Nothing more poignantly epitomizes the present tragic course of the American Republic than the failure to make it clear that the fight over the Obergefell decision, and Kim Davis’s act of civil obedience (to God, reason and the Constitution) against it, is not about liberty for this or that person or group, religious or otherwise. Like the 19th century battle over slavery, it is a critical and potentially decisive battle over the premises of liberty itself.
I think the problem centers on the notion that the obligation to respect unalienable rights, at all levels of government, comes from the Bill of Rights or the 14th Amendment. According to our Founding principles, unalienable rights are the consequence of God’s rule. To be just all human governments must respect them. This obligation is the first premise for the reasoning that justifies the form of government in which all people of good will (all those who consent to respect God’s natural rule) form the body politic, and participate in the sovereign decisions (elections) that inform the administration of government.
The obligation to respect God-endowed right is first of all an individual responsibility. By nature, it leads to a form of human community, the family, in which people of goodwill meet the responsibility God’s rule for right entails by forming and administering the household. Local, county, state and national governments come into existence as individuals delegate the responsibility for the administration of government to institutions that represent larger communities of good will, committed to doing right as endowed by the Creator, God. But this delegation of responsibility is predicated on the same obligation to respect God’s rule as the individual’s primordial exercise of right (i.e., action according to God’s endowment of right).
If and when those in government cast aside respect for God’s rule, the responsibility to enforce it against them falls on the rest of the community from whose concerted action the government in question derives its just power. Under the U.S. Constitution the focal point of the responsibility will be the Federal Government when it comes to abuse by the States, and the State governments when it comes to abuses by the U.S. Government. But the people at large always retain their responsibility to become the executor’s of God’s rule when and if those focal points fail. This is why the doctrine of unalienable rights necessarily implies the right and duty to resist and/or ultimately replace governments that disregard those rights.
No jurisprudence that disregards this logic of unalienable rights has the force of law. This logic applies at every level of government. It properly constrains even the determined will of a majority of the people at any level of government. The people’s claim to rightful sovereignty rests on the premise of God-endowed right. If and when they step away from that premise, they vitiate their claim. It doesn’t matter whether it happens at the local level, the state level or the national level. This is why Stephen Douglas’s “popular sovereignty” position on slavery was wrong. Human will cannot trump God’s natural rule, no matter how many human beings share the same will.
The 19th century crisis over slavery in the U.S. centered on resisting the unlawful (in terms of Gods rule) majority will that empowered some state governments. Here in the 21st Century, it centers on the unlawful will of an elitist minority that has usurped the authority of the U.S. government to attack the very idea of unalienable right, not just for this or that group, but for the whole people of the United States. It is the duty of the majority of Americans to resist this attack on the premises of justice that support their claim to sovereignty.
The battle is over the principles of the Declaration, which inform the very heart and soul of the identity of the American people, and the foundation, in reason and God’s rule, of their constitutional sovereignty. The elitist faction leaders presently in control of both the Democrat and Republican parties have openly or tacitly abandoned the Declaration. This is why I firmly believe that all Americans of good will must reject both parties. For the elitist leaders in both parties now maliciously connive at a result that effectively reverses the American Revolution. They aim to abandon all the good inspired by the Declaration, which is to say, everything for which the good people of the United States risked, fought, sacrificed and gave their lives in the struggles for God-endowed liberty and justice that made our nation exceptional.
Whatever evils and injustices marred America’s history, the Declaration has been the focal point for its good character, and the basis and inspiration for its every advance toward the fulfillment of the Creator’s good intentions for human nature. In large part this is because the Declaration is the deed in which the American people acknowledge that our self-government depends on respect for the Creator’s will and authority.
The abandonment of the Declaration is an existential threat to the union that constitutes the common identity of the people of the United States. Yet few of our political leaders are willing boldly to rally Americans of good will to see and respond to the threat in those terms. I read a piece the other day that compared Kim Davis to Rosa Parks. But when Martin Luther King articulated the issue Parks embodied, he did not speak of “racial liberty” for blacks as many are now speaking of religious liberty for Christians. Whatever his faults, in this respect He understood that the violation of unalienable right in regard to black Americans was a threat to the very identity of America itself. By articulating the crisis in those terms, he roused and engaged the moral courage of Americans of goodwill, whatever their racial or other affiliations.
The battle in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion in the Obergefell case will decide the issue of whether the people of the United States remain committed to the Declaration’s principles that define our common good and purpose as a free people. Or will we disclaim that heritage, failing our posterity and the just hopes of justice of humanity, that we have been favored and called, by God’s Providence, to represent?