The News-Journal put a misleading headline on one of this morning’s Letters to the Editor. Here’s the letter with headline:
Stem cell opposition springs from religious principles
The elephant in the living room in the debate over somatic cell nuclear transfer is religious belief. Many opponents of Senate Bill 5, like me, are members of Delaware churches. We exercise our free speech and freedom of religion when we come to Dover to oppose legislation that we believe is morally wrong.
The pro-S.B. 5 faction is increasingly willing to show anger and even hatred toward Christian citizens. They have publicly and privately stated that opposition to S.B. 5 based on Christian bioethical principles is inadmissible. Although the First Amendment protects the rights of citizens to bring their religious sensibilities to the public square, these folks mistakenly believe that we violate the separation of church and state when we do so.
Everyone has a belief system. We are a pluralistic nation set up so that people of diverse ideologies work together to achieve consensus through elected representatives. Christian citizens should not be afraid to speak their minds about public issues. Others should not try to stifle the voices of their Christian neighbors.
Rae Stabosz, Newark
Despite the headline, the letter is more about the intolerance of the proponents of those supporting embryo-destructive research. While Rae (who blogs at Confessions of a Cooperator), like myself, is Catholic, our opposition to such research is not merely based in religion, as the science behind embryos tells us that this is a unique human life from the moment of birth, by virtue of its unique DNA encoding. But even if our views were solely based on religion, how would that disqualify us from sharing them? If we’re a pluralistic society, how can we shut out of it due to the basis of beliefs.
Those with an anti-religious bias like to cite the separation of Church and State, as if it were a Constitutional principle. But here’s the full quote from Jefferson:
…I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.
This is actually a complete misreading of the context of the communication. It was actually written in response to complaints by a Baptist Church about being forced to support an established Congregational state church in Connecticut. The context of this quote, instead of a call for official atheism, is rather a call for a level playing field among religions. This is what those on the other side of this issue are attempting to overturn: they’re attempting to keep religion completely out of the public sphere. While Jefferson was not the most religious man, I find it difficult to believe even his libertarian impulses would lead him to seek to silence the views of the religious in society.