradictory result of trying to impose it by force.
Here, we don’t even need to point to the secular effort to compel churches to accept the new secular sexual morality, or the even wider political agenda of driving religion out of the public square and into the privatized ghetto of harmless, subjective belief. Shudder at the following reported by Hal G. P. Colebatch of The Australian.
“In September 2006, a 14-year-old schoolgirl, Codie Stott, asked a teacher if she could sit with another group to do a science project as all the girls with her spoke only Urdu. The teacher’s first response, according to Stott, was to scream at her: ‘It’s racist, you’re going to get done by the police!’ Upset and terrified, the schoolgirl went outside to calm down. The teacher called the police and a few days later, presumably after officialdom had thought the matter over, she was arrested and taken to a police station, where she was fingerprinted and photographed. According to her mother, she was placed in a bare cell for 3 1/2 hours. She was questioned on suspicion of committing a racial public order offence and then released without charge. The school was said to be investigating what further action to take, not against the teacher, but against Stott. Headmaster Anthony Edkins reportedly said: ‘An allegation of a serious nature was made concerning a racially motivated remark. We aim to ensure a caring and tolerant attitude towards pupils of all ethnic backgrounds and will not stand for racism in any form.'”
Their treatment of Codie Stott certainly seems caring and tolerant to me. After all, she was only in a bare cell for 3 1/2 hours—much less time than she might have gotten in the Soviet Union.
So, to return to the problem, the reason increasing state-sponsored thuggery is ironically being used to enforce tolerance is because tolerance itself is neither a virtue nor a political or moral principle. As it is now understood, it is merely a high-sounding means for secularists to impose their particular views by force on others, including the Muslims in Britain speaking Urdu. But these very Muslims will be the ones the tolerance police go after soon, knocking on the door of their mosques to inquire what they are doing to comply with mandated affirmation and hiring of transgendered employees. As Colebatch also reported, at one school Muslim and Christian parents objected to their children “being given books advocating same-sex marriage and adoption”…and “not only had their objections ignored but have been threatened with prosecution if they withdraw their children.”
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