Civil Obedience

By GotDesign
Recently, I have been having a vigorous inner debate over civil disobedience; particularly as it applies to the Terri Schiavo situation. It has been a very conflicting situation for me. As many of you know (or at least have guessed), I'm a strong believer in the sanctity of life -- be it life in the womb or life in the hospice. I believe that life is a gift from God and should not be taken lightly. After spending a great deal of time thinking about it, I have come to a number of conclusions.

I do not believe that civil disobedience should be practiced in the case of Terri Schiavo. Throughout history, civil disobedience has been practiced when laws have been unjust. In a recent posting by Sue Bob, she tells the story of a group of French Huguenots in the village of Le Chambon who hid and protected Jews from the Vichy government and their Nazi allies during World War II. The Vichy government was cooperating with the Nazis in rounding up Jews for internment (and eventual extermination). The Huguenots of Le Chambon actively resisted the Vichy/Nazis, but without violence. During the Civil Rights era of the 1960s, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. engaged in numerous instances of civil disobedience to protest the injustice of American law in not providing equal protection and opportunity for blacks. In both cases, civil disobedience was practiced in defiance of unjust laws. Most commentators have made the point that there is no unjust law in Terri Schiavo's case, but instead the injustice comes through the misapplication of the law and the intransigence of the judiciary.

The question can then be asked, why can't civil disobedience be practiced in defiance of any law unjustly applied? Who determines what unjust application of a just law is? We would have little problem with this question if we had a shared system of morals. With a shared system of morals we can then stand on common ground when making decisions about the justice of a given law. But today, a vocal minority of society is rejecting the current moral basis for society. It is well proven that our Founding Fathers used the principles of Christianity and Judaism to create the foundation of American society and government. I won't debate that here. But, of late, these founding principles are now being eschewed in favor of a system of relativist values. Therefore, there is no longer a shared system of values (or at least that system is being continuously degraded). Despite this, America is a society founded on law. In order to secure our society from chaos, the Founders established a system of laws to establish order in society. If we state that civil disobedience can be invoked in a society without a shared moral system, then we are opening the door to the breakdown of an ordered society. If any one person can decide to disobey the law because they feel it to be unjust (based on their shifting sense of moral judgment), then we are passing society over to a future of chaos and institutional disorder.

Instead, I think we who still share a common system of morals must practice Civil Obedience. When a growing portion of society is erring on the side of personal morals and holding them to be relative, those of who shared the desire for an ordered society must stand up for those values which will ensure that ordered society. Many of us are looking at our government and seeing that is rapidly going astray from its founding principles. The judiciary is running away with power that we are giving it. When society allows a judiciary to misapply the law and act with powers that have not been given to it then, as a matter of civil obedience, we must bring that judiciary back into conformance with its founding principles. The same goes for the executive and legislative branches of our government. "We the people" is the opening phrase of the Constitution of the United States. The power to form a government and order society was, and is, derived from "We the People." Therefore, "We the People" are solely responsible for our government's performance. "We the People" are responsible for the runaway judiciary. I ask you, when will "We the People" take this responsibility seriously and reestablish order in society?

Postscript: I want to thank the following people for helping in my inner deliberative process: Hugh Hewitt, Jerri Ward, Don Waddell, Matt Heidt, and my wife.


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