Gerard says it the best. Posted in full, with his permission, since it is too good to excerpt (emphasis mine).
Central to the ‘progressives’ suicidal rush to condemn the Cross and celebrate the Mosque is their decades long and continuing attempt to equate “tolerance” with “approval.” These two states are not the same thing which is why the English language provides two distinctly different words.
Why does the First Amendment enshrine both speech and religion as things the state shall not legislate against or establish an approved version thereof? To formalize “tolerance” without requiring “approval.”
In this wise, it is possible to form a society of individuals with vastly different ideas and religions in which the liberty of all is respected by all. In essence we agree that I tolerate your worship of a moon god and you tolerate my worship of a tree. It’s “live and let live” at the most basic level. If, on the other hand, you decide that I have to make continuous noises of “approval” of the moon god in order for you to grant me the right to worship the tree god in peace, we are headed towards an argument that ends in guns.
At its most basic the American tradition is that I don’t require approval of my beliefs from you and you don’t insist on my approval of your beliefs. Regardless of what we may do, we tacitly agree not to do things which exacerbate a state of mutual disrespect. We mutually agree not to get in each others faces about these issues with acts like, oh I don’t know, building a temple to the moon god so that it casts a shadow across my cemetery. Doing so starts a process of disrespect that also tends, if history is any guide, to end in guns and fire.
“Toleration does not require approval.” It really is the simplest of social compacts and like all great and simple ideas bringing in nuance and qualifiers doesn’t strengthen our common bonds as society but weakens it. This is well-known to those that seek to create a climate of continual upheaval in the mistaken belief that, in the end, the fire will not consume them. Civil war consumes all.
It is well to reflect that every single move in the past few decades that has resulted in a loss of individual liberty has begun in a plea for tolerance and ended with non-negotiable demands for approval. Those familiar with the decades of the 1840s and the 1850s, the last time the fires in the minds of men grew this hot, will recognize our current conundrum as mirrored in the various issues that led up to and away from the Missouri Compromise. Many were ready, up until the very last moment, to tolerate slavery. But most were not prepared to step over that line into outright approval. Yet those who began in asking for tolerance for slavery ended in demanding approval. As always, it ended in guns and the sweeping away of an old and corrupt institution.
In the spirit of America, I am prepared to tolerate a vast and unfettered range of religions, beliefs, lifestyles, and other things that my fellow citizens may wish to don in order to decorate their lives and souls. But if they come to me and seek my unfettered approval for this or that hobby-horse they have chosen to ride I shall reserve my approval according to my judgment. Should they then, like piqued children, insist on my approval of this or my disapproval of that as a requirement in custom or in law for my continued full citizenship in this nation, we will find ourselves at daggers drawn.
I show you the American contract enshrined in the Declaration and codified in the Constitution. Like Lincoln, I show you a land “conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are equal.” Like Whitman, I give you “the sign of democracy.”
From these founding principles, forged and tested in fire, we have built a land in which we — difficult as it may be — agree to “tolerate” each other. I do not require, nor do I seek to compel, your “approval.” Beware if you seek to compel mine.