News from the Tennessee Valley Religion

James L. Evans

Competent to make our own decisions

I guess I've been a Baptist too long, but I am a firm believer in letting people decide for themselves how to conduct their own lives. In my faith tradition, the people have the final say.

My feelings about this are grounded in an important theological idea known as "soul competency." This is the belief that human beings are competent to meet and deal with God on their own. Of course the Christian particulars of that include a relationship with Jesus, but the beginning point is the belief that human beings are fully able to receive important information, even eternally important information, and make a competent decision about it.

This is why I have difficulty understanding why some folks in our state don't want Alabamians to have a say about their own future. We have a chance to vote on whether or not to hold a convention to re-write our outdated constitution. But our state leaders won't let us do it.

The House had a bill but representatives refused to allow it out of committee for a floor vote. The Senate has a bill before the rules committee, SB52, but it's not clear if it will be put out for a vote.

Let us decide

Why is this so hard? The bill does not re-write the constitution, it only allows Alabamians to say one way or the other if they want it re-written. Why can't we be allowed to make that decision? If the people of this state are happy with the constitution that we have, we will demonstrate that by voting no. But why can we have that choice?

Of course there are plenty of conspiracy theorists out there who say if the constitution is ever re-written, God will be removed from the state, gambling interest will take over, and there's good chance the United Nation troops will occupy Alabama.

None of that is true, of course, but even if it was true, shouldn't it be up to the people of Alabama to sort through the fact and fiction and make a competent decision? It's our state; let us vote on how it should be run.

Of course there is fear that if a convention is called special interests groups will influence the outcome to their advantage. To paraphrase Jesus, the special interests we will always have with us. In other words, they are already affecting the outcome as they lobby to keep the bill from coming to a vote. And they will certainly be present if and when we hold a constitutional convention.

But again, people in Alabama are competent enough to know what we need for our own lives. We make decisions everyday that affect the course of our own futures, and we can make this decision as well — if we are given the chance.

Here's the bottom line. Everyone who is arguing against allowing Alabamians to decide for themselves whether or not to have a convention are in effect saying that we are not competent to make our own decisions. As a Baptist and as an Alabamian I reject such a notion and resent deeply the implication.

Jim Preuitt is the chair of the Senate rules committee that determines if and when SB 52 gets to the Senate floor. His Senate office phone number is (334) 242-7898.

If you agree that we are capable of making our own decisions, call him and let him know how you feel. Let us vote.

James L. Evans is pastor of Auburn First Baptist Church, Auburn. He can be reached at

James L. Evans James L. Evans

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