The following letter was published in my local newspaper earlier this week:
The will of the majority should always prevail
In her article "Religious are leery of right too" (May 18), Ann Woolner was confused and illogical. She says in effect that those who opposed the obstructionist tactics of Senate Democrats in preventing a vote in the full Senate on President Bush's judicial nominees by means of the filibuster are trying to turn the United States into a theocracy. That is rubbish.
Democratic senators are acting in stark opposition to the belief expressed by Thomas Jefferson when he said, "It is my principle that the will of the majority should always prevail."
To equate voluntary prayer in a public school or at graduation with the establishment of religion, which is prohibited by the First Amendment, is such nonsense it can hardly be treated seriously.
[name and address redacted]
My response follows:
Minority rights must be protected
A previous writer misused a quotation from Thomas Jefferson to support his position that the majority's will "should always prevail." Although Jefferson did write those words in a 1787 letter to James Madison, and used similar phrases at other times, Jefferson's seemingly absolutist stance was tempered by the need to prevent misuse of majority power. This passage from his 1801 inaugural speech illustrates his concern:"[T]hough the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will, to be rightful, must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal laws must protect, and to violate would be oppression."
Many other examples prove that Jefferson was far from being a proponent of unrestricted governmental power, such as that promulgated today in Washington. Instead, he was adamant that strict limitations (such as the First Amendment's separation of church and state) were needed to safeguard the rights of minorities against the tyranny of the majority.
Democratic senators, in trying to prevent a handful of ideologues from twisting the judiciary further to the right, are performing exactly that kind of necessary duty. Some may call them "obstructionists," but those Senators are properly fulfilling their Constitutional duty of "advice and consent" with respect to the President's most questionable nominees, and are following long-standing Senate rules in doing so.