In 1943 Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson wrote in in the case of West Virginia State Board of Education vs. Barnette: 

“Struggles to coerce uniformity of sentiment in support of some end thought essential to their time and country have been waged by many good as well as by evil men…at other times and places the ends have been racial or territorial security, support of a dynasty or regime, and particular plans for saving souls…As governmental pressure toward unity becomes greater, so strife becomes more bitter as to whose unity it shall be…Those who begin coercive elimination of dissent soon find themselves exterminating dissenters. Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard…If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”

These words, written in the middle of World War II, seem to be very appropriate for our time. Now more than ever we need recognition from our leaders of the fundamental right of people to hold different views and opinions. Those leaders need to understand it is not necessary that we all agree; it is necessary that we respect the right to disagree, and strive to exchange our differing opinions with simple civility. 

 

Michael Franklin

Ashtabula

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