May 18, 2007

Christians Demand Right to Hate

During the whole Don Imus fiasco, many questions were raised about how best to balance freedom of speech with the language of intolerance. I'm still waiting for the meaningful dialogue the mainstream media assured us was coming. Now we have another example of why these questions are so important as Austin Cline provides us with one of the best examples I've seen in awhile of what Christianity is all about.

Christians in Sacramento, CA, are protesting the decision of San Juan High School principal, Dave Terwilliger, to prohibit Christian students from wearing t-shirts in school telling their classmates that they are going to hell. It seems that these Christians have decided to frame this as a threat to their religious freedom. Does this mean that intolerance is a core part of the Christian religion? You'll get no argument from me.

As Austin points out so effectively, we should consider this story in a particular context - the context of American atheists being regularly condemned as "intolerant" or "disrespectful" for speaking out against religion. Austin goes on to ask many compelling questions (e.g., "Would Christians be allowed to wear shirts expressing opposition to racial integration?") before stating what should be obvious:
Christians don't have a religious "right" to intimidate others whenever they have religious objections to the behavior and/or beliefs of others in society. They may sincerely believe that they have a god-given right and god-mandated duty to hate certain segments of society, but none of this translates into a legal right to use that hatred as a means to intimidate others in public school.
Christians, you can't have it both ways. If you don't want students wearing "F@$& the skull of Jesus" shirts at the public high school, you must also oppose shirts telling gay students that they are going to burn in hell. If it is more important to you that you be allowed to spread your intolerance and hatred, then you forfeit your right to complain when your ridiculous superstition becomes the target.

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