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Readers' forum: Can the state silence conscience?

Published: Thursday, April 12 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

The First Amendment was crafted to prevent conflict between the dictates of conscience and dictates of the state. While institutional rights for churches enjoy begrudged toleration, what is happening to the individual's right to free exercise of religion?

Consider citizens with misgivings that their insurance premiums will pay for government mandated coverage of free abortion pills, sterilizations and contraceptives, or those whose inner voice speaks against their taxes subsidizing Planned Parenthood abortions and 40 percent illegitimacy. Thomas Jefferson believed compelling a man to furnish money for that which he abhors is sinful and tyrannical.

Consider physicians or pharmacists taught by conscience not to perform abortions or dispense abortifacient drugs, or justices of the peace and military chaplains directed by their moral compass not to solemnize gay unions. Should they face retaliation? Why force compromising of principle, especially given no lack of willing providers?

What cultural aftermath follows our standing idly by while the voice of conscience is muffled? In time, those untroubled by their neighbor's qualms may see edicts which violate their spiritual convictions. And as the Bill of Rights' first named liberty is trampled, what of other freedoms the document protects? If the state can silence conscience, are there any checks?

Anthony Black

Bountiful

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