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South Dakota Ranks 39th for Tolerance

Loose on Religion, Uptight on Homosexuals alerts us to another reason we might have trouble convincing some young people to stick around on the prairie. The Daily Beast spent Martin Luther King Day calculating how tolerant the states of the Union are and found South Dakota ranks 39th. The analysis considers hate crime laws and reported incidents, discrimination complaints, public support for and laws covering same-sex marriage, and religious tolerance.

It is worth noting that if you seek more tolerant climes, you don't have to travel far. Minnesota turns up the nice and ranks 7th; Iowa ranks 12th. Drive a little farther, and you'll find the most tolerant state of the Union, Wisconsin. Liberal bastions New York and Massachusetts are only 17th and 18th, respectively.

If heading east isn't your thing, Montana is your next best bet, ranking 21st for tolerance (which is funny, because Mr. Kurtz doesn't always sound that tolerant when Mr. Ellis is around). Otherwise, in our region, you'd better keep your diversity to yourself: North Dakota ranks 42nd, Nebraska ranks 47th (dragged down by intolerance for wearing any colors other than Cornhusker Red), and Wyoming ranks 50th.

Now I'll confess to my own disagreement with this analysis, at least on religious tolerance. This analysis quantifies religious tolerance as the percentage of folks who believe "many religions lead to eternal life." South Dakota actually ranks quite high on this metric: 79%... though I have to wonder if a fair number of South Dakotans hear the question and think, "Many religions? Oh, ya, sure, Lutherans, Methodists, Baptists, even those Catholics can get to heaven." I'd be interested in recalibrating that measurement by asking folks their opinion about electing an atheist or a Muslim governor or blessing their children's marrying folks of different faiths or no faith.

Besides, "eternal life" seems a rather particular theological point on which to grade the broader question of religious tolerance. There's enough old-school absolutism in my atheist soul ("soul"?) to accept that tolerance means holding your nose and letting me go about my business, not taking a deep whiff and exclaiming, "Boy, you smell sweet!" I'm satisfied with the tolerance of a good Christian who holds to fundamental doctrinal differences (like the debatable proposition that Jesus is the only path to eternal life, or that there is such a thing) but still supports a civil society where Muslims, Buddhists, and even infidels like me have the same rights to participate in economic, political and social life.

But religious tolerance isn't where South Dakota needs work. Our gay rights score stinks. It's one thing to think your neighbors are on a fast track away from eternal life. It's another to extend that belief into interference with the exercise of homosexual citizens' rights to live and love as they see fit and obtain legal and financial protection (e.g., spousal insurance benefits) for their loved ones. Just as my chosen non-religion can withstand folks down the road exercising their rights with regular Hallelujahs, my heterosexual marriage should be able to withstand some of my male neighbors' choosing to be cohabiting soulmates and even their getting legal status and insurance as a married couple. That's the practical tolerance South Dakota needs to work on.


  1. Lena Peterson 2011.01.19

    I agree with you Corey. People need to be more open minded. My thing about people who are christians is how they say they are are a good Christian but then they don't treat people right. Religion tolerance is needed but I also think that religion is another reason for people not being eccepting of same sex marriages. I have a brother who happens to be Homosexual, and I love him to pieces. I wish that people would see people for who they are, and not for who they love. I personally try to live life like John Lennon, when it comes to religion. He did not believe in structural religion and I don't either. In fact I claim to be a Transcendentalist so people won't question, and if they do I just politely say go ask your English teacher.
    I wish that the world could more like John Lennon visioned it to be one day, which is everyone being alright with one another, being open minded. To gain that we have to start with our own State. On the bright side at least we are not Wyoming..

  2. Wayne Booze 2011.01.19

    "I wish that people would see people for who they are, and not for who they love."

    Not to sound too touchy feely, but wouldn't it be nice if we could see people for who they are, rather than the labels we choose to use? Liberal, Conservative, Homosexual, Lutheran, Atheist... meh. I much rather see 1) are you a good neighbor and 2) do you practice what you preach?

  3. Pierreite 2011.01.20

    Good message Cory and others. Religious tolerance and freedom to practice were significant bases from which our country originated. Ignore that and you miss out on some of what makes us great. At US formation, homosexuality wasn't acknowledged in any meaningful way so and its impact on society, marriage, benefits, property rights, etc, was not discussed. Our consciousness has "grown up" now. We should act like it.

  4. Pierreite 2011.01.20

    And about whose religion is "right". I can't believe, with all the wonder of how complicated our bodies, minds, and the world around us is, that "God" would say "You-born in India, or Middle East, or China, etc, sorry-you're screwed. You weren't born into the right geographic region that had the "right" religion so you didn't learn the correct religion so you don't get to heaven (or whatever post-death experience you want to consider)". I asked my Lutheran pastor about this discrepency when I was 17 and he couldn't answer it. Oops-a hit against the Lutheran philosophy there. Whatever created us has to be too knowledgible to make something like geography to be a deciding factor on "right".

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