Sometimes intolerance is bad but sometimes it is good and even necessary.

Is it good to be tolerant of theft, lying, or arson? Is cheating neither right nor wrong? When police use unnecessary force to subdue a suspect, as in the case of Rodney King a decade ago, why did people get upset about the officers’ actions? Aren’t those people being intolerant?

These examples are what you might call moral; that is, we have a clear and definite belief that certain acts and beliefs are either, and always, right or wrong.

We rarely see people getting upset and litigious about amoral issues. All organisations have statements on ethics: aren’t these statements intolerant? For instance, the regulations of my local city council don’t allow employees of the city to use the internet for webmail or social networking, not even outside work hours: isn’t that intolerant? Or is it okay to say, “You aren’t qualified to work as an ICU nurse but it would be intolerant to deny you the job”?

In contrast to the examples earlier, these examples are amoral; we don’t believe that these statements are inherently right or wrong. And what about choosing a spouse? Is it intolerant to reject 50% of potential partners because they are the same sex as you? Or if they don’t like the same activities as you? Or what of choosing the person you share living quarters with? Is it intolerant to reject an applicant because they are a habitual liar or thief? What if you just don’t get on because you have different personalities?

Recently the news reported that a woman is being sued for unlawful discrimination (or however the system defines it) because she advertised for a housemate who was a Christian.

Would it be acceptable to the plaintiff if landlords or bosses had to accept the first applicant simply because they were the first applicant? Applying selection criteria to anything – a potential supplier, job applicant or flatmate – is inherently intolerant. But why is this acceptable?

Again, would the plaintiff sue the advertiser if they advertised for a housemate who was female, black or Ukrainian?

The stinger, as they say, is in the tail. The woman’s advertisement was on the bulletin board in her church.

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