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KEYES: Will Sen. Cruz Rise to the Challenge of Statesmanship?

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In light of the Constitution’s “natural born citizen” requirement, questions have been and are being raised about Ted Cruz’s eligibility to be President of the United States. If Ted Cruz is what he claims to be he will not dismiss these questions as irrelevant or inconsiderable. He will not encourage people to belittle and ridicule those who broach such questions, as Obama and his collaborators have done. In fact, he will respond to them using exactly the same logic that can and should be applied to Obama’s situation. He will not see them simply as a campaign problem. He will see them as an opportunity to do exactly the work he says he wants to do: Restore respect for the authority of the U.S. Constitution.

The Presidential eligibility language raises the question of the Constitution’s authority in a way profoundly important to what Sen. Cruz professes to stand for. In the speech he gave at Liberty University he emphasized the self-evident truth, stated in the American Declaration of Independence, that unalienable rights are endowed by God, not fabricated by human governments. Despite this fact, however, the view that presently prevails among supposedly educated elites in the United States, is that the U.S. Constitution is a purely secular document, and that the authority of God has nothing to do with it.

When they declared their independence from Great Britain, the people of the United States took it upon themselves to “assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them.” They justified their refusal to obey laws unjustly imposed by the human government of the British King by appealing to laws made by God, as the author of all natural things, including human beings.

When the Constitution refers to a “natural born” citizen, it evokes the standard of natural law, i.e., a standard based on the way things are determined by nature. But on what account does the way things are determined by nature become a standard for human activity? According to the voice of the people of the United States as they declared their independence, it is on account of the sovereign will of God made manifest in the universe of His Creation.

The reference to “natural born” citizenship thus evokes the standard of God’s authority. Contemporary legal scholars (such as those who recently wrote an article on Cruz’s eligibility in the Harvard Law Review) who pretend that man-made laws or Court decisions settle the issue without reference to natural law are being, at the very least, disingenuous. Any reference to parentage evokes the authority of the way things occur by nature, and therefore accepts the fact that the language of the Constitution refers, like the Declaration, to the author whose will constitutes that authority.

But unlike plants or insects, human actions are not automatically determined by natural impulses. A married man may feel the impulse to make love to a beautiful woman, not his wife, but he also feels himself capable of refraining from that action because he respects the purpose of the institution of marriage, and the marriage vows he took, which uphold it. An unmarried man may see an opportunity to force himself on a beautiful woman, not his wife, but he also feels himself capable of refraining from that action because he regards rape as an abhorrent and criminal act.

In similar fashion, in the Declaration of Independence, the people of the United States attest their decision to exercise their capacity to choose. They embrace a difficult course of action (war with Great Britain) in order to preserve a form of government deriving its power from their exercise of consent [and its recognition of] God-endowed rights, as required by natural laws rooted in the will of God, the Creator. In thus appealing to the highest legal authority, they made it clear that their Declaration of Independence was not an act of lawless rebellion, but an act of conscience, taken with “a decent respect for the opinions of mankind”. They substantiated this fact with reasoning that called for the institution of human government predicated upon respect for God-endowed rights, and deriving its “just powers from the consent of the governed”, which is to say, the association of those who, in accord with the ordinances of the Creator (“the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God) feel impelled to exercise (carry out) those rights.

Can liberty so conceived be maintained by people who have rejected God-endowed right as the rubric for just political union? For a brief period after the Civil War, answering that question was an academic exercise. But in the last decades of the 20th century an elitist faction, committed to discarding the premise of God’s Creation, began to assert power over the government of the United States, power unconstrained by the decent respect for God-endowed rights that, from the beginning, made justice the aim and end of government in the United States.

Instead of rights derived from respect for transcendent laws prescribed in human nature by the authority of God, this elitist clique asserts rights, fabricated by human will, to be imposed on human beings by manipulating the force of fear, sexual lust, greed and other domineering passions (cloaked as necessary by cunning fraud and deceit.) Not surprisingly, this concept of rights, forcefully imposed, produces a government of “laws” conceived without respect for any concept of right except the will of those who prove to be most powerful.

The questions being raised about Ted Cruz’s eligibility to be President of the United States are his chance to focus the 2016 election on the issue that now permeates the crisis of America’s liberty, the issue of America’s constitutional acknowledgement of God. It’s one thing to try to win Christian votes by professing faith in God or publicly invoking His name. But if America’s liberty is to be restored the thing most needful is to challenge the American people to think though and embrace the logic that, until recently, informed the character and institutions that make us free. Does Ted Cruz have the courage not just to fend off questions about his eligibility for office, but to use those questions as an opportunity to raise and address what is now the most critical issue for the statesmanship of liberty in our time?



 

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