This is the second post in a series. Part 1, NASA Funding, discussed the problems that result when we force taxpayers to fund the dreams of others, in that case dreams of space exploration. In this post we consider government role in protecting to freedom of conscience.
Freedom of Conscience
Law-Glossary.com provides the following definition for “freedom of conscience.” Well, the definition actually covers a bit more than that.
the absolute right of the individual to hold whatsoever belief or religion, without restriction
Defining The Problem
Note that the definition above does not say anything about acting upon the right of the individual to act upon his or her beliefs without restriction. Why? When they are allowed to act upon their beliefs, what some individuals believe infringes upon the rights of others. That creates a grave problem. Because some people’s beliefs allow them to infringe upon the rights of others, we must have system to protect each others rights. We call that system “government.” Unfortunately, government does not usually work especially well.
In the United States, the First Amendment to our Constitution officially protects our right to believe as we wish.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. (from here)
The Constitution goes much farther that the definition above. The Constitution specifically protects our right to practice our religion and promote our beliefs, including our ability to organize for political purposes. Nonetheless, the mere fact of this constitutional protection hardly solves the basic problem, how do we protect each other when one of us abuses their freedom to act upon their beliefs and infringes upon the rights of another?
Some Examples Of Problems
At the foundation of our nation, some people believed they had the right to own other people. Because the slave master owns their body, the fruit of their labor, and their children, slavery provides the most thorough way we can abuse the rights of another human being. Such rank injustice must merit severe punishment. Therefore, it is possible our nation got off easy when somewhat more than 600,000 died during the Civil War.
During warfare, we draft young men to kill the enemy and break his things. When draftees object to being pressured to kill the enemy and break his things, we throw these conscientious objectors into jail. That is, we throw somebody into jail because they are unwilling to kill other people and break their things.
Many medical and pharmacy personnel object being pressured to participate in certain “medical” procedures such as abortion and euthanasia. Unfortunately, the legal protections our government affords to conscientious objectors are uncertain (see here, here, and here).
There is something peculiarly irrational about this issue. Why is it an issue?
- Why would anyone want the right to go to a doctor or pharmacist who detests treating them?
- As a condition for obtaining a license, why would anyone want to force doctors and pharmacists to violate their conscience? Why would anyone want to hire doctors and pharmacists to participate in what they think is murder?
Homosexual rights advocates insist that everyone recognize legitimacy of the sexual practices and “marriages.” The government of the United Kingdom has extended the “rights” of homosexuals so far that a Christian couple cannot foster children.
A CHRISTIAN couple have vowed not to give up their fight to foster children, despite a High Court ruling which has made their views on homosexuality a bar to them becoming carers.
After the legal decision was announced in London yesterday, Eunice and Owen Johns, 62 and 65, said they were “hugely shocked and very disappointed” at the judges’ pronouncement.
The Oakwood couple are morally opposed to homosexuality and went to court, alongside Derby City Council, to clarify the situation after a social worker expressed concerns when they said they could not tell a child a “homosexual lifestyle” was acceptable. (continued here)
With respect to legalizing same-sex marriage, the washingtonexaminer.com provided a disquieting editorial that addresses freedom of conscience clauses that Democrats put into their legislation. Their editorial, Did George Orwell write Maryland’s gay-marriage bill?, focuses on the bill Maryland’s legislature considered.
Here is the issue. Can you imagine Democrats pressuring Christian clergy to marry same-sex couples? This issue also raises an odd question. Why would anyone want to be married by a priest who thinks their relationship sinful? Is that how a same-sex couple wants to celebrate their union?
Government insists upon granting itself the “right” to educate. That includes taxing people who want no part of government-run education. Why is that a freedom of conscience issue? Our expectations are entirely unrealistic. We expect educational content to be entirely secular, suggesting two impossibilities:
- An education that excludes religious content can be a good education. We have tried the experiment. We now know what a values-free education does to children. That is why we have government officials proposing “character education.”
- The dividing line between secular content and religious content is clear cut. Given that Christianity and most other religions require parents to provide their children a religious education, this proposition is absurd. To even attempt such a thing violates religious freedom. Who is the rightful guardian of children, parents or the almighty state?
Because we each tend to insist upon having our own way, and because the problems are complex, we can endlessly list examples. It is my opinion, however, government-run education poses the most egregious threat to freedom of conscience. What is more appalling is that we have done almost nothing about it. When it is blatantly idiotic to believe any such thing, how can any rational person expect politicians to run an educational system without exercising undue political influence over educational funding and content? Nonetheless, we have such expectations. Even when all we have to do is look at what children are learning, we have such expectations. Can we not see that politicians do in fact favor special interests? When will it become obvious, for example, that teachers unions have almost nothing to do with ensuring children receive a good education?
To be continued: Part 3, How The United States Chose To Begin Hostile Action Against Libya, will appear on Thursday.