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"Tolerance is not always good," Foster Friess's speech to 6th Annual Becket Foundation dinner

"Tolerance is not always good," Foster Friess's speech to 6th Annual Becket Foundation dinner

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02/08/2012

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Title:
 Tolerance Is Not Always Good.
 Authors:
 FRIESS, FOSTER 
Source:
  Vital Speeches of the Day, 8/1/2002, Vol. 68 Issue 20, p630
Document Type:
 Speech
Geographic Terms:
 NEW York (State)Report Available ; NEW York (N.Y.) ; UNITED StatesReport Available
ISSN:
 0042-742X
Lexile:
 1120
Full Text Word Count:
 3419
 Accession Number:
 7047331
Database:
History Reference Center
TOLERANCE IS NOT ALWAYS GOOD
INSPIRING PEOPLEDelivered to the 6th Annual Becket Fund dinner at the Metropolitan Club, upon receiving Canterbury Medal for Courage inDefense of Religious Liberty, New York City, New York, May 22, 2002I wanted to prepare some thoughtful and insightful remarks, but I'm afraid your introduction Jack (Templeton) is going to turnout to be a lot better than my speech! I'd like to get to know this guy Aristotle you mention, I think he and I could be greatfriends.My staff tries to get me to work out my speech word for word ahead of time. However, I prefer to be more spontaneous, whichsometimes gets me in hot water.For example, I was waiting in line for an American Airlines flight the other day. The poor fellow at the counter was at the end of an 8 hour stint and doing his best to be positive and polite. I'm about fifth in line and when I get up to the counter, he says, "Mr.Friess, I'll need to see a photo ID." As I flip through my wallet, my son's photo drops out on the counter and he says, "My that's agood looking son." To which I blurted out, "Yeah, he takes after me, my wife is uglier than sin!"
 
Lynn gets even with me. Early in our marriage, she asked if I could help out with the cooking because it's a cumbersome chorewith four young kids. I agreed, but after a short time I was relieved of duty after she accused me of using the smoke detector asa timer.Seamus, we really have to thank you and each fellow supporter for what you've accomplished. It's exciting to be in a room withso many heroes in the fight for religious liberties: Bret Schundler, Bill Buckley, Michael Novak, Father Neuhaus.However, it can be rather intimidating to address this kind of an audience. I struggled with what message to convey to people of this level of intellectual capacity. I pondered moral relativism, multiculturalism, intolerance versus tolerance, when my wife madethis outrageous suggestion, "Why don't you look up the definition of tolerance in the dictionary." I did ... and they've got itwrong!"Forbearance in passing judgement on another person's position, character, or religion." That doesn't capture the essence of tolerance. Tolerance is once you've made a judgement on that person's character, position, religion, you agree to love themanyway or at least accommodate them in some way. We often get bullied by others from our place at the table because of beinginappropriately accused of intolerance if we declare someone is wrong.If you and I are going to be effective in spreading truth and helping people achieve significance in their lives, we have toremember the difference between tolerance and intolerance.My teammates found a great quote: "Tolerance does not ... do anything, embrace anyone, champion any issue. It does not attack error, it does not champion truth, it does not hate evil, it does not love good."Now, let's think a minute about the power of intolerance. We all should emulate the enthusiasm and intensity with which the gaycommunity exhibited their intolerance of a Supreme Court decision declaring the Boy Scouts have the right to set certainstandards for scout leaders. Despite comprising a very small minority in our culture they successfully got the Boy Scouts expelledfrom United Ways, public buildings, and seek to ban the Boy Scouts from all public parks.Dr. Laura Schlessinger, an orthodox Jew who espouses on her "Dr. Laura" radio program her centuries old values that marriageconstitutes a relationship of a man and a woman, told me of her experience with intolerance when I met her several weeks ago atHillsdale College. She had all of her radio programs and sponsorships lined up for the entire season when the gay communitythen successfully lobbied all of her corporate sponsors to rescind their support, taking it to zero!I'll let you all decide who is right, the Boys Scouts, Dr. Laura or the gay community. I merely want to use that as an example of the power and effectiveness of intolerance. This may be, in fact, one of the first speeches on religious liberty where the audienceis urged to be more intolerant.But if we are not going to allow ourselves to be bullied from the table we must appreciate as the earlier quote reveals that"tolerance" is not always a virtue and that we can not be intimidated by those who would label us intolerant simply because theydisagree with our view. Allow me to share a few personal encounters over recent years to flesh out my point.I received an email from an old friend of mine in Sweden who expressed the notion that Islamic fundamentalists, Christianfundamentalists, Hindu fundamentalists, secular fundamentalists, are all the same and are to be viewed negatively. How hard dowe really have to work to distinguish the fundamentals of Christianity with other world views? Turn the other cheek; love yourenemy; to the woman caught in adultery: "let he who is without sin, cast the first stone."
 
Missionaries who embrace these fundamental Christian ideals put an end to the practice in China of binding women's feet to keepthem submissive. Similarly, Christian missionaries were instrumental in banishing Sati, the practice in India of burning a widow onher husband's funeral pyre. A practice outlawed in 1829 but which persisted in rural villages for decades.Intolerance toward these injustices and the courage to stop them can be a compelling force in our lives and have a profoundeffect on our culture. Whether you are tolerant or intolerant of a certain practice or view depends upon which side of the coin youare. Here are examples of varying perspectives from other personal encounters:When Lynn and I attend the Grand Teton Music Festival in Jackson Hole we are surrounded by millionaire residents of TetonCounty, which has the third highest per capita income of any county in America. We asked ourselves, "Why are we allowing thelocal Albertson checkout lady, making $12 an hour, who is a single mom with three kids, to subsidize our tickets via her taxdollars?"We had a great idea: We offered the festival board $40,000 if they returned the $6,450 received from government entities whichcould go towards increasing salaries of policeman, fireman and teachers. A win, win, win idea. The board was thrilled -- everyonegave us high-fives and thanked us for our generosity.But then all hell broke loose. A high profile resident expressed his intolerance of our position by publicly chastising us forintroducing Christian right-wing, vitriolic politics into the valley and ruining the beautiful, little Grand Teton Music Festival bypoliticizing it and attaching "a string" to our donation. A call to the executive director confirmed there were no "strings" attachedto government funding ... only "conditions". The local newspaper sided with him and characterized me as an "ardent Christian."That really put me in a fix with Lynn, because now when she burns the toast I can't growl at her anymore. Then some cowboywrote the editor with the question, "Why is it that rejecting government money is a political statement but accepting governmentmoney is not a political statement?" Another example of conflicting perspectives was the highly intelligent, well-educated woman annoyed by the big to-do the presswas making of the two young women held by the Taliban for possessing a copy of The Jesus Film. Her position was: "Why shouldthey be going over there and trying to influence other people toward their point of view?" This same woman had bumper stickerssaying, "stop logging", "ban hunting", and "no guns." It was just a matter of her perspectives being OK to pass on to somebodyelse but those of others with whom she disagreed were not.Lets next contemplate the possible feelings of Mrs. Pickering -- the wife of Judge Charles Pickering who was just denied by theSenate Judiciary Committee confirmation as a Judge to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Let's pretend that Judge Pickering wasinstead a basketball coach for a DeMoines, Iowa high school team. One day he comes home to his wife, all excited, "We've got ashot, Honey, at becoming the coach at the University of Iowa -- a bigger house, maybe we'll have a little more vacation time, abigger salary." She is thrilled with the possibility but then the final interview comes and the school officials say, "Coach Pickering,we've been looking into your background and we understand that when you were a young person you attended Sunday Schooland you're not qualified to serve as a coach."Judge Pickering was denied his position solely because of his religious beliefs. Few people want to admit that. You all may be more familiar with the higher profile John Ashcroft hearings. I will never forget watching CSpan and a veryprominent Senator from California, who's name I'll not mention but the initial of the last name is F and her first name is Dianne,

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