Tolerance Really Is a One Way Street

Brad Campeau-LaurionOn Wednesday, Digby wrote a article in which she countered this ridiculous new conservative meme that liberals are the real intolerant people because they object to conservatives bigotry (which the conservatives claim is actually “religious freedom”). I don’t have much to add. The entire time I’ve been following politics, the main conservative argument to any complaint has been, “I know you are, but what am I?” I don’t say that lightly. Conservatives have correctly learned that the mainstream media are determined to present the “controversy.” So if John Boehner walked into a McDonalds and murdered everyone, it would be reported, “Democrats claim John Boehner murdered a bunch of people, but Republicans say he didn’t. We report, you decide!”

But Dibgy presented an example of what real political and religious intolerance looks like in this country. It took place back in 2008 during a New York Yankees baseball game. A spectator at the game, Brad Campeau-Laurion, went to go to the bathroom during the seventh inning stretch. Since 2001, the MLB has dictated that “God Bless America” be played at that time. When Campeau-Laurion tried to make it to the bathroom, the police stopped him — telling him that he couldn’t go until the song was over. When he said that he didn’t care about the song, the officer, and another called for help, brutally ejected him from the ballpark.

As they shoved him out of the stadium, one of the officers said, “Get the hell out of my country if you don’t like it!” What’s more, Campeau-Laurion’s friend, who was still at the game, overheard the two officers talking to each other. One of them said, “We got to watch ourselves. One day we’re really gonna get in trouble.” And they were spreading rumors that Campeau-Laurion had said, “This country sucks.” It sounds rather like the thugs as police officers in A Clockwork Orange.

I suspect that the officers did hear, “This country sucks.” Among a lot of Americans, not reverentially standing during “God Bless America” is exactly the same thing. As it turns out, Campeau-Laurion was more bothered by the “God” than the “America.” But it hardly matters. As I wrote here recently, this is a typical conservative idea of freedom of speech: you can say whatever you want to, as long as you don’t. In this specific case, there really is no more perfect example of what a sham the First Amendment is: official government officers brutalized and humiliated someone because of his political and religious beliefs.

About six months after this happened, the ACLU of New York State filed a case, Campeau-Laurion v Raymond Kelly, The New York Yankees Partnership, et al (Challenging forced patriotism at Yankee Stadium). The court found rather quickly for Campeau-Laurion and made New York City pay him $10,000. But to me, that’s not nearly enough. To begin with, that’s not even chump change for the city. But more important, it is likely that the police officers are to this day unaware that their behavior was publicly criticized. Personally, I think the officers should have been found and fired.

I don’t say this out of a sense of vengeance. It is just a matter of sending a message to all law enforcement personnel: you are being watching. The government is great at doing things that have a chilling effect on journalists — so they don’t do their proper job. But somehow, the idea of having a chilling effect on police officers doing things that are not supposed to be part of their jobs is just a bridge too far. The police in this country can’t be held accountable at all.

If a police officer was caught disturbing a Christian praying before eating her hot dog, the case would be the talk of the nation for the next decade. But an atheist getting brutalized by the police for not having reverence for “God Bless America”? Most Americans just yawn. The mainstream media can’t be bothered to report it. But a bigoted baker who doesn’t want to put two male figurines on the top of a wedding cake is a martyr to liberal intolerance? Give me a break!

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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