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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Some thoughts about intolerance and other issues

I was talking with a co-worker earlier today who was asserting the standard conservative talking point about religious freedom being threatened and that kids couldn't pray in school, etc.  When I pointed out to them that students can pray, it just be led by someone affiliated with the school, they just said that "We'll just have to agree to disagree."  Which is a crock of complete and utter bullshit.  There is nothing to disagree about here, it is black letter law.  The courts have repeatedly ruled that yes, students may pray in school as long as the prayer does not disrupt school and as long as the school does not use the power of the school to promote it.  That would include teachers leading the prayer during school hours or school sponsored events.  So, for example, a school could allow a religious group to voluntarily meet after school (or even during lunch) as long as the school doesn't place its thumb on the side of the group and as long as the school allows any religious group to do the same.

What gets me about this idea is the assumption that *EVERY* point has two sides.  While I can accept that as a general rule, there are instances where that is demonstrably untrue.  This is also true when it comes to climate change and other scientific or medical issues.  While you may always have a few crackpots who argue with things due to their ideological bent, that does not mean that their "side" is equally valid or deserving of attention.  Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that people don't have the right to believe what they want, because they absolutely do.  But if they believe something that is demonstrably (and objectively) wrong, then that does not deserve respect.  I do want to make sure that it is clear that I am talking about something being objectively wrong, not just wrong according to someone's religious beliefs or something else that cannot be proven in an objective manner.

Another thing I have seen, and not just recently, is the idea from various people that all intolerance is equal.  Again, this is demonstrably false.  There is intolerance like the sort shown by Kim Davis that aims to stop other people from asserting their rights and then there is intolerance of intolerance, in other words not accepting the intolerance of people who would deny the rights of others.  It should be obvious to anyone who is intellectually honest that the second is much, much different from the first.  Being tolerant does not mean that you accept absolutely everything.  If there is injustice or something similar going on, it is our duty to attack it head on to defend others.

Which leads to another point which I (and others) have repeatedly made.  *THERE IS NO ATTACK ON CHRISTIANITY OR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN THE UNITED STATES.*  Any suggestion to the contrary is ignoring reality and the person asserting it should be laughed out of a serious discussion on the subject.  Religious freedom means that you have the right to believe what you want to to practice your religion.  As with any right, there are limits on it.  Your religious freedom cannot impede on my rights.  So, for example, if your religion says that eating a particular food is wrong, you do not have the right to refuse to sell me said food if the store you are working in sells it.  If the store doesn't carry it, that is (of course) a totally different story.  Likewise, if someone opposes a same-sex couple getting married, that is their right, but if they offer a (non-religious) service (i.e. cake baking or hosting weddings) then they cannot refuse to serve a same-sex couple.  And if they are a public servant, that holds doubly true.  The assault (if there is one) is on the false, expanded version of religious liberty, which is really just using religion as an excuse to discriminate against people.