The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Your View

October 4, 2012

My View: An argument without difference

I agree with the headline of the Thursday (Sept. 27) Your View (Constitution doesn’t support religious dogma). Like the writer of that Your View, I referred back to my June 6 Your View, and my subsequent writings (6), on the Minnesota Marriage Amendment issue. Those writings were in response to legitimate misunderstandings by some, but not the recent writer.   

I never claimed our constitutional republic allows for a federal “theocracy,” or that I would support same. The writers phrase “separation of church and state” is not found in the Constitution; it originated in an 1801 letter from Thomas Jefferson to a Connecticut Baptist Association.  

 I understand that the 1st Amendment reads, in part: “Congress shall make no law respecting establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” As a textual origionalist I do not read something into that amendment it does not say. Moreover, I found nothing I wrote that could be reasonably construed to suggest I favor “...oppressive treatment of others.”  

 I have, however, advocated support for the rule of law. I believe that addresses the straw men in the writer’s recent Your View.  

The writer goes on to claim he does not “unwittingly agree” with my Sept. 13 Your View comment on how the Constitution protects the rights of the minority in the same sex marriage issue. He further says: “Nothing could be further from the truth.” Since he is a strong advocate for minority rights, as I am, his comments are difficult to reconcile. It seems to me he must either agree with the position the Constitution protects the rights of the minority — or disagree with that position.  

Maybe a few more words from me will offer further clarification, and put these exchanges to rest. In that vein I will risk assuming the writer agrees the Constitution was written to balance the powers of the national and state governments, limiting the powers of the national government, and also written to include a system of checks and balances within the three branches of the national government, each having particular powers.

With that bold assumption I repeat my contention that, in the context of the initial discussion, the phrases “balance of powers” and “separation of powers” — neither of which I found expressly written in the Constitution — are “essentially synonymous.”

 Add to that the phrase “checks and balances,” which is not expressly written in the Constitution either. In the context of the initial discussion they each — take your choice — express or imply the same purpose i.e. protecting the minority against the abuse of power by the majority. But that does not mean the minority will, or should, always prevail. Sometimes they do, sometimes they do not.

So rather than take any more space in The Free Press discussing what seems essentially a distinction without a difference when it comes to defending minority rights, here is my position since my June 6 Your View: First, let the Minnesota voters decide through a simple majority vote. Second, if the amendment passes and there is a specific case contesting it, let the Minnesota courts rule. Third, if there is an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, it will have the final say.

 If that explanation does not satisfy Thursday’s writer, I suggest he stand down until after this term of the U.S. Supreme Court. I think the Court has agreed to hear the California Proposition 8 same sex marriage case — and maybe others — as well as the Federal Defense of Marriage Act.  Before the end of this year we may know if there is a change in the Supreme Court’s current position on states rights in same sex marriage statutes, as well as its position on Amendment XIV in federal same sex marriage cases. I can wait.

Bob Jentges is a former teacher, coach and insurance claims superintendent and is part a team of Free Press readers invited to comment more frequently on issues of the day. He considers himself a conservative.


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