To the editor:
If I had been a member of the Kansas House, I would have voted against the recently passed bill on religious liberty.
In a moment, I will state why I would have so voted, but let me first acknowledge, out of fairness, that the authors of this bill were responding to legitimate concerns.
Our nation's Constitution guarantees, in its First Amendment, the free exercise of religion. That right has historically been the basis for exempting individuals from laws that violated their deeply held religious beliefs — Quakers are exempt from being drafted to serve in combat, Jehovah's Witnesses do not have to say the Pledge of Allegiance, etc.
Yet, in modern America this cherished right of religious conscience is now under sustained attack, most notably in the sustained efforts to force medical personnel with personal opposition to abortion to participate in abortions.
This sustained attack on rights of conscience I called "coercive acquiescence," trying to use the power of the state to force those with religious-based opposition to certain laws to not only obey those laws, but to cease to express moral objection to those laws.
Anyone who thinks I am exaggerating on this matter should note how noted Harvard Professor John Rawls has publicly said that "abortion is such a basic right that it cannot even be questioned." So, people of faith in America have every right to be concerned about the ultimate objectives of a lot of the nation's political movements.
However, even acknowledging the legitimacy of the concerns that led many of our state legislators to support this legislation, including all of our legislators from Leavenworth County, I still feel it is wrong and should be opposed.
Rights of conscience have always been narrowly defined: One has a right to refuse to obey a certain law only if no one else is harmed by that act of refusal.
Let us take an issue that people in this town can easily relate to: Conscientious objection to the draft.
Traditionally, young men were allowed to refuse to serve in combat if this violated their religious faith, but these young men usually had to serve as medics for the military.
So, they were not getting a "free ride" out of the military and forcing someone else to bear the burden that they would not bear. In fact, they were undertaking a most dangerous calling. My older brother served a year in Vietnam, and he told me that the medics in his unit showed incredible courage not only in taking care of our wounded, but afterwards in taking care of the enemy wounded.
This proposed Kansas law extends well beyond people simply refusing acts that violate their religious beliefs, and therefore it is a mistake and should not be enacted into law.
Dr. Ernest Evans
Letter: Religious liberty bill was flawed
To the editor: