This Independence Day marks a step backward for our secular nation. A recent slate of rulings from our conservative-leaning Supreme Court have eroded the wall of separation between church and state that our founders constructed nearly 250 years ago.
In the past month, the high court has ruled in support of tax dollars for religious schools, prayers during football games, and against a woman's right to choose whether to continue her pregnancy.
This religious-leaning court and its rulings do not reflect the direction of our nation where nearly 1 in 3 Americans now identify as having "no religion," according to Pew Research. In Hennepin County, 30% of the population identifies as religiously unaffiliated, according to the Public Religion Research Institute.
I'm proud to count myself as one of the more than 75 million secular Americans who are not religious. Due to growth in non-religious views among the millennial generation, and among others identifying more openly, we have become the largest single "religious denomination" in America. I am also proud of my 30-plus years of membership in the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which is fighting to protect Thomas Jefferson's intended "wall" of separation between church and state.
This Independence Day weekend, let's reaffirm our commitment to keep religion out of government. Because there is no freedom of religion without a government that is free from religion.
Steve Petersen, Shoreview
BOYCOTT, DIVEST, AND SANCTION
That, too, is free speech
On June 24, the Supreme Court issued its verdict on Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Clinic, thus striking down the Roe v. Wade ruling that has stood as precedent granting abortion procedures and bodily autonomy constitutional protection for more than 50 years.
This decision is being rightfully condemned locally, nationally and even internationally, with many calling it an erroneous and heinous backslide in human rights protections. This is fact; however, it is not the only heinous backslide for legal rights already decided or pending verdict by this court.
The court issued a ruling in Vega v. Tekoh that police cannot be sued for violating Miranda rights.
And as Justice Clarence Thomas alluded to in his concurrence in Dobbs, more rights are on the chopping block.
The court could hear an appeal brought by the ACLU from the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld an Arkansas law restricting state contractors from taking part in the BDS — Boycott, Divest, and Sanction — movement that criticizes Israel's ongoing human rights abuses of Palestinians.
More than 30 U.S. states (including Minnesota) have laws on the books that stifle free speech and criticism against Israel designed to chill speech that supports Palestine.
The Supreme Court, however, held in 2010 in its decision on Citizens United v. FEC that money is speech. Logic would contend that a boycott withholding money is also considered protected speech.
These laws and the upholding of them ignores history and precedent and are part of a concerted effort to shield Israel from accountability.
No matter how you slice it, anti-BDS laws are state-compelled speech and will have a dire effect in silencing Palestinian voices and those in solidarity with them, posing a clear threat to free speech rights for all.
Jason D. Lee, Richfield
If the focus is crime …
Law and order is on the 2022 political agenda. Many politicians and media companies only highlight the rise in violent crimes such as homicide and carjackings.
However, missing from this rhetoric is domestic violence, the most common violent crime committed in Hennepin County. In 2022, six times more domestic violence cases have been received by the county attorney than for homicide and carjacking combined. About 1,700 domestic violence cases are received by the County Attorney's Office each year, making it the second most common felony in Hennepin County. The news media is doing a great disservice to the public by not reporting on this violent crime and providing it with the same headlines given to other violent crimes.
The U.S. did not take violence against women seriously until 1994 with the bipartisan passage of the Violence Against Women Act. Unfortunately, bipartisan support for the renewal of this bill has eroded significantly in the past decade. This is in spite of the fact that the VAWA has been effective in providing to state and local governments funds to address this violent crime victimizing 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men in all communities regardless of income level, ethnicity, race, religion and political persuasion.
If reducing violent crime is at the top of your agenda in 2022, I urge you ask candidates to explain what they will do to reduce domestic violence and to vote for those who will do so.
Judy Zaunbrecher, Minneapolis
A nod to Sen. Smith
Thank you, U.S. Sen. Tina Smith, for leading us ("Post-Roe, Smith helps lead pushback," June 30). Planned Parenthood and so many other clinics and systems in Minnesota provide essential services that enhance life for people of all genders and ages. At some point in many client visits to my practice I heard clients express surprise and gratitude about their unrestricted access to information about their reproductive health and to the spectrum of options that support it. Please, Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life and other neighbors, know that "mainstream Minnesota" is concerned about life for all. Do not restrict access to health care services.
Kathleen McDonough, Richfield
The writer is a women's health nurse practitioner.
Where Democrats should focus
In their fight to maintain control of Congress, Democrats are seizing on the Supreme Court's Roe ruling as a campaign issue. Democrats face a daunting challenge in the upcoming midterm elections. The Senate is split 50-50. The Democrats hold just a 10-seat majority in the House. In the midterms since World War II, the party in the White House has suffered an average loss of four Senate seats and 26 House seats.
Suburban swing districts will again determine the election outcome, making suburban women a powerful voting bloc. Without a doubt, reproductive rights and access to reproductive health services are critical issues for suburban women. But to defy the electoral odds, Democrats must also address bread-and-butter economic concerns that also matter to moderate suburban voters.
Paradoxically, the collapse of President Joe Biden's Build Back Better agenda could give the Democrats the opportunity to strengthen the party's appeal in moderate suburban swing districts. The child tax credit in the American Rescue Plan provided temporary monthly payments of $250 or $300 per child to most working families. In the six months during which the policy was in effect, monthly child tax credit payments reduced child poverty in the U.S. by about 30%. Making the child tax credit permanent was a critical policy lost in the fight over the overall size and scope of Build Back Better. Now childhood poverty is on the rise.
The Democrats should pull the tax credit provision out of BBB and introduce it as a standalone bill. Force the GOP to vote against economic help for families. Universal pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds was another part of BBB. Introduce universal pre-K in another separate, standalone bill. Force the GOP to vote against that, too.
Show the voters which party is really pro-women and pro-families, and the Democrats may have a chance to hold on to their majorities in the House and Senate — and perhaps even increase them.
David Aquilina, Richfield