With Elizabeth Creely
Photo provided by Elizabeth Creely
The Meaning of Tolerance
April 4, 2006
On March 24, 2006, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously
to pass a resolution opposing the message that a group called
"Battlecry for a Generation" was set to deliver the
following Friday on the front steps of City Hall.
The appearance of Ron Luce's teen program on the steps of City
Hall had nothing to do with their apparent reason for being in
the city, which was to acclaim Christianity amidst smoke machines
and rock bands at SBC Park.
They decided to rally on the steps of City Hall specifically
because gay marriages had been performed there two years earlier.
The intent to somehow purify the steps of City Hall with prayerful
teens, the quick response by citizens of San Francisco and the
meaning of that entire encounter was lost completely as local
journalists and former politicians rushed to smear the Board of
Supervisors with labels like "clueless" and "intolerant".
In doing so, John Diaz of the San Francisco Chronicle, and Jordanna
Thigpen of the San Francisco Sentinel both missed an opportunity
to summarize for their readers the meaning behind the meeting
of the groups. Instead, both city leaders and organizers of the
counter protest were admonished for their lack of tolerance.
In reality, both journalists failed their readers by making a
facile equation between a lack of response and that much vaunted
For those in need of a working definition of 'tolerance', the
American Heritage College Dictionary offers the following: "The
capacity for, or the practice of recognizing and respecting the
beliefs or practices of others."
The key word within that sentence is 'recognize', which is hard
to do if all you do when the Christian Right comes to town is
stay home and fume. 'Engagement' (another version of recognition)
is also a value, one that walks hand in hand with tolerance as
the citizens of this fair city go forward in search of bigger
and better expressions of human and civil rights.
Showing up and shouting back doesn't indicate intolerance. Likewise,
staying away doesn't display tolerance, just benumbed passivity.
Curiously, the charge was made that by issuing resolutions and
press statements, both Tom Ammiano and Mark Leno were attempting
to stifle "Battlecry's" right to free speech. This line
of thought derives from the above prescription of shutting up
to show support for "tolerance".
Supervisor Ammiano's office, which was the primary sponsor of
the resolution, was contacted by neither the Chronicle nor the
Sentinel. This explains the confusion concerning the resolution,
which could have been avoided had the Chronicle/Sentinel editorial
staff contacted Tom Ammiano's office or Bay
Area Coalition for Our Reproductive Rights, which encouraged
Supervisor Ammiano to write it. Or
they could simply have
read the resolution itself. Had they done so, they would have
seen that, no one in city government made any attempt to silence
The resolution was simply the progressive community's proverbial
two-cents thrown into a debate Battlecry started when they assembled
on the steps of City Hall to save us. No public official ever
came close to opposing "Battlecry's" right to frankly
indict both queers and women who have chosen or support abortion
whenever Battlecry, or any other fundamentalist outfit desires
to do so (which according to Battlecry, will be something they
do in San Francisco on a yearly basis.)
In short, authoring a resolution that clarifies that "Battlecry's"
appearance on City Hall steps carried no official endorsement
is by no means tantamount to an attempt to silence them.
When the media does not get the culture-war story they want,
they have no reservations about inventing one.
article in the Sentinel labeled the Supervisor's an intolerant
lot, though she was alone, to my knowledge, in drawing a lengthy
comparison between "Battlecry" and Hitler Youth, a comparison
which by any reasonable standard is a stretch. What's more, her
apparent confusion over what precisely constituted the fascist
agenda and what the goals of the neo-conservative and Christian
evangelical movements (which she quite mistakenly seems to equate),
give me cause to believe that Ms. Thigpen is generally unqualified
to pontificate on twentieth century socio-political movements,
and helps to explain why she missed the point of the resolution
and the rally entirely.
It's worth noting that the resolution passed unanimously, clearly
finding acceptance both in its wording and general thrust with
the Christians who sit on the Board of Supervisors. Is the Chronicle
then informing the practicing Christians on the Board that they
are intolerant of their own faith community?
Tom Ammiano and Mark Leno have the both guts and the integrity
to respond with resolutions and statements that pull no punches
and leave no doubt that, should organizations like Battlecry wish
to come to City Hall to somehow redeem us, they'll find a community
capable of doing that for themselves, on their own terms. Civic
engagement like the sort displayed by Mr's Ammiano and Leno, are
what make this city a haven for those who could not get tolerance
for themselves, on their own terms elsewhere.
Far from impeding the right of Battlecry to spread a message
of hate disguised as love, we are forwarding the rights of speech
to those whose voices are being still suppressed by fear and hate
disguised as Christian love and tolerance.
is a member of the Bay Area Coalition for Our Reproductive Rights
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