“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Though often wrongly attributed to Plato, this quote about the lessons of history being lost on those who ignore them was written by Harvard philosopher, George Santayana (1886-1952), author of the novel, The Last Puritan. I wrote about how ignoring the lessons of history is wreaking havoc on civil rights and civil liberties in a recent post, “A Treacherous Descent: Freedom of Religion is Put to the Test.”
Though I doubt very much that any U.S. Supreme Court Justices actually read my arguments, it seems nonetheless that we were on the same page. “Hosannas for the Court” was the title of The Wall Street Journal’s eye-opening lead editorial on January 12. It described a rare unanimous decision of the Supreme Court last week that came as “a crushing rebuke to the Obama Administration.” According to the editorial, the decision was “arguably among the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.” The unanimous concurrence of Supreme Court Justices will be felt for years to come. “Hallelujah!” the editorial declared.
And I agree. The Supreme Court has affirmed the right of religious freedom in America without government intrusion. The position of the Department of Justice under the current presidency argued that hiring and firing religious employees should be according to government standards and not those of the religious faiths involved. It was an ominous threat to freedom of religion, and to Catholic institutions especially.
Such a victorious affirmation of rights and freedoms is rare in the Culture War that has gripped Western civilization. But this is not a time to rest on our laurels. As I considered what to write this week to help honor and remember Civil Rights in America, I cannot help feeling oppressed by some urgent unfinished business. I wrote about it at this time last year, and I urge you to mark this Civil Rights observance by reading this and passing a link along to others. There is a denial of basic human rights in our culture, and it’s a threat to the most basic human freedom: the right to exist.
Please read and extend to others “The Last Full Measure of Devotion: Civil Rights and the Right to Life.”