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Monday, Oct. 20, 10:41 a.m.
Opinion

Tolerance is not the question; morality is

Bowdoin College, in an effort to minimize discrimination, no longer tolerates historic Christianity. The right to promote and defend homosexuality has superseded the right to promote and defend Christianity. Differences of opinion on this issue have been disallowed. But the real debate is not one of tolerance at all, but of right and wrong — and who determines them.

If not in words, this is what Bowdoin has implied by its actions. College officials have banned Robert Gregory, a local lawyer and longtime volunteer staff of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, from leading campus Bible studies with students. The college told the Gregory and his wife Sim — also a volunteer — that they had to sign a non-discrimination agreement: in the words of Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster, “If someone is participating in an organization and they are LGBTIQA — lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, questioning or asexual — and they are not allowed to participate in that organization because of their sexual orientation or they cannot lead that organization because of their sexual orientation, then that’s discrimination.” The Gregorys responded that signing this agreement would be a violation of their faith, and proposed an amendment that would allow a reservation for their religious beliefs. This would not force them to teach and practice anything inconsistent with their Christian faith. The proposed amendment was rejected, and as the Gregorys refused to sign the agreement without it, they have been ordered to leave. According to “The Maine Wire,” “Although [college officials] allege the [Bowdoin Christian Fellowship, or BCF] has engaged in discrimination, [none] provided Gregory with an example of such discrimination. Gregory said Bowdoin’s new policy is not a reaction to anything BCF leaders or members have done.”

This instance illustrates a major problem in the discrimination rhetoric. Common conception is that intolerance and discrimination themselves are wrong, that they are inherently immoral practices. This rhetoric is internally inconsistent, because it discriminates against discrimination and is intolerant of intolerance. This is logically absurd. You cannot be against being against things.

Thus the issue is not one of tolerance and discrimination at all, but one of conflicting moral standards. As a society we agree that theft is wrong, so we do not tolerate theft. We are intolerant of thieves. That does not mean we hate thieves, but it means we understand that their behavior is wrong, detrimental to themselves and to society as a whole. The real debate about homosexuality is not of tolerance, but of disagreement about what to be tolerant of. The discussion must move past tolerance to what is right and what is wrong.

However, there is a problem here: how are right and wrong decided? Is the distinction based merely on the opinion of the majority, the elite or the media? And who decides who decides what is right and what is wrong? For theists, the answer is simple: God decides, not us. We would not dare to claim to know what is right and wrong on our own — we believe that is dangerous arrogance. For those who don’t believe in God, and those who don’t believe God communicates truth to us, the only source is the self. Without God, morality becomes a matter of opinion. This is the real struggle behind the homosexuality debate: what is moral, and who decides?