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The politically correct ideal of “tolerance” seems all the rage these
days, but to millions of Americans its meaning and implications are applied
unequally. The ideal of tolerance, especially in this, the most Christian
season of all, was originally embodied in the message of expressive freedom
contained in the First Amendment to the Constitution.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or
prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech,
or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to
petition the government for a redress of grievances,” is what the
entire First Amendment says. Unfortunately, however, litigious
American society these days parses the amendment for specific rights and
provisions, rather than applying it as a whole and, more importantly,
universally among the incredibly diverse population of this country.

For people who see “intolerance” under every rock, school, and public
religious display during this, the most holy season recognizing and honoring
the birth of our (Christian) Lord Jesus Christ, you would do well to study
this amendment. It will teach you what tolerance really is, and why your
pleas to remove all vestiges of Christianity from the American scene is not
in your best interests, either.

First, some history. The Christmas season was — and still should be to
those who believe in it — about observing the birth of Jesus. That is why
office workers and school kids are off this time of year. That is why some
businesses are closed and it is even why Congress is off this time of year.

It’s also why presents are adorning “Christmas” trees — to honor the
tradition of bringing gifts to the baby Jesus.

Even if you are of another faith, you cannot dispute these facts.

Enter the “tolerance” issue.

Properly defined, intolerance implies bigotry, narrow-mindedness, and
jingoism. But for every attempt by anti-Christian activists to portray
anything of God and Jesus Christ as “intolerant” of them, there is
never much supporting evidence given by these factions to demonstrate
how Christians freely expressing themselves automatically constitutes
Christian narrow-mindedness or “harm” to them and, in essence, to the First
Amendment.

The Amendment was written specifically for this purpose — to allow
all people of all faiths to express them freely in every
corner of this country.

And yet, anti-Christian factions have repeatedly convinced federal judges
that any public display of religion in this country violates the First
Amendment under the specious argument of a so-called “Establishment Clause.”
They need to buy a clue.

As former U.S. District Judge and Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork
recently pointed out,
the term “separation of church and state” is not even in
the Constitution
, let alone the First Amendment. Thomas Jefferson coined
that phrase in a letter that he sent to a religious convention in Danbury,
Conn.

But it is upon this mistaken premise that courts rule against both the
spirit and intent of free religious expression. Brothers and
sisters, that ain’t tolerance.

To tolerate is not necessarily to accept another’s ideals or beliefs. It
is simply an acknowledgement of their right to believe in what they want —
even if it differs from your own beliefs — and it is a recognition of the
fact that no man, woman, child or government has any right to prohibit a
demonstration of those beliefs in any venue, area or public forum.

That is what the First Amendment says regarding religious
expression, and that is the culmination of tolerance in this country.

Millions of Christians and non-Christians will spend tomorrow morning
with their kids, friends and other relatives ripping open “Christmas”
presents, perhaps unknowingly in the Christian traditional observation of
the birth of Jesus Christ. The key thing to remember this season — and
all days — is that in order to achieve true tolerance, each group
must realize that the other has a right to their opinion, beliefs, and
values system — even if it seems foreign or hypocritical to you. They have a
right to publicly acknowledge, display, and characterize those beliefs.

Beginning next millennium, all Americans should make a concerted effort
to revisit the “tolerance clause” of the First Amendment. It’s there if you
look for it.

Merry Christmas to you all and may the Lord be with you.

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