Letter to the editor: Government uses freedom to take freedom away

Andrew Lee

Scott Watson’s column (“Government presents religion with conflict of interest”) — and the entire media and public attention for that matter — on recent government policy about health care provision interfering with the church by means of contraception is a great thing to be discussing, and it kind of makes me happy because it asks a question that should be asked more often: “Can/should the government do this?”

But there’s just something wrong with the whole thing for me, like when you see something that you and your principles should agree with, but there’s just something fundamentally skewed and you feel unsure about it. This debate is focusing only on religious organizations and religious values, which is a great thing to protect. But why isn’t anyone upset at the fact that the government is telling anyone what they have to do or provide? Why should anyone ever have to do anything because the government said so?

I call that control. I call that a breach of the thing that I value more than anything else, more than food, health or life: liberty. And I am not alone, evidenced by Barry Snell’s article published on the same day. This entire idea that Watson addresses is a breach of liberty, a breach of freedom, a breach of autonomy or whatever else you want to call the concept. There was a day when “Live free or die” was accepted as a state motto, when “Give me liberty, or give me death!” was yelled in legislative meetings and actually swung a vote toward the speaker instead of making him a radical.

Something that must be pointed out is that this nation literally is using freedom provided by the Constitution to remove freedom. What happens when a freedom is removed that you want back, but you previously passed a policy that wouldn’t allow it? What happens when you entrust a government that’s been mostly failing for decades with so much power that you can’t get it back when you want it? What do you do? Revolt? How? You probably legislated and allowed orders to pass that removed almost all resources to do so.

Restriction is temporary gain because we have a fluid society, constantly changing as its context changes, and (as history and other contemporary issues show) restriction will not be able to keep up as society changes. As society liberalizes, we’re trading traditional patriarchs for one massive, national patriarch — a patriarch who is currently telling religious organizations they have to offer contraceptives, a relatively small issue that we’ll probably end up putting up with.

At this I call attention to a quotation that said, “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience [has shown] that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object [reveals] a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.”

This was the justification for the American Revolution in the Declaration of Independence. The declaration then goes on to give examples of policy and actions taken that proves the justification. Have you ever read this? Studied it? If so, you’d find some of those reasons submitted have downright scary parallels to contemporary policy. Our newly established patriarch is reducing us at every angle, all pursuing the same object, a “better” society. Ask yourself right now, are they succeeding? Do I trust them to do this? And is this “better society” worth the reduction we face for it?