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Doug Wolter: Tolerance for all, but only if you agree

I suspect that when Carl Fruechte wrote his letter to the editor in the local Caledonia newspaper, his intent was to thoughtfully prod the originators of a new school “diversity club” to consider all the ramifications of what such a body might portend. Instead, the highly successful football coach of the Warriors initiated a firestorm.

Doug Wolter photo
Doug Wolter

I suspect that when Carl Fruechte wrote his letter to the editor in the local Caledonia newspaper, his intent was to thoughtfully prod the originators of a new school “diversity club” to consider all the ramifications of what such a body might portend.

Instead, the highly successful football coach of the Warriors initiated a firestorm.

This is, of course, not at all surprising. These days, any time anyone even gently inquires about the framework behind such a group, the cancel culture is sure to come out firing. In 2021, people topple statues of founding fathers George Washington and Thomas Jefferson for having owned slaves, and even remove Abraham Lincoln memorials because he wasn’t sufficiently “woke” in 1863. People get fired from their jobs for having attended a Trump rally. They get banned from Facebook for reprinting news items already seen in respectable news publications. They are even warned that there may be re-education camps in America’s future, and you’d better be careful for what you say or you may find yourself in one.

What’s interesting about the Fruechte dust-up is that he is (or at least was until he wrote his letter) one of the most revered and successful coaches in all of Minnesota high school sports. His football team is currently on a 71-game winning streak, and two of his players moved on to the NFL. He is also a Christian, which, unfortunately, is a controversial thing to be.

The student group in question is being established as a bimonthly huddle for students to learn about other cultures, perspectives “and all things that make each human unique.”

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What could be wrong with that? The school board approved the group unanimously.

Fruechte could have dispensed with all the hand-wringing if only he’d not written that letter. But he wrote it anyway, and here we go with diversity, 2021 style.

One of the things he wrote is this: “Will Christian students be allowed in the group to agree to disagree with your opinion? Notice that I said agree to disagree, not hate, because I love all the students in our community, but disagree with some of the things this group will stand for.”

Predictably, some in the community commended his thoughts. Others, predictably, not so much.

It is fair, and even wise, I think, to ask certain questions regarding how much tolerance in a “diversity” group is to be allowed. But at least one harsh critic of Fruechte charged that his letter was “a thinly veiled attack against homosexuality” meant to encourage students to ostracize their LGBT peers “because they don’t conform to your narrow view of Christianity.”

OK, since homosexuality seems to be a favored topic, let us suppose there is a Christian student at one of these diversity meetings who genuinely believes in the biblical injunction to love all of God’s creation, but also wishes to say that he doesn’t agree with the gay lifestyle. Will he be told to leave, or be pressured to conform? Will his belief system be accepted, as those who disagree with him will be accepted?

“Who gets to decide what is acceptable and not acceptable speech? Are you going to allow students in your club who disagree with your opinions?” Freuchte asked in the letter.

Are Freuchte’s concerns unnecessary? That’s a matter of opinion. But one hopes the school board asked those questions, too.

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Perhaps nothing is unacceptable speech. Perhaps the student who says, “Hello, my name is Oscar and my goal in life is someday to commit an ax murder” will be no more open to criticism than someone who says, “Hi, my name is Marilyn and I believe daisies should be planted in every intersection of our town.”

But not likely.

The Fruechte critic who charged the coach of homophobia began her letter by saying the coach did not write his letter to the editor “in love.” I frankly don’t know if he did or he did not, but I also suspect that the critic (responding lovingly, of course) may be reading into the coach’s letter something that is not there.

Some people can’t bring themselves to show tolerance to anyone who disagrees with them on any topic, regardless of their good intentions. And that, I think, is the saddest thing about this whole spectacle.

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