Who's Tolerant of Whom?
Last night, the Philadelphia Phillies held its third annual "Gay Community Night" at the ballpark. Each year, Michael Marcavage of Repent America has attended the event to protest. His protest last night amounted to holding a sign that said, "Homosexuality Is a Sin, Christ Can Save You" at the top of a section in right field.
Phil Sheridan of The Philadelphia Inquirer writes in his column today (free registration required): . . .
At one point, other fans stood in front of the banner, obscuring it. Eventually, officers from the Philadelphia Police Civil Affairs division flanked Marcavage and his unidentified companion.
"This is totally offensive to me," said James Duggan, a fan from Merchantville who stood several rows in front of the sign and engaged Marcavage in debate. "These people are false Christians. I was told the Phillies' lawyers arranged this with Repent America's lawyers, and I find that totally offensive, too."
Mike Stiles, the Phillies' vice-president of operations and administration, said the team's attorneys had met with attorneys for Repent America after the group protested the first gay-pride event at Veterans Stadium in 2003.
"It's pretty clear under the Constitution," Stiles said, "that if you're going to have a gay community night, people have the right to express another opinion. We understand it's distressing for some people to have to look at that sign. We believe the leaders of the gay community who arrange this night like any other group know what they're going to have to put up with."
. . . Marcavage and the second man rolled up their sign at the end of the sixth inning, prompting cheers from the fans around Section 303. As the police officers and Phillies officials escorted them out of the grandstand and to an employees' elevator, fans booed and chanted obscenities.
Duggan left the section a few minutes later and headed over to buy a beer.
"I moved here from New York," Duggan said, "and I've traveled a lot. I've found Philadelphia to be the most tolerant place I've ever been. I think that says something. I'm a gay man, I confronted this guy, and I'm not the one who got booed. He is."
So is Marcavage within his First Amendment rights to hold up such a sign in this environment? And if Philadelphia is such a "tolerant" place, as Duggan says it is, are he and the fans who booed and shouted obscenities at Marcavage showing tolerance toward him and what he believes?