Monday, November 8, 2010

Conscience and Public Policy

At NPR, Kathryn Jean Lopez implores Barack Obama to make "permanent and universal" a policy that calls for "No federal taxpayer funding of abortion, period."

She argues:

"You and I don't have to agree on the morality of abortion to keep my money out of it. [...] It would show you respect the moral consciences of many Americans — and that you don't view us as enemies."

As a pacifist, I am intrigued by Ms. Lopez's line of argument. I believe war is morally wrong. Since Ms. Lopez believes that government money should not be used on activities that violate citizens' private consciences, I am certain Ms. Lopez would also support a ban on using federal taxpayer funding on foreign wars. After all, we don't have to agree on the morality of warfare to keep my money out of it.

I am also intrigued by this argument as an animal rights advocate. I hope Ms. Lopez would join me in supporting an end to government subsidies for animal agriculture and a ban (or very significant limit) on government funding for scientific research using animals. Such a policy would show that those in power respect the moral consciences of many Americans.

It may be that sometimes good public policy violates the consciences of individual citizens. But if it is the case that we will tie the use of federal taxpayer dollars to individual consciences, perhaps the government should cease funding any activities that violate any citizens' consciences, even if it doesn't violate others'.

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