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We need to let others have freedoms, too

To the people of Bemidji and the surrounding area, I have these words: For our sakes, and for our freedom, we must vote “no.”

There have been many letters in this paper concerning religion and the definition of the marriage amendment. If our argument is based in religion, we are at a paradox. We have a right to our beliefs, a right that is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution under the First Amendment. We as Americans pride ourselves on this and many freedoms, and we can believe personally that a marriage between two men or two women is right or wrong. However, if the U.S. is to be a truly free country, freedom must be for all and not dictated by the “believers.”

Religious freedom is a foundation of our country: among many reasons, the Puritans came here from Europe hoping to escape persecution for their different beliefs. If we argue for this amendment on the grounds of religion, we are no better than the European scourge who drove the pilgrims onto the Mayflower.

We must pay heed to what State Rep. Steve Simon had to say in regards to religion and law: “I’m Jewish. Eating pork or shellfish is not allowed in my tradition, but I would never ask the government to impose that on our fellow citizens …We have to be careful about trying to enshrine our beliefs, however religiously valid you may believe them to be, in the Minnesota Constitution.”

The U.S. Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion. We have the right to believe, but so do our neighbors. Devotion to a particular faith cannot be dictated by laws in this country, and we can’t force others into the lifestyle that a particular belief system requires by such means. Non-Christians practice their faiths without any impact on our own personal beliefs; why must we insist on having an impact on theirs? If we rationalize a vote in favor of this amendment using Christian scripture, we are denying our neighbors — our fellow Minnesotans — their Constitutional rights by forcing them to follow our beliefs.

When it comes time to vote on Nov. 6, we must consider our religion and how much freedom we have to practice it. Let others have their freedoms as well. Vote “no,” Minnesota. We must vote “no.”