Religious Freedom and the Supreme Court

The editorial "Religious Freedom," Aug. 15, says observers detect an "antipathy toward religion" in recent Supreme Court rulings. But the so-called "conservative" coalition which has recently been permitting government interference in the practice of minority religions is not secular, but devoutly religious. Their war is only on other people's religions.The most secular members of the Supreme Court have been the most careful to observe the free-exercise clause of the First Amendment. They might have been accused a few years ago of taking the establishment clause to extremes and thus moving against religion in general. But they are no longer in control of the court. The editorial cites a decision which denies protection to the ancient native American religious practice involving the mild drug peyote. Does anyone doubt that the Roman Catholic justices who were in the majority would have ruled differently had the case involved the use of wine (also a drug) in the Christian mass? The justices who are in control know that major religions such as Catholicism and fundamentalist Protestantism are safe from most encroachments by the democratic nature of the other institutions of government. Thus these justices are free to hide behind the pretense of judicial restraint in their opinions, knowing that the legislatures will repress only smaller denominations. Theodore S. Arrington, Charlotte, N.C.

Religion and the abortion debate The opinion-page column "The Abortion Wars," Aug. 16, like most media coverage, emphasizes women's right to "choose" an abortion, while ignoring the complexities of the issue. Our society, the media, and abortion clinics all encourage abortion as a morally neutral "treatment of choice" for any inconvenient pregnancy. Yet, until recently, both Christianity and Judaism forbade abortion as destructive of life or (at least) potential life. In view of this, should Christians and Jews (or Muslims or Buddhists, who have similar beliefs) remain silent while life is being destroyed? If nothing else, the civil disobedience of Operation Rescue has forced us to consider this question. If the churches had boldly faced this question 20 years ago, we might not be facing the present-day propaganda deluge to legalize suicide and euthanasia as the "treatment of choice" for the dying, elderly, and brain-damaged. Nancy K. O'Connor, Nanty Glo, Pa.

The question of abortion is a complicated one for many women. Age, education, circumstances, and economics are elements that come into play when a woman is facing this difficult question. Making abortion illegal is not the answer, just as prohibition was not the answer to alcohol consumption or abuse. For decades, women seeking abortions had many options available to them, depending on their socioeconomic means. The cost and hence the safety of the procedure was the main question - not whether to seek the abortion. The question for our nation is whether we should be returning to positions outgrown, thus endangering the lives of women of childbearing age, or concentrating on education, counseling, and support for them. Options and freedom to choose are essential, if we are to preserve the freedoms of speech, choice, and religion upon which this nation was founded. Nancy Eifert, Fort Pierce, Fla.

Help 'foreigners' where they live The opinion-page column "The Foreigner in Each of Us," Aug. 7, articulates how we are all "foreigners," and how the life of one person, or the freedom of one is no more fundamental than that of a "foreigner." My heart wants to agree in saying, "I am in favor of welcoming as many foreigners as generously as possible." But the concern the author articulates for the immigrant and for all people (including those who are unable to immigrate), should also include those who will be born five, 20, or 100 years from now, into regions where children are dying because there are too many people for the land and resources. The resources we have to help "foreigners" could best be used to enhance freedoms and standards of l iving and to slow the population increase in the countries where the "foreigners" now live. Steven C. Hill, Las Cruces, N.M.

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