Note the context and the details. Peter and John didn't say the authorities were illegitimate. They didn't tell the authorities what they must believe. They even invite their listeners to judge for themselves according to their own consciences. But they stand their ground on one point: that they must do the will of God, no matter what anyone else — government included — says.
It's a bit of a Paul Revere moment. Only this time it's not the British that are coming. It's Big Brother. Or, if you prefer, think of Rosa Parks. We can go along and sit quietly in the back of the bus, or we can stand up for human dignity and the rights of conscience. When it comes to our precious heritage of religious freedom, we must either use it or lose it.
Dwight Duncan is Professor of Law at the University of Massachusetts School of Law-Dartmouth. This essay was adapted from a speech delivered June 20, 2012, just prior to the Fortnight for Freedom's beginning, and an abridged version appeared in the Boston Pilot.
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