LETTER: Freedom too important to take lightlyTo the Telegram: What do life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness mean? This July 4, it is fitting to consider just what some of our most fundamental freedoms imply.
To the Telegram:
What do life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness mean?
This July 4, it is fitting to consider just what some of our most fundamental freedoms imply.
Most of us would agree the election of officials and implementation of controversial policies should be based the majority. Even though this principal is one of the best ways to govern fairly, it is not perfect. It requires congress, courts and president adhere to important rules.
History has shown the will of the majority is fallible and prone to human prejudices and ethical lapses as any other method of governance.
For example, if civil rights legislation of the 1960s was put to a referendum in many southern states, it may never have become the law. Surely, southerners wanted those freedom riders to mind their own business and quit stirring up trouble. People on the freedom ride buses might have been killed, and the KKK might have continued its reign of terror — whipping or hanging those who fought for human dignity. Law would have supported states’ rights to tell northerners to mind their own business and not interfere with the “rights of the people.”
Libertarians would advocate that individual freedoms — never be subservient to the government — and would justify store owners like Lester Maddox to refuse service to anyone they damn well chose.
“Jim Crow” might still dominate the south.
The truth is sometimes the government — in this case, President John Kennedy and Attorney General Bobby Kennedy needed to put their feet down firmly and order southern governors to comply. Great leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. would have changed nothing if not for federal law.
Another blind spot many Americans share is the inability to see religious freedom upheld because courts have ruled against prayer in public schools.
Just because a public school may have mostly Catholic students, it does not mean all students should be exposed to Catholic theology. Children of atheists (also taxpayers) should not be forced to participate in religious rituals because they are the minority.
This fair attitude has so far, maintained the separation between church and state, and kept any one faith from dominating another.
The church provides a podium for religious instruction and a venue for worshiping as church members choose.
This does not imply churches should be reduced to secret societies that may only whisper their faiths in public. Any member of any church — without violating fundamental civil laws like murder — is free to discuss their faith with others, form private schools and religious universities, and instruct their children in the religious traditions they see fit. They may also write religious books available on the New York Times best sellers list. They may teach the concept of intelligent design while being free to follow their own consciences or wishes of their church when choosing whether to make use of birth control or other medications. However, they are not allowed to force anyone else to obey their spiritual instructions.
During the last century, more than 100 million people across the world died at the hands of various ethnic, religious or political groups — the victims of genocide. The average is one million per year. Hopefully, history has taught us the dangers of not providing adequate liberty to our citizens or allowing one group to dominate another. Sometimes the government is the problem, and sometimes government provides fair solutions.
The ACLU has even risen to the defense of neo-Nazi groups — though, as they describe it — they must hold their noses to do so. The principals of freedom are much too important to take lightly by unfairly condoning or suppressing another’s liberties.
Editor’s Note: This letter was received July 4.