â€œWe hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equalâ€¦â€
– Abraham Lincoln
Created equal? Absolutely. Abraham Lincoln spoke those words when the nation was in the throes of civil war, with the issue of slavery catalyzing the conflict. Blacks kidnapped from Africa were treated as less than human by many of our forefathers, slaveholders and otherwise; this remains one of the darkest moments in American history. But the question for us is, do we really believe that all people are equal, and that they ought to be treated so? Contemporary events suggest otherwise.
Item: In December, Governor Mark Schweiker signs into law H.B. 1493, an amendment to Pennsylvaniaâ€™s Ethnic Intimidation Act. What the bill does is to add the words “ancestry, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity” to the list of those who are â€œprotectedâ€ by Pennsylvaniaâ€™s ultra-trendy-but-ultimately-silly â€œhate crimesâ€ legislation. Hate-crimes legislation, such as H.B. 1493, has the chilling effect denying equal protection before the law to all citizens. If your 7-year-old is brutally murdered, the assailant will be punished if convicted, but if a homosexual is brutally murdered, the assailant will now be punished more severely. Beyond this, those familiar with the legislation fear that free speech will be muzzled thereby; will those who believe and teach that homosexuality is immoral be held as accessories in the terrible event that a crime is committed against a homosexual? The answer is unclear. Bottom line: if current laws are not sufficient to deter crimes against homosexuals, or those of a particular race, or the disabled, then by all means strengthen those lawsâ€”across the board. Governor Schweiker unwittingly created classes of citizens, quite contrary to Lincolnâ€™s vision.
Item: Affirmative Action is again before us as President Bush takes on the admissions policies of the University of Michiganâ€™s School of Law. The schoolâ€™s policy, which is based upon a point system, awards twelve points to a prospective student on the basis of getting a perfect SAT score; this same system awards twenty points to students who are part of a racial minority. Is this sane? Is it right? And in the month in which we rightly honor Dr. Martin Luther King, can we honestly believe that Dr. King, whose dream was that one day, people would be judged, not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character, would have supported such policies? The sad irony of this whole issue is that so much is made of â€œdiversityâ€ in admissions policies, but little is said of the success ratesâ€”or lack thereofâ€”of students admitted on the basis of color rather than merit. Evidence suggests that we set students up for failure when we place them in positions for which they are not ready. What have we gained in the long run? Who have we helped? A better policy would be to encourage all studentsâ€”regardless of color, ethnicity, religion, or whatever qualifier you care to name, to find schools where their opportunity for scholastic success is maximized. Again, we get into trouble when we do not treat all people as equal.
Item: This same month, we observe the thirtieth anniversary of the constitutionally-silly Roe v. Wade decision. Editorial writers were predictable in their breathless rush to miss the point. Said the Orlando Sentinel: â€œRoe v. Wade ended decades of despair, hopelessness, and medical danger for countless American women.â€ Well, not exactly countlessâ€¦in the year prior to the Roe decision, 1972, thirty-nine women died from complications from illegal abortions. Perhaps the Sentinel over-speaksâ€”by a country mile? Then this from the Tulsa World: â€œThe question really is whether we want America to have a broad range of safe and effective reproductive services, or whether we want to make criminals out of millions of Americans facing difficult circumstances. That really has always been the question.â€
Please. That really has never been the question. The questionâ€”the only question, when you boil it all down, is â€œwhat is it?â€ Everything hinges on the answer to that question, the question of what that thing is inside the womb. If â€œitâ€ is non-human, then of course abortion is reasonable; why put oneself out for a mass of tissue or a few cells? If, on the other hand, â€œitâ€ is a baby, then that baby, â€œcreated equalâ€ and endowed by the Creator with the inalienable rights of life, liberty, et al, cannot be rudely sucked from the womb as though we were removing a wart.
Created equal, with rights to life and liberty? To be judged by the content of our character rather than irrelevancies like the color of our skin? We still look forward to the day when these are realities rather than mere dreams.