Letter: Religious suppression at work in Indiana

From: Drew Robertson


Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor and theologian, was never fooled by the National Socialists’ pretensions of good faith toward the church. His criticism of the Nazis began almost as soon as they took power, and his persecution began shortly thereafter. He would be martyred just weeks before the end of World War II.

Another pastor in that time and place, Martin Niemoller, took longer to recognize National Socialist perfidy, but he, too, would spend years in Nazi prisons. On reflection, he came to perceive that he had been complicit in his own imprisonment, and he developed a poem to illustrate the seeming paradox. He varied it depending on his audience, but it usually went something like this:

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist.

“Then they came for the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jehovah’s Witness.

“Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.

“Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Religious liberty is indivisible. If you want yours respected, then you must be prepared to defend others’. And there is never a bad time to do it.

Today there are some who would have us in Indiana take Niemoller’s long road to the recognition of religious suppression. It will be a pity if we comply.