Roughly a month after Imus was fired, we had another much less publicized example of why these questions are so important to consider. According to Austin Cline, Christians in Sacramento, CA, were upset over the decision of San Juan High School principal, Dave Terwilliger, to prohibit Christian students from wearing t-shirts in school telling their LGBT classmates that they are going to hell (update: link no longer active). Stop at let that sink in for a moment. They were upset that they could no longer wear t-shirts threatening their peers with hell.
It seems that these Christians decided to frame this prohibition of hateful t-shirts as a threat to their religious freedom. Does this mean that intolerance is a core part of the Christian religion?
As Austin pointed 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 went 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.
This post originally appeared on Atheist Revolution in 2007. In spite of the link to the original story no longer working, I thought it was worth editing and re-posting. After all, I think this is a lesson some Christians still need to learn.