Events of recent weeks have graphically illustrated that the political Left in America is guilty of precisely the type of intolerance — political and social — for which it frequently attacks conservatives. This is given the sanitized title of "political correctness," but is actually an Orwellian form of speech control over those who do not rigidly adhere to Left-wing ideology.
Let me cite two examples, one national and one local, that place the Left's glaring intolerance on display: the recent flap over Chick-fil-A, and an atheist's attempt at using a government agency to violate a restaurant owner's First Amendment rights to freely express religious beliefs.
In the case of Chick-fil-A let's begin by setting aside the debate over gay marriage and even whether or not homosexuality is a sin. The issue itself is not the controversy. What is at play is the right of any American to freely express an opinion — based upon religion or only on personal beliefs — without becoming the target of hate speech from those who disagree. It is well known that the Cathy Family, founders and operators of Chick-fil-A, are observant Christians who adhere to Biblical principles held by the church for, well, over 2,000 years. That Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy would articulate those views is both unsurprising, and his right as an American.
The political Left is demanding that Christians be "tolerant" of their views on gay marriage and a wide range of social issues. In fact, true Christians will reflect Christ's teachings to love one another and — while disagreeing — will not approach the issue in a hateful manner. That, however, is not good enough for the Left. They demand total acceptance of their views displaying an appalling lack of tolerance toward those who hold different opinions.
Thus did elements of the Left attempt to organize a boycott of Chick-fil-A, which backfired when conservatives rallied to the fast food giant's cause. This is illustrative in that rather than simply making personal decisions to eat elsewhere, the radical Left felt the need to put its intolerance for the opinions of others on full display by attacking and attempting to inflict economic harm Mr. Cathy and Chick-fil-A. That hatred took an ugly turn last week when, egged on by the over-heated rhetoric, a Left-wing activist showed up at the offices of the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C. armed with a sack full of chicken sandwiches and 50 rounds of ammunition. Only a heroic security guard prevented a massacre from occurring.
Closer to home, there is the case of the Lancaster County atheist who is harassing a local restaurant by filing a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission over the eatery's offer of a discount to those who showed a church bulletin when paying their bill. The atheist, who never set foot in the restaurant and learned of the offer on the internet, displayed gross intolerance by attempting to trample on the rights of the restaurant owner, and its patrons, to be expressive of their religion. Nobody denied him service, or even a discount on a meal. He was offended by the mere existence of alternate viewpoints.
The Left can be tolerant when one of their own transgresses, as in the pass given by the mainstream media and the echoing silence of Left-wing groups when Vice President Joe Biden made racially tinged comments to a largely African-American audience about Wall Street putting people back in chains. Had that comment been made by Paul Ryan or Mitt Romney the reaction would have been considerably different.
Bottom line: "intolerance" is merely a Left-wing buzz word for someone who holds a view different than their own. The true intolerance in today's political discourse is the fact that anyone espousing a view different from the politically correct cabal of Left-wing interest groups, big city based-news media, and liberal academia is labeled as intolerant.
Real tolerance is being displayed by the conservative majority in America which will always defend the Left's right to say and believe what it wishes, but in turn expects to be treated the same. All too often though, the reaction from the Left is vitriol rather than respect for the rights of those who think and believe differently.
This is something the Right must rise above. Conservatives should be respectful of the rights of others to think differently — but should continue to fight for and defend core principles. Let us lead by example and be judged by our actions as well as our words. By respecting the constitutional rights of others we will ultimately make that document and our nation stronger.
(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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