Letter: Assist for SB 2180 is sweet rhetoric, however it’s a nasty regulation

Shortly before the current COVID-19 pandemic began, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in justification for extreme measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus, “And if everything we do saves only one life, I’ll be happy.” “Such statements make for good rhetoric, but bad politics and even worse law.

Our country does not have an “at any cost” approach to justice. The indisputable good of bringing criminals to justice must be balanced with other goods, the most important of which are listed in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The first change guarantees every citizen the right to practice their religion without being coerced by the government. Other laws cannot unduly burden the exercise of this freedom. Whatever practical benefits SB 2180 would provide must be weighed against the costs of forcing people to violate their righteous religious beliefs, and it is not clear that SB 2180 can be used in reporting child abuse or prosecuting offenders will improve significantly.

Rob Port rejects religious freedom arguments against SB 2180, saying, “I am sad to see the religious freedom argument used to protect people who harm children.” And: “I cannot imagine a scenario in which a decent person would, under all circumstances, withhold evidence of the harm to a child from the competent authorities.” Statements like this are compelling rhetoric, but they are a poor substitute for an informed debate about the pros and cons of practical politics. All people of goodwill – including Catholics – want child molesters to be brought to justice. However, there is room for reasonable disagreement about the means used to achieve these ends, and it is neither honest nor productive to view all opponents of SB 2180 as motivated because of a desire to protect child abusers.

Nick Dusek lives in Fargo.

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