Equal Justice?

The motto of the United States Supreme Court Building

Freedom of speech and expression (and, implied thereby, freedom of thought and conviction), the free exercise of religion, and the right for groups of citizens to band together to speak as a group in public are rights guaranteed in the 1st Amendment, at the very top of the Bill of Rights in the US Constitution.

Yet in our day it seems that these freedoms are losing support among some (or perhaps many?) younger voters.
Much publicized has been the attempts on numerous college campuses by students to silence speakers (even some progressive speakers) who do not hold favored political or social opinions of the moment (or, who are believed not to hold them, it is difficult to ascertain with certainty what one thinks if you silence him before he has the chance to explain himself).  Even some secular liberal commentators have recoiled in horror from what they call "the regressive left" (see here, for example).

Of particular interest to me is the fact that many of these younger voters are more secular and more progressive/liberal than previous generations and are, accordingly, less likely to sympathize with conservative, traditionalist, and religious (especially Evangelical or traditional Catholic) view-points.  Indeed the ideas of religious conservatives (and even moderate-traditionalists) are despised and rejected as forms of "hatred" and even "verbal violence" that are to be silenced (sometimes, ironically, with actual physical violence).

This is a disturbing development for me and, I hope, for all lovers of liberty without regard to political stripe or religious conviction.

When I was in college studying Political Science we learned that an important principle in interpreting the Bill of Rights is that freedoms such as "freedom of speech" are enshrined in law precisely to protect the unpopular and the despised forms of expression from legal suppression.
The logic is simple: nobody calls for bans or suppression of popular speech that most people find agreeable (or at least innocuous).  It is the forms of expression that the majority of citizens find offensive or "unacceptable" that are targeted for silencing (which we saw vividly when the often unkind and harsh conservative Ann Coulter was physically prevented from speaking at Berkeley - being excluded ironically in the name of "inclusivity" and "non-discrimination").

The same principle applies when protecting the rights of religious people to freely exercise their faith, and live according to the dictates of their religion or convictions: it is not the belief systems that most people find acceptable that need protection from legal suppression, but those that most will find objectionable.

This is significant because the so-called "millennial generation" is the largest group of voters since the Baby Boomers, and as the latter die off the political power of the younger generation will increase dramatically.  Will that power be used to under-cut constitutional rights for minorities whose views they find "unacceptable"?  Time will tell.

The video below (the original reason for this post) illustrates exactly why many have been saying - and I agree - that we need more protections for religious conservatives in some parts of the country.  When asked if a progressive can refuse services to a conservative for reasons of personal conviction, the young voters agree that this is an important "right" that should be protected.  When the situation is reversed, however, the same voters find themselves much less likely to support a conservative Christian who wants to refuse to provide services that would contradict his religious convictions.

I am not attempting to answer the particular question about when it may be appropriate for someone to refuse services on the grounds of personal conviction, merely pointing out that there is clearly a double-standard at play in the thinking of these younger voters.  So the question arises, will the next generation really stand committed to "equal justice under the law", or will favored groups receive more rights than unpopular groups?

Since the current Congressional majority claims to whole-heartedly support freedom of religion and freedom of speech, this might be a good time to contact your congressmen and urge action.

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Blogger Bill said...

Well said. I read a commentary recently attributing this sort of thing to the dominance of postmodernist philosophy in academia now, in conflict not only with traditionalist worldviews but also with modernist empirically-driven worldviews. It is an unsettling and dangerous trend, imho.

4:59 AM, June 23, 2017  

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