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Monday, November 28, 2011

Pelosi versus Pilgrims and patriots on "this conscience thing"

Apparently the lessons of history and the inestimable value of conscience rights are lost on some current-day politicians, as illustrated in this Washington Post interview with former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, San Francisco Democrat:
Catholic health-care providers in particular have long said they’d have to go out of business without the conscience protections that Pelosi says amount to letting hospitals “say to a woman, ‘I’m sorry you could die’ if you don’t get an abortion.” Those who dispute that characterization “may not like the language,’’ she said, “but the truth is what I said. I’m a devout Catholic and I honor my faith and love it . . . but they have this conscience thing’’ that she insists put women at physical risk, although Catholic providers strongly disagree.
It's worth examining how Ms. Pelosi's comments about "this conscience thing" compare to the views expressed by American founders and in our founding documents:
  • Here's how Pilgrim pioneer William Bradford expressed "this conscience thing:"
‘Nevertheless, to keep a good conscience, and walk in such a way as God has prescribed in his word, is a thing which I must prefer before you all, and above life itself.’

  • Here's how Thomas Jefferson expressed "this conscience thing:"
"[O]ur rules can have authority over such natural rights only as we have submitted to them. The rights of conscience we never submitted, we could not submit. We are answerable for them to our God."
  • Here's how the United States Constitution expresses "this conscience thing:"
Preamble: " the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity..."

Amendment One: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech..."

Amendment Five: "... nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law..."
  • And here's how the Declaration of Independence express "this conscience thing:"
"We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness ..."
Regarding politicians who disdain conscience rights, perhaps the words of British poet John Milton (1608–1674) express it best:
"Peace hath her victories
No less renowned than war; new foes arise,
Threatening to bind our souls with secular chains:
Help us to save free conscience from the paw
Of hireling wolves whose gospel is their maw."

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