Declaration of Conscience
Despite manifest differences, each member of the human race shares a rich capacity to seek and experience life’s transcendent meanings. This common human quest inspires our species’ noblest enterprises: its religions, art, music, dance, poetry, literature, philosophy and sciences. Indeed, to be fully human is to search for and venerate a truth and wisdom larger than oneself.
A wise society honors this. It does so by recognizing that diversity is a principle of the universe. Just as the natural world flourishes through a rich, interdependent diversity, so our society – or any society – is the stronger for a pluralism of faiths, ethnic traditions, artistic talents and forms of expression.
That is why we honor the First Amendment and its protections for free speech, religious liberty and separation of church and state. That is why we show the greatest possible tolerance in matters of personal conscience and public expression. Our lives are sacred, and no person or group, religion or movement, political leader or government, may claim dominion over them except as each of us freely gives our allegiance.
Public life can be robust, compassionate and civil only if it honors the spiritual foundations of human life while respecting the inevitable diversity of faiths. E pluribus unum, a founding principle of our nation, must not only strictly be embodied in law, but generously lived in spirit.
We, People for the American Way, therefore, make this declaration of conscience. The fate of this nation lies not just with a system of government and laws. Its destiny will flow from the spirit with which we treat each other. In recognition of this, we acknowledge and celebrate the contribution of religious experience to the values we share: respect, compassion and love, transcending even those differences of ideology and politics that so engage our passions.
Written for People for the American Way, May, 1991.