Tolerance is a positive concept at first glance – the ability to get along with others and to allow for individual freedom. In modern times, however, tolerance in the United States has come to mean something much different. It now often means forcing others to agree with differing opinions and abide by new cultural norms at the risk of backlash, legal action, doxing or worse. It means honoring one person’s individual freedoms more than another’s.
Who is Being Protected?
Ryan T. Anderson, the William E. Simon Senior Research Fellow in American Principles and Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation, notes the innocent terminology used by those who seek to establish new norms. “Fairness for All” legislation, for example, would make sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) protected classes in federal law.
It’s worth examining, however, who is really being protected and benefiting. Is it the female in the locker room, the little girl in the women’s restroom, the young boy in a male outdoors club, the female athlete competing against a male, the believing business owner, or the religious institution? The answer is a resounding “no.”
“SOGI laws, including Fairness for All, are not about freedom – they are about coercion,” Anderson explains. “SOGI and Fairness for All are about forcing all Americans to embrace – and live out – certain beliefs about human sexuality.”
The question becomes: are certain groups not currently being protected? The US Constitution, the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) of 1967, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) of 1978, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) of 2008, have already established broad protections for the treatment of societal groups.
SOGI laws, however, are different. Rather than supporting a group of people, they create intrusive legislation that infringes upon every other citizen. “In the United States of America, people who identify as LGBT are free to live as they want,” Anderson says. “SOGI laws are not about protecting the freedom of people to live as LGBT, but about coercing everyone else to support, facilitate, and endorse such actions.” (1)
In Houston, another utopian-sounding legislation, the HERO bill, was put forward in 2015. The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance proposed, among other things, allowing transgender residents to use the restroom of their choice, consistent with their gender expression, regardless of their biological sex. Voters rejected the proposal. Groups that opposed the legislation were sometimes referred to as hate groups, and dissenting voters were sometimes dismissed as backward and ignorant.
What is Driving the Legislation?
With SOGI legislation and issues becoming commonplace in recent years, it would seem that the issue of gender identification is massive. The answer is yes – and no. Perhaps it’s because of media infiltration and the cultural narrative presented to ordinary Americans. In its 2019 article, “Americans Still Greatly Overestimate U.S. Gay Population,” Gallup released the results of surveys in 2011, 2015 and 2019. The question posed to survey-takers was, “Just your best guess, what percent of Americans today would you say are gay or lesbian?”
In May 2019, respondents’ average guess was that 23.6 percent of the US population did not identify with their birth gender. Among the respondents, women, young people, and left-leaning people all had the highest estimation of this group.
Startling for some, Gallup found, “Americans’ estimate of the proportion of gay people in the US is more than five times Gallup’s more encompassing 2017 estimate that 4.5 percent of Americans are LGBT, based on respondents’ self-identification as being gay, bisexual or transgender.”
Taking into account a range of behaviors and feelings, the self-reporting shows an enormous difference between public perception and reality. The study reports: “All available estimates of the actual gay and lesbian population in the US are far lower than what the public estimates. Overestimations of the nation’s gay population may, in part, be due to the group’s outsized visibility. An annual report by GLAAD, an LGBT advocacy group, found that representation of LGBT people as television regulars on broadcast, primetime scripted programming reached an all-time high of 8.8 percent in the 2018-2019 television season, which is nearly twice Gallup’s estimate of the actual population.” (2)
Advocates for SOGI legislation liken their cause to civil rights, and paint a picture of suppression. They use language like “segregation” to describe traditional gender separation in facilities. The Equality Act would provide sweeping legislation that would elevate sexual orientation and gender identity to a protected class. Among its sections are “desegregation of public education” (think locker rooms and restrooms with girls and boys), desegregation of public facilities, and just as dubious and misguided – federal funding and employment. (3)
The Human Rights Campaign asserts regarding the proposed Equality Act, “Everyone should have a fair chance to earn a living and provide a home for their families without fear of harassment or discrimination.”(4) But the bigger question is, would the Equality Act increase the ability of Americans to have “a fair to chance to earn a living and provide a home for their families without fear of harassment or discrimination”?
What Are the Effects of SOGI Legislation?
The House of Representatives passed the Equality Act in May 2019, crossing a significant hurdle in getting the bill closer to becoming law. It would have to pass in the Senate and be signed by the president in order to become law. While progressives cheered at its passing in the House, many conservatives sounded the alarm.
The Heritage Foundation articulates, “Congress should honor the Constitutional freedoms of all Americans to think, work, and live according to their beliefs on marriage and biological sex. SOGI legislation wrongly conflates disagreement on these issues with discrimination. All people should be treated with dignity and respect. Anti-discrimination laws are supposed to be shields from invidious discrimination, not swords to punish nonconformity. Our laws should honor the freedom to hold different beliefs in order to protect true diversity and promote tolerance.” (5)
The consequences of such legislation is commonly evidenced. A recent ruling in the United Kingdom shows a disregard for information that has been accepted for millennia. National Health Service employee, Dr. David Mackereth, had worked as a physician for three decades. When he declined to refer to a bearded, male patient as “Mrs.” and “she,” he was fired.
He subsequently lost his case before an Employment Tribunal in England in October 2019. The court also cited the Bible verse the doctor quoted: “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). The tribunal’s written decision included, “Belief in Genesis 1:27, lack of belief in transgenderism and conscientious objection to transgenderism in our judgment are incompatible with human dignity and conflict with the fundamental rights of others, specifically here, transgender individuals.”
For Mackereth’s part, he countered, “No doctor, or researcher, or philosopher, can demonstrate or prove that a person can change sex. Without intellectual and moral integrity, medicine cannot function, and my 30 years as a doctor are now considered irrelevant compared to the risk that someone else might be offended.” (6)
Compelled speech and forced actions have infiltrated the United States as well. Individual states have become legislative battlegrounds. The famous “Colorado baker” case made headlines when baker Jack Phillips refused to complete a cake for a homosexual couple, and later for a gender transition. (7) The cases have often been misconstrued as Phillips’ refusal to serve a customer. That was not the case, however. In both instances, what the clients were asking for was a commissioned, custom-made creation from the baker.
The question becomes, whose rights matter? Do the desires of one person outweigh the convictions of another? Are one person’s liberties deemed irrelevant in light of another’s? The cake case had everything to do with activists seeking to intimidate another citizen into conforming to their views and meeting their demands.
Why Does it Matter in Culture and Faith Communities?
As in the Colorado baker case, activists often label individuals, groups or companies who hold a traditional view of marriage or of sexuality as anti-LGBT or anti-rights. It seems society has collectively forgotten that disagreement, or even failure to condone, does not mean hatred; convictions do not equal bigotry, and being for one thing does not mean a person must attempt to smear the other side. If anyone dares to say they believe in traditional values, the mob has at times not only tried to bring that entity down, but to influence others to do the same.
Recently, The Salvation Army was labeled anti-LGBT for its biblical stance. As a result, prominent voices came against it. What is so hateful about the organization? Its mission statement is, “The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.”
A message based on the Bible was enough for opponents to oppose the philanthropic organization. In a simple, yet profound defense to recent affronts, The Salvation Army USA released a statement on social media saying, “We serve more than 23 million individuals a year, including those in the LGBTQ+ community. In fact, we believe we are the largest provider of poverty relief to the LGBTQ+ population. When misinformation is perpetuated without fact, our ability to serve those in need, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, or any other factor, is at risk. We urge the public to seek the truth before rushing to ill-informed judgment and greatly appreciate those partners and donors who ensure that anyone who needs our help feels safe and comfortable to come through our doors.”
This needed clarification – believing in something doesn’t change one’s treatment and respect for everyone – is helpful. But some groups can simply not abide knowing that others do not endorse or participate in their choices. The great irony is that the groups which most demand to be accepted refuse to offer the same acceptance to others. Those who call for fair treatment are, at times, the ones treating others uncharitably.
Censorship and What’s At Stake?
Among those who hold traditional views or conservative values, censorship has become a run-of-the-mill practice. They find they are not able to advertise events or promote ideas due to outright restrictions or “shadow banning,” the practice of covertly limiting media reach. PragerU, a conservative, nonprofit organization, found their information blocked by Google and YouTube. As recently as November 2019, conservative thinker Candace Owens announced Facebook would not allow her to promote her next event. Twitter has suspended accounts for anything deemed unacceptable politically.
When disagreeing with another’s viewpoint is classified as hate speech, almost anything and anyone is fair game for removal and banning. Not playing by the new rules can be costly.
Being “woke,” or in-the-know about cultural issues, seems to mean being perpetually ready to be offended, and ready to censor others. Censorship can range from halting another’s digital reach, to shutting down events, to rioting and attacking.
When conservative commentator and former Breitbart news editor, Ben Shapiro, came to speak at the University of California Berkeley in 2017, police officers had to place the school in lockdown to contain the animus. A little more than a year before, the school was the site of anarchy when protestors hurled Molotov cocktails and caused thousands of dollars of damage in response to a conservative provocateur’s planned visit.
Unsatisfied to simply not attend a lecture presenting a traditional worldview, students sought to cancel or disrupt the event, and harass those who decided to attend. As they had before, protestors claimed to rage against fascism. The irony was lost on them that they, by limiting free speech and attacking their opponents, were the ones engaging in the very thing they condemned. Even USA Today published of the University of California, Berkeley, “The famously liberal university has become known more recently for its violent demonstrations between those with opposing viewpoints.” (8) Such vitriolic responses have sadly become common.
In his speech at the university, Shapiro denounced the kind of superior attitude that he was accused of. Silencing others with threats and violence is behavior that is contrary to our American way, he said. “Get to know people; get to know their views. Discuss, debate. That is what America is all about,” Shapiro told the crowd.
Without a belief in the tenets of Christianity or even in the Constitution, the urge to determine right and wrong doesn’t disappear, it simply moves to be decided by the shifting tide of culture and the court of public opinion. With a lower percentage of the US population claiming Christianity than in previous generations, new concepts of virtue and iterations of social justice have appeared. For those who seek to wash away liberty and silence opposition, the outcome could be a very sinister society.
The core of Christianity means that humans aren’t the originators of truth; it leads to the conclusion that identifying one’s own way can be a destructive path. More than ever, voices of reason, kindness and faith are needed. Talking with others, and just as important, listening, are vital. What is at stake is liberty and everything it means to be an American.
1. Anderson, R. T. (2018, December 14). “Misguided Proposal From Christian Leaders and LGBT Activists Is Anything but ‘Fairness for All’.” Daily Signal.
2. McCarthy, J. (2019, October 7). Americans Still Greatly Overestimate U.S. Gay Population. Gallup.
3. “H.R.5 – Equality Act in the Senate of the United States.” (2019, May 20). 116th Congress (2019-2020).
4. “The Equality Act.” Human Rights Campaign.
5. “Heritage Explains The Equality Act: How Could Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) Laws Affect You.” The Heritage Foundation.
6. Parke, Caleb. (2019, October 3). “Christian Doctor 30 Years Loses Job for Refusing to Use Transgender Patient’s Preferred Pronoun.”
7. Associated Press. “Colorado Baker Back in Court Over Second LGBTQ Bias Allegation.” (2018, Dec. 19). NBC News.
8. Thanawaia, Sudhin. (2017, Sept. 15). “Multiple Arrests at Ben Shapiro Berkeley Protests.” USA Today.