Commenting on University of St. Thomas law professor Robert Delahunty’s recent op-ed, my colleague Richard Painter shares some thoughts on the subject of limiting the freedom of some people so that others may live in a world unstained by that particular freedom:
Let’s put aside for the moment the fact that I don’t see such a tradeoff with abolition of slavery because slaveholders had no legitimate right to own other human beings. What about Delahunty’s core argument that there are often tradeoffs between individual liberty and our right to live in a social world that adheres to common ethical values? Putting aside the same sex marriage debate as well, here is perhaps a concise summary of the argument in support of constitutional changes that constrain the freedom of some individuals but at the same time allow government to create the conditions for individual as well as collective moral well-being according to our religious belief:
By its decision to carry out the political and moral cleansing of our public life, the Government is creating and securing the conditions for a really deep and inner religious life. The advantages for the individual which may be derived from compromises with atheistic organizations do not compare in any way with the consequences which are visible in the destruction of our common religious and ethical values.
Does such an argument for constitutional change make sense? What are its implications?
What say you, gentle readers?
UPDATE: Professor Painter has updated his original post with the following:
* [footnote added 9/8/2012] These two sentences are I believe a close approximation of Delahunty’s argument about tradeoffs between individual freedom and freedom to live in a world that conforms to collective ethical and religious values. These words are taken verbatim from a speech given on March 23, 1933 by Adolf Hitler who had less than two months earlier been appointed Chancellor of Germany after voters had given his National Socialist German Worker’s Party substantial support in parliamentary elections. Hitler was asking for a constitutional amendment that would give him broad powers to infringe upon individual liberties. This particular speech sought to persuade Catholic bishops and other religious conservatives not to oppose the proposed constitutional amendment, called the Enabling Act. The amendment was consented to by the Reichstag later that same day.