Dear Mr. Speaker
…….An open letter to The Speaker of the U. S. House of Representatives
Dear Mr. Speaker,
Your recent election to Speaker of the House of Representatives can and probably should stir a sense of modest pride and gratitude among our fellow Louisianans, and deserves the sincerest offerings of congratulations. Your hard work and dedication has been well rewarded with this honor. I am sure that you are prepared in every way to take on the challenges this job will present, and that you likewise have the dedication to manage the weighty responsibility with a firm resolve.
At the same time, I encourage you to never forget your oath to the U. S. Constitution, to which all members of your august body have pledged, and keep it as a cornerstone for evaluating proposed legislation you will be in charge of scheduling for hearings, debates, and voting. And more broadly, to dedicate yourself to preserving perhaps the most fundamental ideal our founders and the great philosophical minds before them envisioned: the ideal of the inherent dignity of all humans. I know this principle can be eschewed in times of adversity, or just ignored when it doesn’t fit neatly into one’s worldview, but without this shared mutual respect of all citizens by all citizens, there is nothing to prevent humanity from reverting to Hobbes’ “war of all against all.” Related to this common dignity, and in a more practical sense, is the equal protection and justice for all citizens under the law.
For someone who has had a chance to occassionally follow your career in public service and am now learning more through a flood of media reports, I must say that I find your words and actions can be worrisome as related to both your commitment to your oath to the Constitution and to any belief you profess about the basics of human dignity and the equal protection of laws. I realize you, a devout Christian would appreciate that I, an atheist, understand that strong and faithful religious beliefs certainly have a place in the traditions and emotional well being of many fine people. But to claim there is some higher law to which humanity—or particularly, America— is bound, or to give the authority of codified law to proposals that are influenced, informed, or motivated solely on one’s interpretation of her personal religion, is a de facto imposition of a state religion—a clear violation of our constitution’s First Amendment.
Scores of court cases have reaffirmed this over the past 75 years. Any legislation that degrades, dehumanizes, or demonizes the inherent value of people of diverse races, religions, sexual or gender identities contributes to dissolving the bonds of our common humanity and creates enemies of our neighbors. Laws that deprive one half of our population—women—autonomy over their bodies in times of crisis (and fetuses are a part of a woman’s body), or restrict proven medical wellness procedures in their reproductive biology, violate every equal protection clause in the constitution.
As the leader of the Republican conference in the House of Representatives, I would encourage you to resist the temptation to succumb to your personal wishes, or to pressure from fringe caucuses in your party to support or advance legislation, or to otherwise use your authority to dismiss election results submitted by individual states, or to reject any state’s electors in an election of the U.S. President based on unverified claims of widespread fraud. As one of 120 fellow Republican representatives, you voted against accepting the electors of Pennsylvania and Arizona in the last presidential election, despite 60-odd court challenges that were rebuffed due to shoddy or no evidence. As a leading attorney in the Texas lawsuit challenging the results of several other states, it seems your desire to overturn the election blurred your judgment about Texas’ lack of standing in such a lawsuit. I know nobody likes to lose, but it is imperative for you to temper your desires with measured reason when it comes to such important elections. Democracy itself depends on it.
As a representative of your district in north Louisiana, I know you did well by your constituents. Now, you must be a fair and even-keeled referee, and recognize that as leader of a national body of lawmakers, you answer to a diverse assembly of over 330 million citizens. Any dreams of transforming a prosperous and open secular government into a mythical Christian paradise under God’s law can only be realized by growing a base of support from the ground up, and not implemented from the top down through legislation
For now, you are due the courtesy of congratulations, but for me, any emotions of pride and gratitude will be on hold—hopefully only temporarily—pending your words and actions going forward in your job.
Marty Bankson, Editor The Humanist Advocate
New Orleans Secular Humanist Association