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Thought for the Day: Freedom of Choice Does Not Grant Right to Choose Evil

I did a quick poll and discovered two things about the fact I am about to post to a "public forum" (I have that in quotes because I am not sure my blog counts a public forum, based on the stats of visits each day.)  None the less, there was unanimous agreement among everyone I polled on two points: (1) What I am about to say is true.  (2) I shouldn't say it in public.  You have been warned.

I know there are gangs in the south side of Chicago, and other inner cities, that engage in lawless behavior.  They are known for stealing and even murder.  They have their own rules.  I do not believe a person has a right to engage in such behaviors.  It's not just that I believe that membership in a gang like that would be wrong for me, I actually believe it is wrong for anyone.  There; I said it.  I know they have freedom of choice, but I do not believe that a choice to belong to a gang is a choice I have to say they have a right to make.  You want to live in the United States, you are bound by the Constitution and the law of the land; laws passed by the legal legislative branch of the government as also is the law of the of the Constitution.  The Torah says so, "dina malchusa dina"/the law of the land must be followed.

Frankly, I was surprised that I was warned about saying something like that.  That's ok; I am used to having my opinion of what's ok to say being different than normal people.  To be fair, I should note that I mean to include groups that do even worse things than stealing.  For example, groups that believe they can commit murder just because they feel like it, are also included in my list of groups that I don't feel compelled to agree that people have a right to join.  So, right, I don't believe people have a right to be Nazis and KKK grand pubahs.

Why do I believe that?  Well, the Torah -- the one and only communication of how human beings are expected to conduct themselves from the One and Only Creator -- says so.  The Torah says murder is forbidden, so membership to groups who espouse murder is forbidden and shouldn't be tolerated.

I am, of course, not planning to the south side to discuss these facts with any gang members.  That would be stupid.  (Not to say I don't do stupid things, but at least I try not to plan to do stupid things.)  Besides being stupid, the Torah says not to do that "mishum eiva" -- it leads to unnecessary bad feelings at a time when we are not in charge, so lay low.

The G"ra, commenting on Mishlei 6:30/31 notes that as bad as stealing is, at least there is a reason for it (either the robber doesn't have enough to eat or doesn't have the money for the thing he wants) and stealing can always be repaired.  Sexual immorality and avoda zara, on the other hand, have no excuse and cannot be repaired.  Since everyone agrees that membership in a gang (who only espouses robbery and violence) is not a right people should have, then certainly everyone will agree that membership in a group which espouses public avoda zara (such as Hinuism, Christianity, and the Reform Jewish Religion) is not a right anyone should have.  Not "not right for me", but actually not right for anyone.



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