Are We a Nation of Laws?

Over the past few days, it has been amazing to watch as America discovers a newfound passion for the law. A liberal order has been defied, and suddenly the letter of the law must be respected. Personal opinions and biases must be set aside. Any civil disobedience or protest is now seen as a threat to the very fabric of our democracy.

I am of course referring to the ongoing controversy over Kentucky clerk Kim Davis’s refusal to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples and her subsequent imprisonment. This time it’s not just the liberal media crying foul. A host of Republicans, conservatives, and libertarians have denounced Davis’ stand, demanding that she either follow “the law” or quit her job.

No, Davis is not a perfect model of Christian morality. After making what she calls “major mistakes,” she came to Christianity four years ago. Still, the media wasted no time in informing us of her numerous divorces and out-of-wedlock pregnancies. Americans quickly took to social media to pile on the slut shaming. While they were at it, they attacked her appearance.

I won’t defend Davis’s past, but consider the double standard. When a criminal is shot by the police, his past is irrelevant. When a liberal woman’s appearance is attacked (or even praised), feminists rise up in arms. But when you are a conservative and/or a Christian, your every past misdeed is scrutinized and presented as evidence of hypocrisy. When you are a conservative woman, your sex can and will be used against you. Even if, like Davis, you’re a Democrat.

I won’t offer a detailed analysis of Kim Davis and the situation in Rowan County in this post. Instead, I’d like to address the whole question of whether we are a nation of laws and what that means.

Let’s start with a little review of our constitutional form of government. As every fifth grader is supposed to learn, there are three branches of government: the executive, the legislative, and the judicial. Now, which of these three branches makes the laws?

Answer: the legislative branch. We are a republic because our laws are written, debated, and approved by the people’s democratically-elected representatives. If this were not the case, their power would be just as arbitrary as that of a king and his court. Our Founding Fathers never considered the three branches to be co-equal; this is a recent distortion. As the makers of the law, the legislature was always intended to be the most powerful branch; that’s why their powers are enumerated in Article I. The executive can only execute the laws. The judiciary can only interpret and apply them.

My question, then, is this: what law exactly did Davis break? Kentucky did pass a law defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The people of Kentucky democratically elected the representatives who drafted and approved the measure. This decision was also in keeping with Natural Law, the will of God, and the understanding of nearly every human society until about three decades ago.

Now, five unelected judges did recently decide to amend the Constitution, which says nothing about marriage, and redefine marriage on the basis of the individual’s supposed right to intimacy (as if marriage and intimacy were the same thing, or the former was a prerequisite for the latter). This “law” was never drafted, debated, or approved by the people’s representatives. It also happens to be out of step with Natural Law, the will of God, and the understanding of nearly every human society until about three decades ago.

Remind me again who is breaking “the law?”

I was under the impression that the legislature makes the laws, not the courts. At the very least, I thought we had a federal system of government in which powers not specifically granted to the national government (including marriage) were reserved for the states. It seems to me that the only reason “laws” invented by the courts and echoed by Washington have any power is that the majority of the people think they have to follow them. We act as though these dictates have the same weight as constitutionally enacted laws, but only our acceptance gives them that power. Defiance is the only means of resisting the tyranny of an activist judiciary.

Really, what is the alternative? To pass a law defining marriage as between a man and a woman? We have already done that. Five justices decided it doesn’t matter. Let’s not forget that this is the same court that has twice rewritten Obamacare, a massive piece of legislation imposed against the will of the people on a technicality known as reconciliation.

In a nation of laws, the executive branch is supposed to enforce the law. But our president has decided that his executive discretion allows him to rewrite immigration policy. His illegal action is met with cheers. Sanctuary cities violate the law. They are praised as compassionate. States like Colorado ignore federal drug laws. They face no consequences. Our leaders have neglected to secure the border for so long, we now consider passing new laws demanding that Washington actually enforce the laws already on the books.

What sort of government is this? What sort of nation? Not a nation of laws, but of men: a tyranny.

When we recall the true nature of the law as measures originating in the legislature, then Davis’s refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples is not breaking the law, at least not in Kentucky. But even if it were, another question would be in order: when is it permissible to break the law?

Martin Luther King Jr. answered this question in his famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail. The test is always: is the law just or unjust? In theory, the government could pass a law instructing people to murder. But murder violates God’s law. It violates the Natural Law inscribed in each of our hearts. One does not have to be Christian to see the wrongness of murder and the rightness of outlawing it. The only requirements are common decency and common sense. The same goes for slavery. The same goes for civil rights.

Now, I’m sure some of you are wondering, what about the civil rights of gay couples? My answer is this: homosexual individuals have the same rights as heterosexual individuals. We all have the rights to speech, religion, due process, equal protection, et cetera. We all have the right to live with, sleep with, and share our lives with any consenting adult. But we can’t go around expecting extra rights or special privileges because we happen to belong to a favored group.

Gay couples want to be treated the exact same as heterosexual couples, when they are clearly something different. Only one can produce and nourish new human life. Only one has served as the foundation of the human family and society since the beginning of time. The other provides no discernable benefits, actually discourages the formation of natural families, and encourages the separation of children from their biological parents. Yet not only do they demand the same benefits and recognition from the government, they also require that all Americans be complicit in their unions, regardless of their beliefs.

We have already seen the day when the decision of five unelected judges trumps the will of the people and the laws passed by their elected representatives. It is up for debate whether Christians still have the right to operate businesses.  Are we heading for the day when no Christian may hold elected office? You may not like Davis or her decision. But for believers and defenders of traditional morality, what is the alternative?

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