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From Tolerance to Coercion

April 30, AD2013 13 Comments


I\’m not a conspiracy theorist. What I mean by that is that I generally don\’t go for complicated explanations when often the simplest ones will suffice. I don\’t see hidden cabals controlling society – frankly, who needs hidden cabals when most plots to transform society are wide out in the open for most to see. Yet, there is a slow and subtle transformation taking place in society that has me terribly concerned that our right to free expression is slowly being eroded. Bit by bit, not only is intolerance of homosexual lifestyles no longer tolerated, even indifference is being seen as homophobic.

This is manifest in the debate over same-sex marriage. Anyone who has attempted to engage in any type of debate with supporters of same-sex marriage can testify how far a conversation will go before you\’re shouted down as a homophobe. It\’s reached the point where I\’m not even sure gay marriage supporters even know why they feel the way they do. They have been conditioned to feel and act a certain way about the issue, and in public policy debates they very rarely display any logical ability to discuss this issue in a clear and convincing manner. But it doesn\’t matter, because the tide of public opinion polling is turning in their favor, and it is very much related to their ability to silence dissent.

It started where we all assumed it would. On the campus of George Washington University, two same-sex students are trying to remove the campus\’s Catholic chaplain. Why? Well, because they feel alienated by his \”rejection\” of homosexuality (a bit of a misnomer, but more on that in a moment.) The mere fact that this Priest is on campus, actually teaching what the Catholic Church believes about homosexual actions and defending the institution of marriage is an affront to the delicate sensibilities of these poor souls. Presumably they will not tolerate any Catholic priest on campus, unless they happened to have been \”ordained\” over the weekend in Louisville.

This sort of attack is to be expected, and no Catholic who has been paying attention to the public debate expects it to end there. Yet we\’re slowly reaching the point where simply expressing one\’s religious views on homosexuality are not the only condemnatory actions one can be guilty of in the eyes of social activists.

Last week a middle school in New York made female students ask each other for kisses as part of an \”anti-bullying\” demonstration. The parents were not given the option of having their children opt-out of this exercise, and school administrators not only defended the presentation, but they implied that more like this are on the way. The blogger Ace of Spades put it well:

There is a very real suspicion, held for good reason, that anything that is not illegal in a socialist state will be mandatory. That is, there are only two categories of actions: the illegal and criminal, and the mandatory and coerced. Only What the State Forbids and What the State Compels.

Now on  Monday we heard the news of a player for the Washington Wizards coming out of the closet. The sports media and the news media alike have treated Jason Collins as though he were a modern-day Jackie Robinson. It is undoubtedly true that openly homosexual professional athletes, considering the culture of sports locker rooms, face potentially more backlash than those in other professions. So Collins coming out as the first openly homosexual active major team sports (enough qualifiers there?) athlete is moderately newsworthy. Yet when a couple of individuals mocked not Collins but the ridiculously fawning media coverage, they were instantly derided as homophobes. On my way home this evening I listened to the local sports radio talk show and heard one of the hosts state that the reaction of homophobes to this story is to claim that it doesn\’t matter if Jason Collins is homosexual, so let\’s move on. Yes, being utterly indifferent to a professional athlete declaring his sexual preference is now considered as proof of one\’s hatred towards homosexuals.

We have move passed towards tolerance to open acceptance. In some ways, this is what the same-sex marriage debate is about in the first place (other than outright destroying the institution). There are no civil or criminal penalties for same-sex couples who call themselves wed and live as spouses. In some small degree, forcing the state to officially recognize same-sex couples as married is about having the state openly acknowledge and celebrate these unions. Again, this is not about tolerance, but rather it is about openly embracing the homosexual lifestyle.

Contra the students at George Washington, Catholics and other observant Christians aren\’t \”anti-gay\”. We are prohibited by the teaching of our own Church from openly discriminating against homosexuals (see 2358). I have seen and cringed at statements in comment boxes that are well outside the bounds of charity. As Catholics we are called to love our brothers and sisters in Christ who have homosexual tendencies. But that same call to love also instructs us to speak the truth.

I don\’t expect secularists to understand or agree with what the Church teaches about homosexuality, but it is absolutely repugnant for those who claim to celebrate diversity and tolerance to cow others into silence. Perhaps this reflexive tendency towards demonization is a sign that these individuals are not exactly brimming with confidence in their own arguments. Would someone confident in the superiority of their position demand others celebrate and endorse what they view as objectively wrong?   These are not the actions of people who have reasonable and irrefutable arguments to make on behalf of their own cause. Unfortunately for us, in a democratic society it\’s not always – or often – the side making the rational argument that wins out.

But of course, perhaps I\’m just being paranoid. By the way, here\’s a tweet from sports business writer Darren Rovell.

Jason Collins\’ agent Arn Tellem doesn\’t think NBA will push Collins on teams, but thinks it will be in a team\’s best interest to sign him.

— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) April 30, 2013

© 2013. Paul Zummo. All Rights Reserved.

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

Paul is a Fourth Degree Knight of Columbus with a doctorate in Politics. He has been writing about politics and Catholic social issues for most of his adult life. As a father of (so far) two young children, he is especially interested in preserving their civil and religious liberties. Paul also dabbles in fiction writing, and his novel Dirty Laundry can be found on

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