Hous­ton’s First Amend­ment abuse

Gays are no more en­ti­tled to be in­tol­er­ant than any­one else

The Washington Times Weekly - - Front Page - By Ben S. Car­son

The re­cent, ques­tion­ably un­con­sti­tu­tional moves by the City Coun­cil of Hous­ton to sub­poena the ser­mons of five area min­is­ters as well as in­ter­nal cor­re­spon­dences deal­ing with so­cial is­sues, should have the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union and ev­ery­one else who be­lieves in free speech and re­li­gious free­dom up in arms.

We as Americans must guard ev­ery as­pect of our Con­sti­tu­tion and rec­og­nize when it is be­ing threat­ened. One of the great dan­gers in Amer­ica to­day is ex­treme in­tol­er­ance in the name of tol­er­ance. For ex­am­ple, in this Hous­ton case, it is pre­sup­posed that the pas­tors in ques­tion may have said some­thing that was ob­jec­tion­able to the ho­mo­sex­ual com­mu­nity. In or­der to prove that we are tol­er­ant of the ho­mo­sex­ual life­style, we as a so­ci­ety al­low gays to be in­tol­er­ant of any­one who dis­agrees with them in any way. Of course, gays should be able to live in any man­ner they choose as long as it does not in­fringe on the rights of any­one else. And of course, min­is­ters should be able to preach ac­cord­ing to the dic­tates of their conscience as long as they are not forc­ing oth­ers to lis­ten. This con­cept of “live and let live” is an es­sen­tial in­gre­di­ent of har­mo­nious liv­ing in a di­verse so­ci­ety. We can­not pick the side that we want to cas­ti­gate for in­tol­er­ance while let­ting the other side get away with it with­out com­ment.

Per­haps it is time for Americans to take an hon­est look at what it means to live peace­fully in a di­verse so­ci­ety com­posed of peo­ple with many dif­fer­ent points of view. This re­quires true tol­er­ance, which in­cludes be­ing ca­pa­ble of lis­ten­ing to peo­ple with views that might dif­fer from yours.

Many of us who are Chris­tians have strong be­liefs that in­form our think­ing on many is­sues, but in no way should those be­liefs lead us to de­mo­nize or treat oth­ers un­fairly. The same ap­plies to Mus­lims, Jews, ev­ery other re­li­gious group and athe­ists. When our univer­si­ties at­tempt to shield stu­dents from hear­ing the opin­ions of those with whom the ad­min­is­tra­tion dis­agrees, they are not only be­ing in­tol­er­ant, but are teach­ing the next gen­er­a­tion those same de­struc­tive ideas that will even­tu­ally dis­solve the co­he­sive­ness of our so­ci­ety, lead­ing to our down­fall.

Per­haps a dose of ma­tu­rity on all sides would put an end to the mind­less name-call­ing and base­less ac­cu­sa­tions against those with whom we dis­agree and in­stead lead to civil dis­course that can be con­struc­tive. After all, it is fre­quently eas­ier to learn from those with whom we dis­agree than from those with whom we al­ways agree. Also, con­ver­sa­tion erases many mis­con­cep­tions that drive ha­tred. That is the rea­son that famed com­mu­nity or­ga­nizer Saul Alin­sky, in his book “Rules for Rad­i­cals,” stated that you should never have a con­ver­sa­tion with your ad­ver­saries, be­cause that hu­man­izes them, and your job is to de­mo­nize them. When your agenda is to fun­da­men­tally change a so­ci­ety, it can be a much eas­ier task when you sti­fle con­ver­sa­tion and de­bate.

Our Founders were very con­cerned about free speech and re­li­gious free­dom be­cause they came from coun­tries where th­ese ba­sic el­e­ments of Amer­i­can life were com­pro­mised. The First Amend­ment to the Con­sti­tu­tion was care­fully crafted to pre­clude the im­po­si­tion of laws and or­di­nances that tram­ple on th­ese rights. The Hous­ton is­sue goes far beyond free speech and ho­mo­sex­ual rights. It warns us of what can hap­pen if we are not vig­i­lant in guard­ing our hard-fought free­doms. For­tu­nately, a firestorm of im­me­di­ate protests ap­pears to have at least tem­po­rar­ily rolled back this egre­gious as­sault on all Americans, whether they re­al­ize it or not.

We can never al­low civil au­thor­i­ties to cen­sor or con­trol the con­tent of re­li­gious ser­mons, or we will even­tu­ally be­come a com­pletely dif­fer­ent coun­try with far fewer rights than we cur­rently en­joy. Free­dom is not free, and those who do not jeal­ously guard it will lose it.

Ben S. Car­son is au­thor of the new book “One Vote: Make Your Voice Heard” (Tyn­dale).

IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY GREG GROESCH/THE WASH­ING­TON TIMES

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