Letter: Government must not infringe on beliefs
To the Editor:
In his recent essay, "Keep It To Yourself," Bob Stannard recalls the opposition he received from some of those who tried to dissuade him from his advocacy of the so-called Death with Dignity Act. He objected to the injection of religion into the debate. In defense of his advocacy he reminds us of Thomas Jefferson's response to a letter from the Danbury Baptist Association (DBA) which lays out Jefferson's thesis on the so-called "wall of separation between church and state."
For the sake of this essay I won't harp on the issue of assisted suicide only to say I recognize it as a personal choice. Who really cares what you do to yourself? In a general sense, I don't. But in a Christian sense, I do. In the deepest sense, at the heart of mainstream religions, is the importance of preserving community; communion. Taking yourself out of the equation weakens the community. Not in a crass material sense but spiritually. I thought Mr. Stannard had more regard for his vaunted Green Mountain community.
The DBA wrote to Thomas Jefferson to lament the lack of specific constitutional decrees in their home state of Connecticut protecting religious liberty. The DBA was fearful that without those constitutional protections a political majority could come to inhibit the free exercise of religion. So, you see, ironically, Jefferson was not only saying that government has no business establishing a religion, but neither should constitutional canons or legislative actions inhibit the freedom to live according to one's faith.
Let us recognize that the government is an agent of force. What the government can do for you today it can do to you tomorrow. We are seeing even today that civic virtue, borne of millennia of adherence to heretofore readily recognizable standards of public morality, can tomorrow become a vice. Moral relativism is a house built on sand; there is no firm underpinning. Decisions thus made are based on one's mood and the circumstances of the moment. That is not a basis for lasting truth for oneself or the greater community.
I paraphrase William Barr from his recent address to the Law School of the University of Notre Dame when I say that people of faith are not forcing their religion on others but rather it is irreligion and secular values being forced on people of faith.
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