Edith Guffey: What happened to liberty? (Column)

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We have been treated to a few weeks of the Supreme Court making decisions that are already impacting the lives of millions of people. We understand the need for that. Some group has to be the authority. Although the Supreme Court’s ruling about guns could lead one to think differently, we don’t expect to live in the wild wild west; we understand that there has to be some semblance of order as we have to live together. 

My dismay and my confusion is that we are being told that the basis for decisions from the court are rooted in interpretations of what the “founding fathers” intended.

The justices are way smarter than I am, and I respect that they have spent years studying the law and the nuances of the constitution. Admittedly, I am a pretty simple person, so I am likely way off-base here. But I wonder, if the justices are so concerned about history and intent, what do they make of some of the other important documents of our country and the intent of the founding fathers? 

Since it’s the Fourth of July weekend, take, say, the Declaration of Independence. That goes pretty far back in the history of the country. In fact, I’d say it’s foundational. And it names liberty as an unalienable right: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The founding fathers seemed pretty concerned about liberty. And intentional or not, the concept of liberty is deeply woven into the narrative of our county. It’s in the words we ask many children to recite daily in the Pledge of Allegiance: One nation (under God) indivisible with liberty and justice for all. The Statue of Liberty is one of the most well-known monuments in America and is proclaimed as a welcoming and lasting symbol of freedom. 

The dictionary defines liberty as the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views

When the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, they took away some liberty from those who can become pregnant. And make no mistake: by taking that liberty away from some, we are all diminished.

I don’t know that I have been clear in this column: I am a person of faith, a Christian. And I believe in the right to choose. A person’s right to make decisions about their own body and future is theirs to make, not mine. 

And for those who think the decision about Roe v. Wade is prelude to a repeal of same-sex marriage — for the record, I also celebrate that a person has found love, whomever it is. It’s about liberty, and yes, it’s also about justice for all.

It’s the Fourth of July weekend. In the days and weeks ahead, remember and protect the unalienable right of liberty.

— Edith Guffey recently retired from a 30-year career with the United Church of Christ. After serving at the national offices located in Cleveland, Ohio, Edith and her husband Jerry returned to Lawrence and Edith served as the Conference Minister of the Kansas-Oklahoma Conference until she retired at the end of 2021. You will find her at home in Lawrence trying to understand what it actually means to be retired and trying to figure out the complexities of the pandemic so she and Jerry can travel for fun instead of work. Read more of Edith’s work for the Times at this link.

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