I intend for this to be a short post, but an important one.
Federalism – the separation of states and the placement of powers in the states – is something I fully support. The authors of the constitution clearly intended for it to establish a decentralized nation where the federal government had very limited jurisdiction.
With the Supreme Court weighing in on the horrendously wicked Roe v Wade this week, even if not officially, I wanted to write briefly about why I think federalism is not the right answer to abortion. While Alito’s takedown of Roe on the basis of Constitutional law is very good, I think there’s a more profound reason to reject it and go further – banning abortion across the country in perpetuity without exception.
An analogy will help set this up.
Suppose your neighbor had several children and a giant window into the living room. Most days, your neighbor and his family can be seen through the window living normal, average lives. It would not occur to you to shoot the glass on this window and begin ordering your neighbor or his family to start obeying you at gunpoint. You’d be rightly arrested, and probably ostracized. Even if you heard him yelling at his family, you have no right to break in and try to impose anything on any of them.
But now suppose you pass by your neighbor one night and he is holding a gun. On the floor is clearly one of his children, shot dead. His other children are kneeling in front of him, turned away, clearly awaiting execution. What do you do then? Your jurisdiction as a neighbor doesn’t grant you a right to do anything in normal circumstances.
Do you take a shot and kill your neighbor? I think in this case, you now have a moral obligation to do so. To fail to do so would be a moral crime.
The federal government is you. You have no right to interfere with states – your neighbor in his home with his family – under almost every circumstance. But in very select, very restricted, very serious situations where you can stop horrific moral evils, you become morally obligated to do so. Your neighbor murdering his children is not analogous; it is exactly what abortion is.
Laws are always superseded by higher laws. The law of God supersedes man-made law. If God would have declared that constitutional government was sin, it would be sin to follow it, even if a strong legal case could be made for it. In this case, it is a horrific moral evil to brutally murder 70,000,000 unborn, innocent, defenseless children in the womb. It’s the kind of horrific evil that on smaller scales, we would praise anyone who intervenes as a hero.
On this issue, above perhaps any other (including, importantly, slavery), it is a moral obligation to defy the federal government if they require abortion. However, I believe it is also a moral obligation to defy any state which allows abortion. And that moral obligation extends to the federal government. We are not talking about injuries for which restitution might be made. We are talking about mass murder.
To raise constitutionalism or federalism to supremacy even over the moral obligation to make murder illegal is to build a foundation on sand. Whatever moral obligation you have to obey your state or form of government, it pales in comparison to your obligation to treat murder as murder and deal with it.
States are free to deal with murder however they wish, but they are not free to legalize it. If they were allowed to do so, then moral obligation loses all meaning.
There is one possibly relevant point in which your analogy doesn’t quite hold. The man who intervenes to save his neighbors from their murderous kinsman is an individual person with free will and an immortal soul, who will have to render an account of his deeds before God on the Day of Judgment. The federal government is not. Indeed, it might be argued that the federal government has no existence at all apart from the written laws and promises that go to make it up (this, I suppose, is what John Adams meant by “a government not of men but of laws”, or at least what people nowadays generally mean when they quote him), and that, therefore, if the officers of the federal government were to use the federal power in ways not specifically permitted by U.S. law, they would not be acting as the federal government at all, but merely as private individuals wielding powers not rightfully theirs.
Of course, that doesn’t so much dispose of the moral issue as recasts it. If someone has vowed on the Bible to use the power he holds only in a certain way, and then witnesses a grave evil that he can only prevent by using that power in another way from this, ought he or ought he not to do so? If he ought, what good is there in the oath? If he ought not, what good is there in the power?
LikeLiked by 1 person
It’s a good point and I don’t disagree there’s a difference between a corporate body and a human being, though legal fictions of corporate bodies being treated like human beings has a basis in scripture (the church is the bride of Christ, for example). So I think it’s acceptable to view a legal body as capable of guilt.
As for oaths, I think that’s true virtually all of the time. I don’t think, for example, one could ban slavery this way (as Lincoln’s government tried to do). However when it comes to life itself, it seems a little different, for this reason: everything in the constitution that protects rights of citizens even from state tyranny is meaningless if states can merely kill their citizens or permit killing of unwanted citizens. I’d argue if the constitution doesn’t grant this absolutely fundamental freedom.
Another angle is looking at the story of Esther. The king’s decree was irrevocable but he still found a way to prevent its implementation. Unlike in that case, none of the targets of the genocide are capable of self-defense, but there are likely other ways to do it.