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Whose Rights Are More Important? Take a Stand.

3rd January 2017

Whose Rights Are More Important? Take a Stand.
by Senator Linda Newell

A few years ago, I was grateful to go to the Harvard Kennedy School program for Local and State Elected Officials. (Yes, that’s a whole lot of privilege right there, I know, but I was on a full scholarship, if that helps.) I committed to use that privilege for the common good and work even further to better the lives of my constituents. When I attended the program, I learned something very valuable about the quandary we lawmakers would be put into at times when trying to strike a fair balance between constituencies. Whose rights are “more important?” Whose rights win in a battle of wills at the Capitol when bills are being drafted, debated, and voted?

Let’s take freedom of speech and religion, for example. Lasting centuries, most of us today are still big believers in the First Amendment in our U.S. Constitution. The forefathers of our country (after the Native Americans were here first, of course) put in the very first amendment, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech…” You might know that after problems with state-sanctioned churches, they thought we would be better off if we could be free to practice our faiths without any impositions of others’ religions on us.

So, why should we care about our freedom of religion today? Well, if you heard quotes from some of the political candidates this year or have seen some of the bills go through our state legislatures lately, you’ve probably seen some subtle, or not so subtle, discrimination ensuing based on a person’s religion or faith. From some candidates just elected, we heard threats to ban or “vet” people coming into our country based on their religion. We’ve also seen some state legislatures put into law specific allowances for businesses to prohibit people access to their services based on the customer’s sexual orientation or gender. Even students who identify as transgender in some states are now not allowed to enter certain restrooms. Yup, that’s happening.

And every year in Colorado, we also see these types of bills come through that attempt to discriminate against who someone is using the guise of “religious freedom.” Fortunately, we’ve been able to stop them from becoming law here so far, but every year, we’re fighting to do that.

So, whose freedom are we defending? Whose right takes precedence? What ultimately provides for the common good of the community? Clearly not all of us agree, but some of us believe that discrimination of any kind moves us backward in time, in community, and in compassion. Our ancestors fought in battle (and in words) several generations ago for this freedom. Why negate all their efforts and experience that over again, especially when it serves no one today to do so? Sustaining separation, fear, or ignorance has never benefitted a culture, but has contributed to its demise.

Before you feel powerless, though, there is something you can do about it. The Interfaith Alliance of Colorado has embarked upon a new project this year called the Interfaith Force For Good initiative, and you can sign on to it!

We are seeking all individuals, faith leaders and their communities, businesses, nonprofit organizations, and education institutions to join us in the following agreement:

  • All people are created equal, no matter their faith, or no faith.
  • We want to uphold the constitutional right of religious freedom and its free practice for all people, meaning that no one religious belief can be used to infringe upon the rights of others.
  • Everyone has an inalienable right to be treated equally in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
    Can you imagine how different our neighborhoods would be if we were to support each other and nurture each other exactly as we show up in the world? Envision our society if everyone walked down the street, into a business or restroom with the complete freedom of knowing you are enough just as you are, no matter who or how you are. That’s the potential reality with the Interfaith Force For Good initiative. Now, we just need you to join us and speak out for that vision.

Just click on the link below and sign up online. It only takes a minute, and your own voice will be heard as we take our collective stand to the front lines.

For more info about the initiative, click here:

To sign on to be a voice of Force For Good here, click here:

You can also follow us on social media:
Twitter: @interfaithcolo
Interfaith Alliance website:

Hope you join us in a committed coalition through the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado and declare yourself and your organization an “Interfaith Force for Good.”

In peace,
Senator Linda Newell


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