Tuesday letters: Moral judgments used to justify bigotry

08/12/2014 12:00 AM

08/11/2014 6:40 PM

While Warren Koestner is correct that the Constitution does not guarantee rights for specific groups (“Black, gay rights not to be compared,” Aug 4), we should consider the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights: that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” No exceptions.

What the Constitutional Convention did say about a specific group was that a black man was worth three-fifths of a white man for representation purposes, and was property for purposes of taxation. The Constitution did not protect the rights of slaves. It took the enlightenment of modernity to recognize the rights of African-Americans, over objections that this would subvert “the natural order.”

Opposition to the rights of other groups always has been based on alleged violations to the “intentions of the Founding Fathers.”

In the early 20th century, the National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage raised pretty much the same arguments, “because it is unwise to risk the good we already have for the evil which may occur.” Religious organizations were opposed because women had enough domestic freedom without a vote, and the Constitution made no provision for such rights. Southern white men opposed it, fearing that black women would be able to vote against them. It took the 19th Amendment to right that wrong in 1920.

Evidently inserting one’s own moral judgments to justify exclusion, prejudice and bigotry is as American as apple pie.

Joseph Delgado

Columbia

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