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Letter: The real meaning of liberty

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I had to chuckle while reading Lee Paulson’s “Save us from religious tyranny” letter of Sept. 14. I don’t exactly disagree with him on the specific issue of unfettered immigration, but I did find amusing his adamancy in pontificating his American right to publicly insist that Archbishop John Nienstedt should not pontificate publicly in America. It is a common quirk and fairly harmless in an opinion piece, but does hint at more fundamental issues.

It should be plainly stated and understood by all of us that “freedom of religion” and “freedom of conscience” — when held as universal principles — are inherently unsolvable. We pay lip service to these ideas, when, in reality, the state has no obligation to respect all consciences nor all religions — and indeed, cannot really accommodate them all, without contradicting its own laws and constitutions and internal coherence. Contrary to official state doctrine and pious popular belief, the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution does not really provide an inviolable solution to this problem.

In case there are readers chafing at this “heresy” against the First Amendment, perhaps an example or two will more clearly illustrate the problem. For instance, ideas about fairness and love and religion were driving forces behind homosexual marriage. If there is more promotion of religious liberty, Muslims and old-school Mormons will also have their views on marriage enshrined in our laws. Another case: America’s laws regarding abortion closely match Jewish views, and restrictions could be considered by Jews as an imposition of Christian morality upon them.

The First Amendment was somewhat workable in the “old” America, an America that was not so much a melting pot as it was a gathering of peoples of similar ethnicities from a Christian and European background. Can we finally decide that it is time to take the discussion of these fundamental issues off their perpetual postponement, rather than forever holding up the U.S. Constitution (or a simple pragmatic good will) as some kind of intellectual fig leaf? It is something that needs to be talked about, and credit to Lee Paulson for starting the discussion.

Greg Groebner

Clements

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