The Sacramento Bee had a rather interesting politics and religion story Wednesday about statements from a former UCLA basketball player who now heads a fellowship group for California legislators that attack another fellowship that "embraces people of all faiths without insisting that they accept Jesus Christ." Ralph Drollinger, who heads up Capitol Ministries in Sacramento, isn't talking to the media but wrote on the group's Web site that people who participate in this group "are pleasant men in their personal demeanor, their group is more than disgusting to our Lord and Savior." The story notes later on that Drollinger once said Catholicism is a "false religion" and that a woman member of the legislature was sinful for spending four days a week in the state capitol for her work as a lawmaker, which kept her away from her children.
Here's the gist of the story:
Sen. Darrell Steinberg, a Sacramento Democrat who will serve as Senate president pro tem next year, called Drollinger's statements "intolerant," "troubling" and "deplorable."
"I think it's important that those of us who find those comments offensive speak loud and clear about it," Steinberg said.
Steinberg said Drollinger has a right to free speech, but inside the Capitol -- which he called the "public square" -- people should respect differing views.
"There's just no place in civil society for intolerance of someone's different beliefs," Steinberg said. "It's the beauty of this country, that people have the right to practice their own faith."
As Tmatt keeps asking, can those on the political and religious left tolerate the intolerant? Should they? There is that old saying that goes something like this: "There are people out there who do not love everybody the way that they should and I hate people like that." There is also that saying that while I don't like what you are saying, I'll defend to the death your right to say it. Meanwhile, the press is supposed to cover both sides of the debate with accuracy and fairness.
This story's weakness is that while it provides a token quote about the right to free speech (which apparently does not apply in Capitol or "public square") there is little support for this traditional liberal notion of free speech. Part of the problem is that Drollinger isn't talking to the press. This being an election year, the issue is probably too hot a political potato for most lawmakers to handle.
Here is the lawmaker who sponsors the group Drollinger was critical of:
Assemblyman Rick Keene, a Chico Republican who sponsors the fellowship group criticized by Drollinger, said simply that "we feel that we're doing what God wants us to do â€“ and I'm sure he does, too."
Keene, a Protestant, said the fellowship group also meets in the Capitol and is committed to "gathering together around Jesus Christ" to pray and study Scripture.
"I don't have any critical thoughts of him," Keene said of Drollinger, who angered some legislators several years ago by calling Catholicism a "false religion" and by saying that it is sinful for a woman lawmaker to be away from her children four days a week while in Sacramento.
The story tends to frame the issue through the lens that Universalism is the only option in public square debates. If that is indeed the argument that Drollinger's critics want to advance, the reporter should make efforts to quote the other side of that viewpoint.
Photo is of the west side of the California State Capitol, from Wikipedia taken on January 14, 2007.