Letter to the Editor

By Gordon R J King

Editor:

Christopher Condrat’s Feb. 14 letter caught my attention because of a false premise. While I agree with him that a newspaper has a right to set editorial standards, his premise that the United States somehow grants rights is completely without merit.

His comment that the Bill of Rights should be renamed the “Bill of Privileges” is completely ludicrous. Perhaps Mr. Condrat should stick to electrical engineering and avoid questions of constitutional law.

I once had a professor in the department of religious studies at the University of Virginia. His name was Fr. Jerry Fogerty, SJ. The Jesuit Father Fogerty taught many classes, but I refer specifically to his American Religious History class.

One of Father Fogerty’s best lectures was on the difference between Roman law and constitutional law. Under the former, rights are granted by the state. In that system, the state is the ultimate authority.

Under a constitutional system like ours, laws are based on the belief that even government must do what is right. Indeed, there must be general agreement on a concept of right and wrong for a constitutional system to work.

All rights are God given?”fundamental” as Mr. Condrat says?and the state must uphold those rights. Indeed, the state unjustly denies those rights at its peril. Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, even advocated open rebellion against a state which denies people fundamental rights.

That said, the concept of responsibility rears its head. There can be no rights without responsibility. If I take my right to free speech and attempt to use it to hurt someone?e.g. by shouting “fire” in a crowded theater, or by slandering another?then I have violated the rights of that person.

Irresponsibility, therefore, results in the loss of rights. In the examples above, the state could take away my freedom (sending me to prison) or my property (fining me or allowing another to sue me).

Violation of copyright is a crime, and the state must take action to protect the rights of the copyright holder. On the other hand, this newspaper may print excerpts with permission, but with the freedom to set its own editorial standards.

Our nation has a unique and wonderful constitutional system. I wish more folks would take the time to gain even a basic understanding of what it really means to be free.

Gordon R J King

Staff, Parking Services