Friday, December 17, 2004

Giving the Devil His Due

There is now a case, McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky, before the Supreme Court of the United States of America in which lawyers for McCreary County, in support of the County's desire to display the Ten Commandments on public property, is arguing that the First Amendment does not apply to the states.

As discussed over at Dispatches from the Culture Wars, the Bill of Rights was originally only a limit upon the powers of the Federal government, not state or local governments. James Madison felt this was, in fact, one of the great failures of the Constitution.

However, after the Civil War, the 14th Amendment was passed, which made the Bill of Rights the law of the land. Or so has been the case for over a hundred years. But lawyers for McCreary County are claiming that the 14th Amendment does not, in fact, incorporate the states under the Federal Bill of Rights, and therefore, the Bill of Rights does not apply to the states at all.

That is to say, that in order to keep the Bill of Rights from interfering with Christians who want to use state and local government to promote their religion, McCreary County is willing to tear down all the protections of the Bill of Rights against the power of the states and take away the civil rights that are the basis of American freedom. It is meaningless to talk of "rights" if those rights are only guaranteed at the Federal level and not the state or local level. For, it matters little to a person if his or her rights are taken away or violated by the Federal government, a state government, or a local government. If a right is not guaranteed at all levels of government, it is not a right. According to McCreary County, Kentucky, Americans should not enjoy the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution.

And here we see what happens when people begin to take rights for granted: They forget what those rights protect them from. The Christians of McCreary County feel that their freedoms are being limited by the First Amendment, and therefore feel that, by tearing down the Bill of Rights, they will be will more free. Because these Christians have never been the victims of religious persecution or seen the power of government used to force other religious beliefs upon them, they do not understand that the First Amendment protects them as much as it does non-Christians.

The Christians of McCreary County have not learned the lesson of "giving the devil his due," as shown in this exchanged between Sir Thomas Moore and a young man named Robert in A Man For All Seasons:

Moore: "And go [free] he should if he were the Devil himself until he broke the law."

Robert: "So, now you would give the Devil benefit of law?"

Moore: "Yes, what would you do, cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?"

Robert: "Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that."

Moore: "Oh, and when the last law was down and the Devil turned round on you, where would you hide, Robert, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws from coast to coast. Man's laws, not God's. And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds
that would blow then? Yes, I give the Devil benefit of law for my own safety sake."

If McCreary County were to have its way, can you imagine the outcry from Christians if Utah decides to make Mormonism the state religion and outlaw any other faiths? Since many Christians, particularly the fundamentalists and evangelicals who support efforts like McCreary County's believe that Mormonism is inspired by Satan, I can only imagine the reaction. Without the protections of the First Amendment, city, county, and state governments would be free to pick certain types or forms of Christianity and outlaw others. While fundamentalists and evangelicals have similar theocratic goals, they have greatly differing theologies. The outcry of fundamentalists suddenly being forced by the power of state and local governments to practice evangelical Christianity and vice-versa will be loud and widespread.

Christianity itself could even be outlawed if non-Christians and/or non-theists were able to get control of a city, county, or state. For Christians who can't stand living in a country with a secular government, having atheist, Muslim, Jewish, or Hindu cities, counties, or states where Christianity were outlawed would be a calamity of biblical proportions! But Christians don't see the danger. They don't want to give the Devil his due.

That's not even considering the other disastrous effects of a McCreary victory that would shake conservatives and liberals alike to their cores: No more appeals to the 2nd Amendment for the right to bear arms. No right to habeus corpus, no right to probable cause for search and seizure, no right not to have troops quartered in one's home, no right to privacy (which is established under Federal law as a consequence of the Bill of Rights and thus depends upon it), no right to freedom of speech, no right to assemble, and no place to appeal the tyrrany of state government. The states would become like fiefdoms under which anything could happen and the Federal government would be powerless to intervene. Want to segregate the schools by race? Sure. Want to forbid women and minorities from voting in state and local elections? Sure.

How could any sane person think that it is worth tearing down the Bill of Rights just in order to be able to put a copy of the Ten Commandments up in the County offices?

Because, for those with dreams of theocracy sparkling in their eyes, there are no dangers to tearing down whatever stands in the way of their theocratic dreams. Theocracy is inevitable and so-called "rights" are just standing in the way of the implementation of God's law. Nothing could possibly go wrong. God wouldn't allow it.

Except that he would.

The next time anyone tries to tell me that Christians don't want theocracy, I am going to laugh in their faces and ask them if they know about McCreary County. Ask them if they know that Christians are trying to take away their basic civil rights even as we speak for no other reason than to let religion into government, which is the definition of theocracy.

Anyone who says Christians aren't fighting to make America a theocracy is a fool and deserves to be stoned.


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