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4th Sunday after Pentecost - July 3, 2022

One of my great joys in life has been summer reading. While in school, I had my schoolbooks. I was sorely challenged to read all I was assigned. (I can confess now I did not always meet that challenge.) There was no time for books I chose, at least not until summer. On summer vacations I picked what I wanted to read. In a time before cable television and the internet, summer reading for fun consumed much of my free time.

There was and is nothing finer than a book you can’t put down. You keep going to the end of the chapter, swearing you will stop there and go to bed or go to work, only to find you cannot; you must read on. Nowadays I know you can get that feeling from binge watching a series on a streaming service like Netflix, but it feels more wholesome to get it from a book.

This morning I want to share with you three of pieces I have read this summer. Truthfully, two were read to me: one in my presence by four lawyers on the Potter County Courthouse lawn and one an audio book. I did read the third myself.

At noon on Friday, July 1st, four members of the Panhandle Criminal Defense Lawyers Association gathered on the courthouse lawn. Although many were invited, those witnessing them were few, only about eight of us. Each taking turns, the four lawyers read the Declaration of Independence out loud.

I suspect many citizens have never read nor heard the declaration in its entirety. We are familiar with the preamble: “When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another,” and in the next paragraph, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Some know bits of the conclusion, such as “That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, Free and Independent States,” that conclusion being the part of the document in which the signers formally declared independence.

The lengthy middle of the document is far less known. It consists of twenty-seven grievances justifying the breaking away from the rule of king and parliament. Like a lawyer presenting a case to a judge, the Declaration of Independence methodically describes one suffering after another inflicted on the governed. Those grievances include the imposition of taxes without consent, the suspension of legislatures, and the removal of charters, abolishment of the most valuable laws, and the fundamental alternation of the forms of the colonies’ governments. They also include the British government making war on those colonies.

Today these grievances can serve as more than a history lesson. They stand witness for how a government can lose its legitimacy with its people. More basically, they show on a national level how not to live in community with one another. For present and future citizens of this nation, these grievances and the declaration as a whole should serve as a litmus test of what is essential for these United States to continue to exist.

My second book was my audiobook “Th