Michael Casey on "The puzzle of intolerant tolerance"


In an interview with Mercator, Australian sociologist Michael Casey is asked about the "puzzle of intolerant tolerance":

Tolerance is essential to any sort of life in common, especially in complex democratic societies. Originally it was simply a practice, a way of living together and respecting the freedom of others. It has now become a value in its own right, perhaps the supreme value. Certainly it features high up on the list whenever people are asked to identify what the West stands for.

To create a tolerant society, however, democracies increasingly resort to intolerance. There is no question that a decent society must protect itself and vulnerable minorities from groups which refuse to respect the rights of other people. But intolerant tolerance is directed against groups which actually respect and defend the rights and freedoms of others.

Christians, for example, are treated as intolerant for maintaining legitimate distinctions between couples who can and cannot be married; for reasonably exercising a preference in employing staff for people who share their faith; and for defending the rights of the unborn and disabled. Intolerance means refusing to respect the rights of others, but in these cases it has been extended to something which is not a form of intolerance at all: the right we all have to refuse to validate choices with which we disagree and to say they are wrong. Intolerant tolerance means enforced validation of certain values and practices in the name of tolerance.