Heeding the Voice of Conscience

by Chana Cox

Last Friday at 12:00 noon street rallies took place around the United States organized in defense of freedom of conscience.  Over 300 people rallied here in Portland in front of the Mark Hatfield U.S. Court House.  Nationally, over 50,000 people attended such Freedom of Religion rallies.

Now U-Choose Education Forum is hosting another discussion of our First Amendment rights:

Heeding the Voice of Conscience

Thursday, March 29th, 6:45 – 8:45

West End Building, 4101 Kruse Way, Lake Oswego

Speakers will include Father Peter Smith and David Hacker a nationally known attorney for the Alliance Defense Funds, a group of attorneys that is successfully defending the rights to freedom of conscience in our courts.

Freedom of conscience is the philosophical and ethical lynch pin of our American commitment to limited government and individual liberty.  Its roots inAmericadate to 1640.  Nevertheless, in a long train of abuses, government seems to recognize no limits to its power to usurp the free exercise of religion.

Religious organizations have run most of the hospitals, many of our orphanages, and many schools. They have provided hospices for the homeless, soup kitchens, and disaster relief both at home and abroad. They have done so more effectively, at a fraction of the cost, and far more humanely than our governments have. They are often staffed by volunteers and deeply committed members of the communities in which they serve. We rely on the services of these many institutions.  But recently, in what amounts to death by a thousand cuts, government at all levels has placed intolerable financial and moral burdens on religious organizations and charities.

Taken together, such government policies represent a massive escalation in the attack on religion in this country. As it stands now, many Catholic, Protestant, Mormon, and Jewish charitable institutions will be forced to close their doors or to violate their core beliefs. If religious organizations are being forced to betray their values, how will individuals resist government coercion? As Justices Elena Kagan and Samuel Alito wrote in their concurring opinion in Tabor:

Throughout our Nation’s history, religious bodies have been the preeminent example of private associations that have “act[ed] as critical buffers between the individual and the power of the State.” . . . the autonomy of religious groups, both here in the United States and abroad, has often served as a shield against oppressive civil laws.

As citizens in our democratic republic, people of all faiths and people of no faith need that shield.

Chana Cox, U-Choose Education Forum
Lewis and Clark, Emerita