Minority rights

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Letter writer Alan Sabrosky (“Let’s Understand the Right to Religious Freedom,” Nov. 8) and, unfortunately, many others do not understand the essence of the Bill of Rights.

Mr. Sabrosky argues that “saying ‘yes’ to all does not first require saying ‘no’ to the majority.” Perhaps counter-intuitively, the Bill of Rights is uniquely undemocratic because it rejects the notion that the majority rules when it comes to a number of fundamental rights — free speech, religious freedom, the right against self-incrimination, equal protection, due process, a jury trial in criminal cases, the right against double jeopardy and a few others. Our Founding Fathers wisely concluded that these rights are too sacred to be abrogated by the majority.

Cases like the town of Greece, N.Y., prayer dispute, now before the Supreme Court, are important bulwarks against majority oppression. The decision will likely be close and accompanied by many opinions. My prediction (and hope) is that the justices will invalidate local prayer by distinguishing congressional and state legislative prayer, which they have previously “blessed.” At the state and national level, the public are mere bystanders, while, locally, citizens actively participate and therefore would feel the need to conform.

Whatever the result, however, the process of courts, not a majority of voters or politicians, deciding what is right and what is wrong on matters of great constitutional importance, such as religious liberty, helps to assure that minority rights will be protected.

E.J. STRASSBURGER
President
Greater Pittsburgh Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania
Squirrel Hill


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