Saturday, October 13, 2012

Bigotry and Intolerance in Franklin, Vermont

We've written about this before: a local resident, Marilyn Hackett, successfully sued the town of Franklin and this year won an injunction preventing the town fathers from beginning their annual Town Meeting with a prayer.

It was a heroic effort and the news reports at the time documented the abuse she was subjected to based on her willingness to stand up for her principles. Perhaps most shockingly, one of the suggestions from the town was that if she doesn't like the prayer she just shouldn't show up at Town Meeting. That's right, in the view of some of her fellow townspeople it would be reasonable to condition her right to participate in the governance of her town on her acceding to their religious views.

Today the Burlington Free Press has an update, and guess what: bigotry and intolerance are still rampant in Franklin. I think the article is behind their paywall, but here are a couple of key quotes:

“It’s almost like a joke — a cheap shot — to try to knock that thing out of there.”
“I said right from the beginning to have an outsider come into town and all of a sudden she’s changed the way Franklin runs its Town Meeting,” Hartman said. “I think it’s awful.”
"If she (Hackett) was somebody who wanted to be a part of that town, she could’ve overlooked that."

In addition, the story by Sally Pollak makes clear that Marilyn Hackett continues to be harassed, including by students at the school where she works in nearby Richford.

What do we learn from this episode? A few things.

First, if there were any doubt, today's story illustrates just how brave someone has to be to stand up for principle, especially in a small town.

Second, it confirms the heroism of Marilyn Hackett.

Finally, everything in this story demonstrates how important it was for Marilyn Hackett and the ACLU to bring this case. It's not the people who go along with the majority, who hold popular opinions, who need the Constitution's protection. It is the minorities, people who can't get their way without the protection of the law, the courts, and civil libertarians.




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1 Comments:

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