Earlier this summer, the chief rabbi for Great Britain warned about a new intolerance being imposed in the name of tolerance.
"I share a real concern that the attempt to impose the current prevailing template of equality and discrimination on religious organizations is an erosion of religious liberty," Lord Sacks told a House of Commons committee in June. "We are beginning to move back to where we came in in the 17th century—a whole lot of people on the Mayflower leaving to find religious freedom elsewhere."
Though not as pronounced on this side of the Atlantic, we can see the same trend that so worries Lord Sacks. Here too the imposition comes in the guise of nondiscrimination laws and codes. Here too the result is the same: Faith organizations are told whom they must employ and what they must assent to, or face being shoved off the public square.
At the core of their concern is just this: the politically correct rewriting of the First Amendment. Post-1791, what made America's religious freedom truly radical was not simply that it allowed people to worship (or not to worship) as they saw fit. The radical part was the guarantee it gave to corporate freedoms: to hold property together, to own newspapers, to run schools, to open hospitals and clinics, etc. That understanding is now up for grabs.
These are not cases of people trying to impose their beliefs on the rest of us. Instead they involve the question whether faith communities are free to live their own beliefs in their own institutions. Somehow the more "tolerant" we become, the more difficult that becomes.
In the debates over same-sex marriage, for example, the question is often asked of opponents: What can it possibly mean to you if two people of the same sex have their commitment to each other recognized as marriage? We're now finding out. To give but one example, in Washington, D.C., it means that Catholic Charities no longer qualifies to do adoptions and foster care because it will not place children with or extend health benefits to gay couples.
So much for live and let live.