My view: Restoring the right of religious conscience with an amendment

By Rodney K. Smith

Published: Sunday, March 4 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

King heard an inner voice saying, "Martin Luther, stand up for righteousness. Stand up for justice. Stand up for truth. And I will be with you, even until the end of the world." At that moment, King was called to lead a movement that transformed America.

King recognized the importance of conscience and taught, "If you haven't found something worth dying for, you aren't fit to be living."

Madison would see King's faith as the basis of a right; Mason, Scalia and Obama would see it as the basis of a mere privilege to be granted or taken away at the whim of government.

Religious conscience has been transformed from a right to a mere privilege. No right remains secure in a world in which the most sacred of all rights — possessions — can so easily be disregarded.

The only answer is to restore Madison's view of religious liberty by overruling Employment Division v. Smith judicially or, if necessary, by ratifying a constitutional amendment protecting religious conscience.

Rodney K. Smith is a First Amendment scholar who serves as a Distinguished Professor of Law at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law. This article also ran in the Christian Science Monitor.

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