Tea Party favorite and former Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann is upset that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a broad bill which carved out a special right for religious people to discriminate against gay individuals.
“I was sorry that she made the decision, and it’s because I believe that tolerance is a two-way street and we need to respect everyone’s rights, including the rights of people who have sincerely held religious beliefs,” the Minnesota Republican said in an interview with ABC News and Yahoo’s “Fine Print.”
The sentiment doesn’t exactly line up with what Bachmann said during her first Senate race, when she went on record with claims that members of the Muslim faith had an inferior culture to that of the United States and the West.
“Not all cultures are equal, not all values are equal,” Bachmann said. Apparently the belief is that that the only religious convictions worth tolerating are those she holds.
There is a movement afoot that’s occurring and part of that is whole philosophical idea of multi-cultural diversity, which on the face sounds wonderful. Let’s appreciate and value everyone’s cultures. But guess what? Not all cultures are equal. Not all values are equal.
But what may be most interesting about the conflicting statements is that there might be a kernel of truth to Bachmann’s earlier view. Josh Barro has certainly made a compelling case for the idea that cultures are not created equal.
There’s one America where comparing homosexuality to bestiality is considered acceptable, and another where it is rude and offensive.
In one America, it’s OK to say this of gays and lesbians: “They’re full of murder, envy, strife, hatred. They are insolent, arrogant, God-haters. They are heartless, they are faithless, they are senseless, they are ruthless. They invent ways of doing evil.” In the other America, you’re not supposed to say that.
There’s one America where it’s OK to say this about black people in the Jim Crow-era South: “Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.” There’s another America where that statement is considered to reflect ignorance and insensitivity.
In one America, it’s OK to attribute the Pearl Harbor attacks to Shinto Buddhists’ failure to accept Jesus. In the other America, that is not OK.
There are two Americas, one of which is better than the other. And it’s instructive who’s sticking up for the worse America.
It seems clear here that what Bachmann is upset about isn’t tolerance. She is certainly not advocating for it with any kind of consistency. What seems to upset Bachmann is that America is waking up to the fact that a culture which used to dominate, the one where it’s cool to discriminate against gays and pretend the Jim Crow south was fun and make racist jokes is losing ground.
Peter Niger summed up the situation well:
There isn’t a “terrible intolerance” of religious people in this country. What there is is a shift of power away from a group (white Christians, primarily male) that has been able to dis-proportionally control government and other institutions since the founding. There is a move towards providing equality under the law for all and removing the injustice of the past, but that isn’t intolerance, that is the market adjusting to equilibrium. You aren’t being discriminated against, you are losing power and influence you shouldn’t have.
Tolerance is a two-way street. It’s important to respect religious freedom. It’s also important to not write, and then defend, overbroad, redundant, bigotry-oriented laws such as the one Brewer vetoed. Not supporting these kinds of laws does not constitute religious persecution. It’s actually part of creating and maintaining the right kind of culture, something Bachmann should support, not decry.
This post originally appeared in the Huffington Post.