tol·er·ance (tŏl'ər-əns) n. The capacity for or the practice of recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others.
Tolerance is a word that is thrown about frequently in our modern day society and its use has taken on a connotation that goes beyond its basic definition. To be referred to as being intolerant of others is akin to being labeled a racist and is like a scarlet letter upon the forehead of anyone accused of not practicing tolerance when it comes to the beliefs and practices of others.
This modern view of tolerance as a supreme virtue has began to seep into the thoughts of many Freemasons as they mimic general society and its trends. But is the practice of tolerance really a teaching of Freemasonry? It may possibly be so, but is full tolerance a goal of Freemasonry? I submit that it is not and should not be.
For one to achieve the full definition of being tolerant he must not only recognize the beliefs and practices of others but he must also respect those beliefs and practices. To fully achieve a tolerant society, therefore, all beliefs and practices would have to be deserving of respect and some are – undoubtedly – not deserving of such.
Most reasonable men would agree that those that sacrifice babies in the name of a religion are not deserving of respect. The same can safely be said about fascists, communists, or sweatshop owners. Can anyone reasonably claim that the beliefs and practices of the members of the Ku Klux Klan are deserving of respect? Anyone that says “no” is intolerant of others and should go ahead and proudly put that scarlet letter upon their own forehead. In these cases, intolerance should be considered as an honorable virtue.
There are those that, of course, would say that the previous examples are ridiculous since they pertain to groups that do not represent the common good of society. The sticky point, however, is contained within the possible answers to the following questions. Who gets to choose what should be tolerated or not? Who gets to choose which beliefs and practices are deserving of respect? Here is my answer to both of those questions. Each individual gets to make that choice.
Freemasons should already know that and they should not be following the whims of general society. Remember – general society should be copying Freemasonry and not the other way around. Freemasons should also know that there is a happy medium between tolerance and intolerance, and they should not be ashamed to take either path as the situation calls for it. It is often a noble thing to be intolerant and one should not be ashamed to wear the scarlet letter.
 The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, Copyright © 2006 by Houghton Mifflin Company.