www.mozilla.com Weather Central
Voices
Headlines

Bias prevents civil discussion of education issues -9/18/2014, 9:35 AM

Immigration is American -9/18/2014, 9:35 AM

Costs to states not expanding Medicaid -9/17/2014, 10:14 AM

Medicare threats -9/17/2014, 10:12 AM

Green fields in northwest Kansas -9/17/2014, 10:12 AM

Consolidation by starvation -9/16/2014, 9:54 AM

School mergers tricky -9/16/2014, 9:54 AM

Hotel tipping -9/16/2014, 9:54 AM

Abuse video revealed nothing we didn't know -9/15/2014, 9:20 AM

Lessons from 13 years ago -9/15/2014, 9:20 AM

The zero option -9/14/2014, 1:31 PM

Why branding ISIS matters -9/14/2014, 1:31 PM

School efficiency -9/14/2014, 1:31 PM

Favors and loot for sale -9/12/2014, 10:10 AM

The 'college experience' -9/12/2014, 10:10 AM

Ellis schools -9/11/2014, 10:10 AM

Hold on, Mr. President -9/11/2014, 9:26 AM

The best bathroom -9/11/2014, 9:26 AM

The day the world stood still -9/11/2014, 9:26 AM

No one can play your part -9/9/2014, 9:55 AM

Playing candidate dress-up -9/9/2014, 9:55 AM

Congress at work -9/9/2014, 9:55 AM

Schmidt is the answer -9/9/2014, 9:55 AM

The liabilities of cannabis use -9/8/2014, 9:21 AM

Downtown decision -9/8/2014, 9:21 AM

Why are red states so far behind? -9/8/2014, 9:20 AM

Taylor's next move -9/5/2014, 10:16 AM

Consider trees to spruce up yard -9/5/2014, 10:15 AM

Washington takes action to reform VA -9/5/2014, 10:15 AM

Umbehr stands out -9/4/2014, 12:25 PM

Leadership education -- it's not a scam -9/4/2014, 12:24 PM

Not supporting Brownback's re-election -9/4/2014, 12:23 PM

A fair fair debate -9/3/2014, 9:23 AM

Suicide in today's age -9/3/2014, 9:23 AM

Regulation overreach -9/3/2014, 9:23 AM

Sharpton, Kobach's common ground -9/3/2014, 9:23 AM

In charge of all -9/3/2014, 9:23 AM

Pocket-book debate? -9/3/2014, 9:23 AM

Educating voters on education -9/2/2014, 9:33 AM

Crazy election season in Kansas -9/2/2014, 9:33 AM

An erosion of authenticity -8/31/2014, 4:39 PM

Blasphemy, free speech and the 'black mass' -8/31/2014, 4:39 PM

Labor Day -8/31/2014, 4:39 PM

Flexing muscles -8/29/2014, 10:00 AM

Blacks must confront reality -8/29/2014, 10:00 AM

The leadership scam -8/29/2014, 10:00 AM

Green monster -8/28/2014, 10:14 AM

The resurrection of Rick Perry -8/28/2014, 10:14 AM

Senate campaign -8/28/2014, 10:14 AM

Right to be heard? -8/26/2014, 10:08 AM

Over-covering Ferguson -8/26/2014, 10:07 AM

Figuring out the tax debate -8/26/2014, 10:07 AM

An obvious ploy -8/25/2014, 9:29 AM

Not-so-beautiful sunset -8/25/2014, 9:29 AM

Cannabis therapy -- Why bother? -8/25/2014, 9:29 AM

Business climate of Kansas -8/24/2014, 11:39 AM

James Foley: Courage in the face of danger -8/24/2014, 11:39 AM

Festering wound -8/24/2014, 11:39 AM

Big banks settling -8/22/2014, 10:16 AM

Tuition pays for this -8/22/2014, 10:16 AM

College textbook scam -8/22/2014, 10:16 AM

Policing a riot -8/21/2014, 9:45 AM

Evil strikes back -8/21/2014, 9:45 AM

Art appreciation -8/21/2014, 9:45 AM

Abuse of power -8/20/2014, 8:22 AM

Ferguson police arrest reporters for reporting -8/20/2014, 8:21 AM

Don't 'got milk' -8/20/2014, 8:21 AM

Another road map to success? -8/19/2014, 10:05 AM

It's the abuse of power, stupid -8/19/2014, 10:04 AM

Riots in Ferguson, and what they mean -8/18/2014, 9:57 AM

One of billions -8/18/2014, 9:57 AM

The GOP presents: Barack-nado -8/17/2014, 2:08 PM

Media and Missouri: What's going on? -8/17/2014, 2:08 PM

Answer the bell -8/15/2014, 8:58 AM

Get ready for denials -8/15/2014, 8:49 AM

Mental illness -8/15/2014, 8:49 AM

Mindless drones -8/14/2014, 9:27 AM

Can-do attitude -8/14/2014, 9:27 AM

'Poor door' -- a symbol of a truth we all know -8/13/2014, 9:19 AM

Eyeing the Ogallala Aquifer -8/13/2014, 9:19 AM

The slacker congress -8/12/2014, 9:02 AM

CIA vs. Senate -8/12/2014, 9:02 AM

The cannabis conundrum -- we against us -8/11/2014, 8:55 AM

The debate is over -8/11/2014, 8:54 AM

The 'Almost' Revolution -8/10/2014, 3:28 PM

Is cross a history lesson or state religion? -8/10/2014, 3:28 PM

Another downgrade -8/10/2014, 3:28 PM

State economy plays critical role in the future of FHSU -8/10/2014, 2:09 PM

Building on past successes for a stronger future -8/10/2014, 2:09 PM

Will Palin's channel rival Comedy Central? -8/8/2014, 9:25 AM

Western anti-Semitism -8/8/2014, 9:25 AM

Patrolmen without borders -8/7/2014, 10:13 AM

Not a choice -8/7/2014, 10:12 AM

Ebola politics -8/7/2014, 10:12 AM

Too few voters -8/6/2014, 10:03 AM

A special breed -8/6/2014, 10:03 AM

A license to vote -8/6/2014, 10:03 AM

Selfies in Auschwitz -- and why it's wrong -8/6/2014, 10:03 AM

Election turnout -8/5/2014, 9:19 AM

Dairy's closing -8/5/2014, 9:19 AM

myTown Calendar

SPOTLIGHT
[var top_story_head]

Democracy minus freedom equals tyranny

Published on -7/14/2013, 12:59 PM

Printer-friendly version
E-Mail This Story

Violent protests and a rising death toll across Egypt this week are tragic reminders free and fair elections are no guarantee of a free and fair society.

Only one year ago, Mohammad Morsi won Egypt's first free presidential election -- giving him and his supporters an historic opportunity to move Egypt toward a truly democratic society.

Instead, Morsi moved to consolidate power in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood, the organization he represents, alienating opposition parties and alarming religious minorities.

Of course, Egypt's deepening economic crisis helped swell the ranks of protesters calling for an end to the Morsi regime.

But anger about Morsi's increasingly authoritarian rule had been growing for months until it finally exploded in the streets, providing the military with the opportunity to remove Morsi from power July 3.

One on the key lessons of the crisis in Egypt is one familiar to students of past revolutions: Democracy without safeguards for individual rights is a recipe for tyranny of the majority.

Lest we forget, opposition to the proposed American Constitution in 1787 was, in large measure, fueled by the absence of a Bill of Rights guaranteeing fundamental freedoms for every person.

Many Baptists and other minority Christian groups, for example, were fearful the draft Constitution would not guard against government interference with the practice of their faith.

As religious dissenters from the formerly established church, they worried without an explicit prohibition of state establishment of religion, a majority faith one day would impose itself on the country through the engine of government (a form of oppression many experienced in Europe and some of the colonies).

Only by promising to add a Bill of Rights -- including strong protections for religious freedom -- were the Federalists able to win ratification of the Constitution in 1788.

By sharp contrast, Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood drafted and pushed through a new Egyptian constitution as though a democratic election had empowered the majority to do whatever the majority desires -- with little obligation to hear minority voices or protect minority rights.

From the outset, the Morsi government ensured the Muslim Brotherhood would dominate the constitutional drafting assembly, ignoring the protests of other parties. So flawed and hasty was the drafting, non-Islamist members of the assembly withdrew from the process, calling into question the legitimacy of the new constitution.

As a result, religious freedom, free speech and other basic rights either are ignored or given lip service in the Egyptian Constitution ratified earlier this year.

"Islam is the religion of the state," declares the Constitution, and Islamic law is the "principle source of legislation." Although certain religions (Jews and Christians) are given limited freedom to practice their faith, other religions are afforded no real protection.

The Muslim Brotherhood might have won the vote. But for democracy to work in the best interests of all citizens, fundamental human rights must be protected from majority rule.

First among those rights is liberty of conscience, the freedom to practice one's faith in a society where the government is prohibited from taking sides in religion.

A "democracy" where the government -- including a popularly elected government -- is empowered to violate religious liberty, freedom of expression and other basic rights, is a form of tyranny.

Despite the disturbing failures of the Morsi government to protect human rights, the cure for flawed or distorted democracy is more democracy -- not a military coup.

Acting in the name of "the people" to deny minority rights and to impose religion is wrong and unjust. But overturning an elected government by military force in the name of "the people" is equally wrong and unjust.

If and when Egypt tries democracy again, the first step must be for all sides to agree on a strong Bill of Rights that limits the power of government to violate the inalienable rights that are the birthright of every human being.

As Thomas Jefferson famously wrote to James Madison: "A bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth ... and what no government should refuse."

Charles C. Haynes is director of the Religious Freedom Education Project at the Newseum, Washington

chaynes@newseum.org

digg delicious facebook stumbleupon google Newsvine
More News and Photos

Associated Press Videos