Mary Byrne: Testimony to City Council Regarding Sexual Discrimination Proposal

 I’d like to begin by emphasizing that I do not endorse bullying or violence by anyone, and that, I believe Councilwoman Rushefsky is correct in her suggestion that the Hobby Lobby case applies to the proposed ordinance, but, not  as a justification for extending exceptions to churches or church-based organizations. Rather, I believe, it applies because the U.S. Supreme Court found that the government cannot force individuals to act in violation of their religious beliefs. The IRS defines a corporation as a person, and Hobby Lobby, as a closely held corporation, which described its religious beliefs in its charter. As such, the government could not force the Hobby Lobby to act in a manner that violated its religious beliefs toward a specific type of contraception. The Court did not extend that reasoning to larger corporations that are not closely held. The connection is, that every small business owner in the room is a closely held corporation, and, like Hobby Lobby, cannot be forced to violate conscience by acting in a manner inconsistent with his or her religious beliefs.

Liberty, the unalienable right endowed by our Creator and protected by the 14th amendment, is threatened by government, when administrators of that government limit liberty of conscience informed by one’s religion.

It is said, President George Washington warned that

“Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force.  Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”

When government uses the force of law to compel a citizen to act in a manner that violates his or her religious beliefs, that government is, indeed, dangerous. What this ordinance does, is compel the pastor you just heard, to tell his congregation that they cannot practice their religion outside the four walls of their church.

When speaking to the General Committee of the United Baptist Churches, Washington said,

If I could conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure,  . . .  no one could be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.

This ordinance does exactly what Washington found abhorrent – it renders the liberty of conscience of a group of citizens insecure and perpetrates horrors of spiritual tyranny as well as religious persecution when they are punished for refusing to support an act forbidden by the teachings of their faith. When speaking of exercising religion, no just worship, and the obligation of even the unbelieving politician to defend liberty of conscience, in his farewell address, Washington said,

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them, . . . Let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure [that is, whatever intellectual elitists might teach], reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

Let it simply be asked, — where is the security of property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation deserts the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice?

The truth of Washington’s statements, as well as, the traditional teachings of religious faiths represented in Springfield are the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Council members have a decision to make about this flawed proposed ordinance that renders citizens’ liberty of conscience insecure. That is, members of the Springfield City Council must decide wither to be perpetrate “horrors of spiritual tyranny” on the members of their community as Washington described, or to uphold their oaths of office to protect the U. S. Constitution and the right of liberty. I urge you to vote against the proposed ordinance.

Mary Byrne, Springfield, MO 9-8-14

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