The accidental tolerance-monger

When I first heard that Greg Gutfeld wanted to open a gay bar catering to Muslims right next to Park51 (better known in right-wing circles as the “Ground Zero mosque” ), I tried to convince myself that the very idea was offensive. But I couldn't, which was strange, since my opinion of Gutfeld is that he's the sort of clown who says needlessly offensive and determinedly unfunny things under the borrowed banner of “satire.”

Make no mistake -- Gutfeld's motives are offensive. He thinks the way to justify his own religious intolerance and that of his conservative cohorts is to mock Muslims and gay people. But as for the actual project itself, I'd go so far as to call it an interesting experiment in the sort of tolerance that Gutfeld & co. dismiss as PC thuggery.

Eric Boehlert notes that Gutfeld's provocation thus far isn't proving to be very provocative. He was clearly hoping to get a condemnation out of Park51, thereby allowing him to shout “Aha! You're just as 'intolerant' as I!” But Park51 has tacitly endorsed the idea ( “You're free to open whatever you like” ) and even offered suggestions on how to go about doing it ( “If you won't consider the sensibilities of Muslims, you're not going to build dialog [sic]” ). Of course, Gutfeld's not really interested in “dialogue,” he just wants to snicker at gays and Muslims.

But, as Andrew Sullivan points out, the very idea of a Muslim gay bar has potential to force a dialogue on religious attitudes toward homosexuality: “That's exactly the right response to an expression of religious freedom: the expression of freedom for gay people as well. In fact, it's such a great idea that it could be followed across the country: gay bars right next to churches and mosques that condemn homosexuality.”

A similar drama actually played out in 2006 right here in Washington, DC. Three gay men sought to open a bar in the Shaw neighborhood right across the street from the Scripture Cathedral Baptist Church, whose powerful bishop strenuously opposed the endeavor, telling the Washington Post: “I have to preach what Romans says. If this is a gay club, that's bad for the kids.” The bar opened in spite of a determined church campaign against their petition for a liquor license. Of course, the owners never claimed to be intentionally provoking the church, but their very presence had that effect. The whole episode forced not just a reexamination of religious views towards gays, but also attitudes toward so-called “gentrification.”

So kudos to Gutfeld for inviting us all to help change religious attitudes towards homosexuality. Granted, that's the complete opposite of what he initially sought to do, but even accidental tolerance is to the benefit of all.