Ruth Malhotra went to court last month for the right to be intolerant.The right to be Christian—I love it. See, here’s where that little phrase my rights end where yours begin comes into play. You have a right to be a Christian—believe that Jesus was born of a virgin and was the son of god who died on the cross for your sins and raised from the dead three days later to ascend into heaven, go to church, wear the signs of your faith, pray, read the Bible, and personally practice all your beliefs, which, if they include the belief that homosexuality is wrong, means not being a homosexual yourself. But when you begin to assert that your “right to be a Christian” should allow you to encroach upon other people’s rights to be safe from intolerance in their schools, workplaces, homes, or anywhere else, that’s where you get the back hand of my ire.
Malhotra says her Christian faith compels her to speak out against homosexuality. But the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she's a senior, bans speech that puts down others because of their sexual orientation.
Malhotra sees that as an unacceptable infringement on her right to religious expression. So she's demanding that Georgia Tech revoke its tolerance policy.
With her lawsuit, the 22-year-old student joins a growing campaign to force public schools, state colleges and private workplaces to eliminate policies protecting gays and lesbians from harassment. The religious right aims to overturn a broad range of common tolerance programs: diversity training that promotes acceptance of gays and lesbians, speech codes that ban harsh words against homosexuality, anti-discrimination policies that require college clubs to open their membership to all.
The Rev. Rick Scarborough, a leading evangelical, frames the movement as the civil rights struggle of the 21st century. "Christians," he said, "are going to have to take a stand for the right to be Christian."
"What if a person felt their religious view was that African Americans shouldn't mingle with Caucasians, or that women shouldn't work?" asked Jon Davidson, legal director of the gay rights group Lambda Legal.Laughable. Racists are marginalized for a reason—a reason around which people like Baylor like to do an end-run by evoking their always-useful contempt for science, which has not considered homosexuality a choice for some time. Of course, if part of your “right to be a Christian” is to flatly ignore any scientific evidence that might undermine your right to be an asshole, you’re free to argue from here to kingdom come that you ought not be marginalized like racists rightfully are.
Christian activist Gregory S. Baylor responds to such criticism angrily. He says he supports policies that protect people from discrimination based on race and gender. But he draws a distinction that infuriates gay rights activists when he argues that sexual orientation is different — a lifestyle choice, not an inborn trait.
By equating homosexuality with race, Baylor said, tolerance policies put conservative evangelicals in the same category as racists. He predicts the government will one day revoke the tax-exempt status of churches that preach homosexuality is sinful or that refuse to hire gays and lesbians.
"Think how marginalized racists are," said Baylor, who directs the Christian Legal Society's Center for Law and Religious Freedom. "If we don't address this now, it will only get worse."
She caused another stir with a letter to the gay activists who organized an event known as Coming Out Week in the fall of 2004. Malhotra sent the letter on behalf of the Georgia Tech College Republicans, which she chairs; she said several members of the executive board helped write it.Interesting definition of tolerance. We’ll tolerate you as long as we don’t have to see you, hear from you, or in any way be made aware of your existence. I guess it falls to people with more developed linguistic skills to point out that, in fact, it’s actually not tolerance at all.
The letter referred to the campus gay rights group Pride Alliance as a "sex club … that can't even manage to be tasteful." It went on to say that it was "ludicrous" for Georgia Tech to help fund the Pride Alliance.
The letter berated students who come out publicly as gay, saying they subject others on campus to "a constant barrage of homosexuality."
"If gays want to be tolerated, they should knock off the political propaganda," the letter said.
In the end, this situation is little more than further evidence of the tendency toward projection that we see so often among movement conservatives. They deem homosexuality a choice, regard any open displays of homosexuality as indicative of an entire “lifestyle” the parts of which are immutably inextricable from being gay, accuse gays of “barraging” others with their choices and beliefs, and associate the merest identification with homosexuality as political propaganda. None of which accurately describes gays, but certainly does describe the likes of Malhotra, Scarborough, and company, who choose their religion, which they claim obligates them to “speak out against homosexuality” and any other people or behaviors they don’t like, and turn their religion into a political tool which is taken to the legislatures and the courts with regularity. Homosexuality isn’t a lifestyle choice, but being a Christian is.
And I think we know which one really has the radical agenda.