OPINION: Secular Liberty — An Oxymoron?

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Alan Keyes Former Assistant Secretary of State
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This week U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions gave a speech to the Federalist Society on religious liberty. In that speech, he noted that:

President Coolidge argued that the revolution began in the pulpits. In particular, he cited the preachers Thomas Hooker of Connecticut and John Wise of Massachusetts.  Generations—even a century—before the Revolution, they preached that all men are created equal: they are equals before the state because they are equals before God. And if men are equal, then no man has the right to rule another without his consent.

According to a report I read, some pastors heckled Mr. Sessions him during the speech, “accusing him of acting against his Christian faith” by “turning away from those in need.”

The Washington Times article put their actions in the context of activities this past June when “600 people with the United Methodist Church lodged a formal complaint against Mr. Sessions … A majority of the complaints stemmed from the Trump administration’s policies toward immigration.”

In response to their protest Mr. Sessions “defended the administration’s policies in relation to his faith”:

I don’t believe there’s anything in my theology that says a secular nation-state cannot have lawful laws to control immigration …  [It’s] not immoral, not indecent and not unkind to state what your laws are and then set about to enforce them, in my view.

So, in his speech, Sessions describes the premises on which the people of the United States asserted their sovereignty as a nation. In doing so, he accurately observes their reliance on the principle that “all men are created equal: they are equal before the state because they are equals before God.”

He accurately connects this conclusion to the principle that “no man has the right to rule another without his consent.”

This principle confutes any human authority that claims, simply by dint of superior power, permanent governance over others against their will. For except obedience be freely given (rather than forcefully coerced) there is, in practice, no distinction between slavery and freedom. In which case, the very idea of liberty stands unmasked as sly coercion.

Mr. Sessions’ analysis of the rational basis for the political liberty of the people of the United States repeats, almost verbatim, the logic of the American Declaration of Independence.

That Declaration is the primordial component of the Organic Laws of the United States — the laws that reflect the common substance and delineate the characteristic features by which we and all the world may recognize the citizens of the United States as one people, one nation.

Consequently, the framers of the U.S. Constitution tried, consciously and conscientiously, to make sure the understanding of humanity set forth in those organic laws informed its provisions.

The conviction that the just powers of human governance derive from the consent of the governed is the reason our Constitution provides for periodic elections. It is the reason our laws, include the Constitution itself, are subject to approval by the people or their elected Representatives. It is, in a word, the reason for our liberty.

But the logic of the Declaration which upholds this conviction depends upon reverence for the authority of God. For it is only from God’s perspective that one sees the natural equality of human beings.

Unequal in respect of every empirical criterion, we are nonetheless all equally bound to observe His rules for our existence, or else perish in the breach. And we are all equally indebted to God for the endowment of being itself which make our existence possible.

In light of this dependency, what sense does it make to pretend that the United States of America is “a secular nation-state”?  Secular means “not connected with religious or spiritual matters”; “pertaining t the present world, or to things not spiritual or holy”; “of or relating to the worldly or temporal: not overtly or specifically religious.”

How can this word be applied to a people whose commonly recognized nationality and self-government depend, in time and in principle, on an understanding of equality, law and right specifically rooted in the will of the Creator, God?

The attorney general of the United States derives his just authority from the Constitution.  The Constitution derives its just authority from the will of the people of the United States. The people of the United States derive their just authority from the will of the Creator, God.

If we discard the ultimate font of our authority as a nation, our only claim to self-government will depend on the warrant of power. But that warrant has never long sustained any government of, by and for the people. The constitutional self-government of the people of the United States has not yet furnished further proof that this empirical prophecy is reliably true. Indeed, we successfully defied it.

We have been, for some time, the first wholesomely popular (i.e., rooted in the will of the people as a whole) republic to vie for the title “greatest of all the nations.” Presently, however, many of us are deeply concerned that not our government of, by and for the people has lost its way.

As our first president, George Washington, predicted, partisan factionalism contributes greatly to this loss of confidence.  That partisan led Democrats to display their contempt for due process — including the presumption of innocence and burden of proof requirements dependent on the premise of God-endowed equality and rights.

Now the attorney general of the United States embraces a description of our republic that casts disrespects its ultimate first principle: respecting the authority of the Creator, God.

It seems that both leading Democrats and Repubics are, both of them, willfully or carelessly abandoning the vital premise of our identity as a people.

The remedy is not to revel in their ever more vituperative (and quite possibly stage managed) uncivil war.  Instead, we need to focus on the premise of God’s authority. It is vital to our existence as a self-governing people, but also vital to our individual existence as human beings.

For Americans, as individuals and as a nation, the choice should not be difficult. The alternative to constitutional self-government by God’s authority is annihilation. Whether by ourselves or by forces already moving toward our borders funded, organized and instructed by elitists determined to overthrow it.

Dr. Alan Keyes is a political activist, prolific writer, former diplomat, and the founder of LoyaltoLiberty.com

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.