Hypocrisy Is on the Ballot in Vermont

In the practice of slavery the human dignity, economic opportunity, and personal liberty of the powerful was counted as more important than the human dignity of the vulnerable.

by Neal Patel

This November 8, the people of Vermont will be asked to approve two different changes to our State Constitution.  Both ballot measures involve the fundamental matter of human dignity, but when compared side-by-side, they reveal muddled ethics and hypocrisy of the highest order. To see why this is so, let’s compare the two proposed changes.

The first proposal is to amend Article 1, clarifying that slavery in any form is prohibited in our state. The precise wording of the proposed change reads:

Article 1. All persons born free; their natural rights; slavery and indentured servitude prohibited

That all persons are born equally free and independent, and have certain natural, inherent, and unalienable rights, amongst which are the enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety; therefore no person born in this country, or brought from oversea, ought to be holden by law, to serve any person as a servant, slave or apprentice, after arriving to the age of twenty-one years, unless bound by the person’s own consent, after arriving to such age, or bound by law for the payment of debts, damages, fines, costs, or the like slavery and indentured servitude in any form are prohibited.”

The old language left open the possibility for voluntary, indentured servitude – an old practice by which people in desperate circumstances voluntarily and temporarily promised their labor to a patron to pay a significant debt. I do not wish to dispute the ethics of voluntary indentured servitude here. It is enough to say that modern objections to this practice are based on the moral convictions that all men are created equal and that the right of every human being to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness should be protected by the law and not infringed. Therefore, no human being ought to be owned by any other human being, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, whether temporarily or permanently.

Whether indentured servitude exists today anywhere in the State of Vermont is beyond my purview. However, the impetus for this change in 2022 seems born out of a desire to clarify our laws in the present to wash our hands of historic injustice and to disallow the potential for any such practice in the future. Despite lingering questions about the need for such a change today, the desire of legislators to protect the human dignity and freedom of all persons, especially the weak and vulnerable is something that all Vermonters ought to support wholeheartedly.

However, when we turn to the second proposed constitutional change, the moral hypocrisy is immediately evident. The second proposed change to our constitution concerns reproductive liberty. The proposed text of Article 22 reads:

Article 22. [Personal reproductive liberty] That an individual’s right to personal reproductive autonomy is central to the liberty and dignity to determine one’s own life course and shall not be denied or infringed unless justified by a compelling State interest achieved by the least restrictive means. 

The purpose of Article 22 is to permanently protect the right to “personal reproductive autonomy.” This is certainly a measure specifically designed to protect abortion (even up to the point of birth) as a fundamental and inalienable right of all Vermonters. On the surface, this amendment may seem morally identical to the first proposal. After all, it is designed to protect the rights of persons to freedom, autonomy, and liberty to “determine one’s own life course.” 

But when we dig deeper, it is immediately apparent that the cherished value of human dignity is only selectively applied. In the case of abortion, there are always two human lives in the balance. The human life of the mother and the human life of the child in the womb. Or we might rightly say, the life of the powerful and the life of the vulnerable – the life of the human being with rights under the law and the human being without rights under the law. In fact, it has been said that abortion is the slavery of our time. Why make such an inflammatory comparison? Because in the practice of slavery the human dignity, economic opportunity, and personal liberty of the powerful was counted as more important than the human dignity of the vulnerable. Some human beings had rights under the law and others did not, and the rights of the vulnerable human beings were infringed to prefer the rights and privileges of the powerful, protected class. Rightly, the purpose for anti-slavery laws is to uphold the human rights of all persons equally, and especially to protect the human dignity and personal autonomy of the vulnerable from being infringed by the powerful. In short, the equal rights of all human beings, whether powerful or vulnerable, ought to be protected by the laws of our State. 

Although the march toward unrestricted “reproductive autonomy” is viewed as a matter of human rights, it is clearly a defense of the human rights of the mother against the human rights of the child. Do you see the hypocrisy on display in these two proposed constitutional changes? One seeks to protect the human dignity and autonomy of all persons, while the other seeks to protect the human dignity and autonomy of some persons over other persons.  

For this reason, I plead with all Vermonters to defend the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all Vermonters, whether powerful or vulnerable, whether rich or poor, whether born or unborn, and to strike down Article 22 in the name of human rights. If we do not strike down Article 22, even while we seek to cleanse our left hand from the historic stain of slavery, we will be soiling our right hand in the injustice of our own day.

In our age of fierce political polarization, I don’t expect to change everyone’s minds. But I do call on every Vermonter who truly cherishes the human dignity of all persons to strike down Article 22. For those who plan to support Article 22, I hope you will consider that your support of this article is based on something other than the equality of all persons under the law.

The author is Senior Pastor at Valley Bible Church in White River Junction.

Categories: Commentary

12 replies »

  1. Thank you for logically and respectfully uncovering the truth that too many people don’t even think about.

  2. There are no prohibitions… or guarantees… to anything in Article 22… with the exception of ‘… a compelling State interest’. We fought a civil war when certain states declared that African American slaves did not qualify for constitutional protections. And Vermont was on the righteous side of that conflict. Today, when it comes to the rights of the unborn, perhaps not so much. It’s paradoxical, not to mention schizophrenic, that one proposed amendment under consideration (Proposal 2) reaffirms the rights of free people, while the other (Proposal 5) eliminates those rights? Ironically, if Article 22 passes, we’re all slaves. It’s Orwell’s 1984 redux: “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”

  3. It seems obvious that the excessive reach of Article 22 would take it beyond the bounds of any respect.

  4. What seems even more obvious is the deliberate mistranslation of the intent of the amendment. As you’ll see when the dust settles no one is fooled by your side’s misinterpretation of the amendment. Free speech and all that. You have your “free speech. The rest of us will exercise ours with out vote.

    • If you are referring to Article 22’s verbiage of ” and shall not be denied or infringed unless justified by a compelling State interest achieved by the least restrictive means.” Then you must also know of the vast array of Vermont Supreme Court and USSC cases that are litigated just to determine intent. As written, this amendment with those specific words will indeed require litigation to determine intent. Many of the recent dramas created by “your side” is to challenge the “intent” of the framers of the Vermont and US Constitution. Regardless of one’s individual views of abortion or ‘reproductive rights’, the inclusion of this verbiage is damaging to all views and actions on abortion or ‘reproductive rights’. Your yes vote says you shall subjugate your autonomy over such things to “the state” if “the state” has a compelling interest. Without specific wording as to what that “state interest” might be. When the dust settles, particularly from the gaslighting of the left, we shall find that Article 22 is a Pandora’s box of allegedly “unintended consequence”- written expressly to appear innocuous- but full of peril for every Vermont resident regardless of political or moral views. Any legislation granting government control or rule over anything is dangerous. to codify as an Amendment to the Vermont Constitution is pure folly.

    • Misinterpretation, misinformation, misgendered, mis,mis,mis, the left’s Orwelian new speak. The left has their own language that normal people should misappropriate to the trash heap of junk language like the Urban Dictionary.

      John means not properly defined and we have our facts and he has his opinion. And when the dust settles, he will be wrong!

  5. I’m voting no on both. Article 22 is the revenge of Roe VS Wade. The legislature had to show it’s muscle in response to the Supreme Court decision. So instead of Article 22 actually saying anything that provides a right the wipe it out by giving the state an avenue to declare what rights their talking about. When the government decides what our natural rights are, we no longer have any rights. Natural rights are from our creator not from government.

    The Slavery issue in Article 5 is already covered by the original writing that they are trying to virtue signal over. Probably combing though our state laws as vast as they are, I’m sure it’s already illegal to own another person or make them do anything. The original constitution is a historical document that doesn’t need correction from a bunch of elite snobs who think they are more intelligent than the original writers. We are not governed by the best and brightest. The term overlords is more like it.

  6. One could argue that financial slavery is the condition under which we have been subjected for decades by government over spending and taxation.

    The amendment proposal to Article 1 does not address that, but it could eliminate any reasonable agreement to compensate for personal private debt between two parties freely entered into, but leaves the STATE indebtedness untouched and citizens at their mercy.

    • I wonder the same.. Are inmates indentured servants when they get paid below the minimum wage for the work in the correctional facility kitchens, libraries, sweeping and moping the prison floors, assisting as law clerks or the facility’s recreation coordinator and more? If they are, would then passage of this article require they be paid minimum wage and more? I’m voting ‘no’ about changing the constitution in any way. whatever.

  7. Wait a MINUTE! What about the SLAVES “indentured” on Vt.’s LFO Dairy “Farms”? They cannot LEAVE as they are here ILLEGALLY, they can’t complain, so much for “Milk With Dignity” eh? And ALL the current Border Jumpers who either PAID the Cartels $6,000 each or else are “Indentured” to them for who-knows-how long or MUST do their bidding? We’re talking 5 MILLION or MORE since Biden was “elected”, what about THEM too? Gov. Scott says he’ll gladly take some even though Vt. has a “housing crisis”? Hypocrisy is an apt word here..

  8. Talk about hypocrisy . The state let places pass laws for
    Prostitution the biggest slavery act today. Human trafficking = enslaved women ,men and children existing in our state and country. It’s legal .

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