Sports and the military used to be America's foremost bastions of physical toughness, traditional masculinity and outspoken faith. They were institutions where, no matter what was happening elsewhere in the culture, smothering left-wing political correctness was unwelcome.
Those days are long gone. In fact, as recent events make clear, sports and the military have been consumed by political correctness. So much so that these institutions' traditional values, especially their emphasis on faith, are no longer welcome.
Recent news in the sports world has been dominated by NBA player Jason Collins' announcement that he is gay. For years, the gay rights movement has claimed that what people do in the privacy of their own bedrooms is nobody's business. Yet Collins has been hailed as a hero for coming out as the first openly gay active player in one of the top American men's sports leagues.
Collins a true hero?
"Jason Collins walks in Robinson's path," read the headline of a USA TODAY column. "Is Jason Collins the Jackie Robinson of 2013?" askedThe Washington Post. President Obama said he "couldn't be prouder" of Collins, whom he called to offer his support. The clear consensus is that Collins is "brave" and "courageous" for his trailblazing announcement.
But here's a prediction. Other than very occasional taunts from fans and opposing players, Collins will face little negative response. And the negativity will be drowned out by the adulation he will continue to receive from cultural and political elites.
Any criticism of Collins' sexuality is already taboo. Consider the response to ESPN commentator Chris Broussard, who cited his Christian faith in expressing his view that homosexuality is a sin, as is adultery, for example. Broussard's view is well within the tenets of most major religions and is at the heart of Christianity's moral theology. But that didn't matter. ESPN issued an apology, saying, "We regret that a respectful discussion of personal viewpoints became a distraction from today's news. ESPN is fully committed to diversity and welcomes Jason Collins' announcement."
ESPN critic chastised
ESPN pays Broussard to give his opinion, but when he gave an opinion that conflicted with the views of one of the sports world's most powerful entities, political correctness won out.
A similar conclusion can be drawn from the Pentagon's recent statement that soldiers could be prosecuted for sharing their faith. "Religious proselytization is not permitted within the Department of Defense," the statement read.
The Pentagon later issued a clarification explaining that soldiers may talk about their faith but that witnessing to fellow soldiers will not be tolerated and may be grounds for prosecution under military law.
Just a couple of years after the military began encouraging gay soldiers to "ask" and to "tell," it is now insisting that Christian soldiers not proclaim their faith too loudly.
The stated intent of political correctness is to make us a fairer and more tolerant society. But in reality, it has promoted institutional intolerance of traditional ideas and views. As a result, many people of faith are being pushed into the same proverbial closet that everyone else has been invited to leave.
Gary Bauer is president of American Values and chairman of the Campaign for Working Families.
In addition to its own editorials, USA TODAY publishes diverse opinions from outside writers, including our Board of Contributors.