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First Things board member Hadley Arkes writing at The Catholic Thing :

In our own time, “tolerance” and “multiculturalism” begin by receding from the casting of judgments. The New Tolerance disclaims any monopoly on truth, moral or religious, and in fact it disclaims any ground of knowing anything reliably about the things that are right and wrong. But the [Maryland Toleration Act of 1649] began by affirming its orthodoxy: Anyone who denies “our Saviour Jesus Christ to bee the sonne of God” or the Holy Trinity “or the Godhead of any of the said Three persons of the Trinity or the Unity of the Godhead”—anyone who denied that would be punished “with death and confiscation or forfeiture of all his lands and goods.”

The act went on then to announce stiff monetary penalties for those who would act “in a reproachful manner” to “call or denominate” any person living or working in the province with those names understood as names of insult: “heritick, Scismatick, Idolator, puritan, Independant, Prespiterian, popish prest, Jesuite, Jesuited papist, Lutheran, Calvenist, Anabaptist . . . .” In other words, it was a species of what we would call today a law banning “hate speech.” The act in Maryland showed its liberality by protecting people of all of these religious sects and churches from gestures of assault and denigration. . . . .

Do we not acknowledge the same logic today, and have we not seen some comparable abuses of that same logic quite near to us? Let’s look about: Catholic adoption services in Massachusetts have come to a virtual end, because they will not agree to place babies with gay or lesbian couples. The press has been on, in Massachusetts and California, to compel Catholic hospitals to perform abortions or lose public funds and contracts. With same-sex marriage now part of the laws in Massachusetts, those churches that will not recant their moral objections to the homosexual life are churches “not in accord with public policy.” They are candidates for the withdrawal of tax exemptions, or any other privileges they may receive from the hand of the law.

The note has already been sounded in legislative hearings: anyone who argues in public against the rightness of same-sex marriage could only be animated by homophobia or hatred, and he is engaged then in “hate speech.” In Canada and Ireland, there have been charges against ministers or priests simply for restating in the pulpit the teachings of their own church on marriage and the homosexual life. Anyone with eyes to see could not be under the illusion that none of this could happen here.

And so: 1649 in Maryland, 2009 in Massachusetts and America. The underlying logic and rationale of Toleration remain the same. The favored orthodoxies have changed, along with the penalties and devices of punishment. But one target has remained the same. Those papists again. They are truly the one part of this universe that endures.

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