Life, Liberty And The Pursuit of Happiness…Or Not!


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By Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz –

Ever since we opened an American history textbook in school, we have been taught that American citizens are correct in expecting the privileges of living under our government’s “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” [LLPH] statement.

But what is the “pursuit of happiness?”

Where does my happiness come into conflict with your happiness? And how would we resolve it? Even if we had “happiness,” what would that mean?

To be more precise, when can I start celebrating my “happiness” and not fear being told to stop.

Across this country, all around our state, within our cities there are ordinances that govern your LLPH and mine. Many individuals find they are stifled in their exercise of “happiness” because someone claims offense, even if the pained person is not affected by the specific “happiness” actions.

Our neighbors, the LGBTQ community, still face bigotry and fear in hiring (and firing), in securing a place to live, and in public accommodations like restaurants and hotels.

I’m not a member of that minority; I’m in another minority that is facing its own raging difficulties worldwide. Still, the right to live freely under the protection of the laws of LLPH is under attack. LGBTQ folks work hard, live well and enjoy the same comforts we do. So why such antagonism?

Historically, activities that are different, are viewed as wrong or evil. We had the Salem Witch Trials, Jim Crowe Laws, the Holocaust and Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell. These examples are not equal, but we’ve seen how the use of vitriolic language against any of “them” too often results in harm and pain. Symbols of hate become actions; actions look for targets, and our entire nation suffers.

As Phoenix, Scottsdale and all of Arizona look to expand their piece of the economic pie, it must be noted that LGBTQ neighbors must also be ‘players.’ Look what happened in North Carolina when a single decision caused the NCAA and scores of corporations to pull-away.

We all benefit when each of us can freely express who we are; can live a life free from pejoratives, slander, bigotry and harm; and are allowed to enjoy the same “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” as the rest of us.

I take inspiration from standing alongside those who speak up for their rights and for “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” I pray our cities and our state may become OPEN to business, and become ONE Community of support and understanding, even if we may disagree on specific concerns.

Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. is known Valley-wide for his more than three decades of support for civil and human rights, and the positive efforts of law enforcement. He regularly lectures on related subjects, while working part-time as Hospital Chaplaincy Coordinator for Jewish Family & Children’s Service. Contact him at

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