Time for Americans to ‘Disobey Unjust Laws’
Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver and others are starting to rightly discuss the imminent need for good people to disobey their own government.
As we see example after example after example of every branch of our federal government trample the constitution established by “we the people” and the natural rights of “we the people” (and our state governments often complicit in the betrayal), the idea of standing in defiance of our own government is no longer some vague academic exercise, but a very real necessity that is right before our face.
Already, the headlines of the past few years have been filled with stories about the Obama Administration’s zealous efforts to force Christian businesses to violate their consciences and provide contraceptives and abortifacients, as well as the efforts of the Left to force Christian businesses to participate in the counterfeiting of marriage.
If we value freedom, the time to stand against a tyrannical government (our own) is now.
You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”
Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an “I it” relationship for an “I thou” relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression of man’s tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong.
Let us consider a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal. Let me give another explanation. A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law. Who can say that the legislature of Alabama which set up that state’s segregation laws was democratically elected? Throughout Alabama all sorts of devious methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties in which, even though Negroes constitute a majority of the population, not a single Negro is registered. Can any law enacted under such circumstances be considered democratically structured?
Since God clearly stated multiple times in both the Old and New Testaments that he abhors homosexual behavior and designed marriage to be between a man and a woman, it is obvious that homosexual behavior and counterfeit marriage are NOT in harmony with moral or Natural Law (and there is no legitimate comparison between an innate, morally-neutral physical characteristic like skin color, and a dangerous and immoral sexual behavior). As such, man-made laws that attempt to authorize what Natural Law says is not authorized cannot by definition be “just laws.”
And before the rabid secularists among us treat us to their perverted “separation of church and state” blather, we must remember that those who founded this great nation recognized that while an official state church or religion was a bad idea, they also recognized the absolute and complete necessity of maintaining religious morality in our society and our government.
As signer of the Declaration of Independence and second President of the United States John Adams said,
We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net…
“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
And as President George Washington said in his Farewell Address:
Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice ? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.
It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?
And as the “patron saint of American secularists and God-haters” Thomas Jefferson (third President of the United States) said as Governor of Virginia:
“Public and solemn thanksgiving and prayer to Almighty God…that He would establish the independence of these United States upon the basis of religion and virtue.”
Now that it is clear that the founders never intended the government of the United States to be divorced from religious moral principle, let’s take another look at what King said about unjust law.
Another of the ways to recognize an unjust law that King described is when it is inflicted on the people without the people being able to exercise their right of self-determination regarding it. In the matter of racial discrimination perpetrated against black Americans by Democrats, King cites how Democrats prevented black Americans from being able to vote on such matters. This is also how pro-homosexual tyrants are forcing counterfeit marriage on the American people. Virtually every time the American people have had a voice, they have voted to uphold marriage, to the tune of over 40 states. It has only been through the imposition of judicial edict (not law) that tyrants in the federal government have been able to force counterfeit marriage on the states. These are not “just laws;” these are not even laws! They are the unconstitutional edicts of one or a group of men who seek to impose their will on a free people who believe differently than they do.
After describing just and unjust laws, King went on in his letter to cite the civil disobedience of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, the refusal of Christians to obey the unjust laws of the Roman Empire, and the civil disobedience of the Boston Tea Party. Civil disobedience to immoral laws is certainly nothing new to God’s people, just as immoral edicts from those in authority is nothing new (who would like to argue in favor of Dred Scott?).
Those who founded our great nation certainly recognized this, as the American Revolution was one big instance of civil disobedience to immoral behavior from one’s own government (I invite you to read the Declaration of Independence, if you don’t believe me).
The founders also recognized that if Americans weren’t diligent, tyranny could again take root on our shores. James Madison discussed this proper response to tyranny from the federal government in Federalist No. 46:
should an unwarrantable measure of the federal government be unpopular in particular States…the means of opposition to it are powerful and at hand. The disquietude of the people; their repugnance and, perhaps, refusal to co-operate with the officers of the Union; the frowns of the executive magistracy of the State; the embarrassments created by legislative devices, which would often be added on such occasions, would oppose, in any State, difficulties not to be despised; would form, in a large State, very serious impediments; and where the sentiments of several adjoining States happened to be in unison, would present obstructions which the federal government would hardly be willing to encounter.
The founders of the United States based their beliefs in part on the truths recognized by great minds who had gone before them, men like Sir William Blackstone who recognized that God’s Natural Law is the authority for all man-made laws:
Man depends absolutely upon his Maker for everything, it is necessary that he should, in all points, conform to his Maker’s will. This will of his Maker is called the law of nature. This law of nature…dictated by God himself, is of course superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe in all countries, and at all times: no human laws are of any validity, if contrary to this; and such of them as are valid derive all their force and all their authority, mediately or immediately, from this original.
Upon these two foundations, the law of nature and the law of revelation, depend all human laws; that is to say, no human laws should be suffered to contradict these. There are, it is true, a great number of indifferent points, in which both the divine law and the natural leave a man at his own liberty; but which are found necessary for the benefit of society to be restrained within certain limits. And herein it is that human laws have their greatest force and efficacy: for, with regard to such points as are not indifferent, human laws are only declaratory of, and act in subordination to the former. To instance in the case of murder: this is expressly forbidden by the divine, and demonstrably by the natural law; and from these prohibitions arises the true unlawfulness of this crime. Those human laws that annex a punishment to it do not at all increase its moral guilt, or add any fresh obligation in foro conscientiae (in the court of conscience) to abstain from its perpetration. Nay, if any human law should allow or enjoin us to commit it, we, are bound to transgress that human law, or else we must offend both the natural and the divine. But with regard to matters that are in themselves indifferent, and are not commanded or forbidden by those superior laws; such, for instance, as exporting of wool into foreign countries; here the inferior legislature has scope and opportunity to interpose, and to make that action unlawful which before was not so.
What is the law of nature? If it isn’t already clear, Sir Edward Coke enlightens us:
The law of nature is that which God at the time of creation of the nature of man infused into his heart, for his preservation and direction…the moral law, called also the law of nature.
I’ve been saying for some time now that the time is upon us where were MUST disobey unjust “laws” (especially when they are unconstitutional edicts and not even laws to begin with). It’s either that, or surrender the rule of law to the rule of men’s opinions, surrender our freedom and self-rule to the tyranny of those in power.
I’m not willing to surrender. Are you?
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