Tolerance Means Tolerating All, Not Just Those We Agree With


            Many Americans can vividly recall where they were when they first saw or heard of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11.  Until that time, many naively believed that America was too strong and powerful a country to be attacked on its own homeland.

            When the country found out the terrorists committed their crimes under a false sense of religious duty, a religious intolerance towards Islam emerged.  While extremism exists within all beliefs (sacred or secular), many Americans falsely began blaming all Muslims for the attack on America.

            Approximately nine years later, the battle of religious intolerance versus religious tolerance carries on, as Sept. 11 survivors and victims’ families protest a planned mosque and community center blocks from Ground Zero.

            President Barack Obama recently sparked controversy stating that it is the constitutional right for Muslims or any other religious group to be able to practice their religious beliefs wherever they choose.  Although many believe that it is insensitive to build a mosque so close to sacred ground, the President and all of those speaking out against religious intolerance are absolutely correct.  And unfortunately, those against freedom of religion are on a slippery slope that could possibly lead to Americans losing their freedom of religion like many European countries.

            In Europe, it is predicted that biblical Christian preaching will be illegal and punishable by prison time within the next ten years.  Reverend Ake Green, a Pentecostal pastor from Kalmar, Sweden was sentence to a one month jail term in 2003 for preaching a biblical sermon on homosexuality.  Because the preacher categorized homosexuality as a sin, the Swedish judicial system classified that sermon as inciting hatred against homosexuals.

            The prosecutor in the case, Kjell Yngvesson, went on to say that one can have any religious belief that they want as long as they do not preach from the Bible, because biblical preaching is essentially hate speech and gay and transgender activists have vowed to monitor all Christian churches to make sure they adhere to the new laws.

            Canada is the latest country that classifies such biblical teachings as hate speech with more sure to follow.

            Although America is less secular than Canada and its European counterparts, if we restrict where one can practice their religious beliefs, what is stopping us from restricting what beliefs one can practice.

            America has become the great nation that it is because it does not adhere to the religious intolerance those other countries are adhering to.  We do not force our religious beliefs on others and we do not tell other people what they can nor cannot belief.  However, if we do not allow that mosque to be built near Ground Zero, basically telling someone where they can worship, the next stop is the religious intolerance of countries like Sweden and Canada who tell their citizens what they can belief.

            Over the last few years, gay activists have accused the religious right of being intolerant to their cause, but in many situations the same people blasting the church as being intolerant have been just as intolerant as they accuse their opponents of being.  Tolerance should not just be given to those we agree with, but to all despite our differences.

            If we are not careful, that religious intolerance will lead to another attack on America.  On Sept. 11 we watched as terrorists physically attacked our country and our people.  And nine years later we are watching our own people attack our very spirit and consciousness because of religious intolerance.  Limiting the freedom of others to promote the cause that one believes in is simply not what America is about.

Smith is publisher of Regal Black Men’s Magazine.

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