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Thy Liberty In Law

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July 2008

As English professor Katherine Lee Bates traveled from Massachusetts to Colorado on her way to a summer assignment, she marveled at the sights.  The gleaming alabaster buildings of the White City at Chicago’s World Columbian Exposition of 1893.  The endless miles of wheat fields in Kansas.   While gazing at the Great Plains from atop majestic Pikes Peak, words filled Bates’ head, words she gave to composer Samuel Ward.  Their gift to us, America the Beautiful, has become our national hymn.

We know well the words of the first stanza but sometimes miss the important words of the second: America, America, God mend thy every flaw.  Confirm thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law.  True freedom comes from God.  Its free exercise requires that we maintain proper relationships with God and our neighbors. That’s why God gave us the Ten Commandments and why they are the root of our entire system of law.  Ordered liberty is the hallmark of the American experiment.

Our liberty is not maintenance-free.  The freedoms secured by over 230 years of blood, sweat, and tears, can disappear in relatively short order.  The slide down a mountain is always faster than the climb up.  We must remain vigilant for any loss of the true freedom that God intends for all of us.  We can serve God only if we are free ourselves.  So we must we understand our system of government, how it preserves our freedom to serve God, and how it can threaten that freedom.  Faithful citizenship demands no less.

The Declaration of Independence proclaims the fundamental truth that God has endowed on us the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Government exists to secure those rights, drawing its power “from the consent of the governed.” So important is the right of self-governance that with God as their witness, our forefathers pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to secure it.

The Declaration did not establish how the new nation would govern itself.  Our Constitution does.  Its genius starts with the first three words: “We, the People.”  The power to govern is placed in the hands of the governed.  Law comes through the will of the people, as enacted by elected legislators. Presidents are elected to lead, not control. The powers of congress and president are checked and balanced so neither could gain control.  Judges resolve disputes.  The Constitution provides for their appointment, not election, to preserve their independence from politics.

Our Constitution does not provide answers to the nitty-gritty problems of life.  It creates a framework that specifically leaves that power to the people of each state.  The people are to decide for themselves on the best ways to protect their health, safety, and morals.  Over the years they have done just that, and have done it well.  When elected officials fail to perform, the people know what to do come next election.

But the system has become flawed.  Some judges have overstepped their bounds by reading into the Constitution “rights” not found there.  One is the so-called right to abortion on demand.  Abortion is now so entrenched in our legal system that parents cannot protect their own children from it.  Or protect any other child.  What’s happening is that we are losing our constitutional right to set Godly standards of decency.  With every judge-created new “right,” the people lose an old one—the right to be faithful citizens. And because it is virtually impossible to amend the Constitution, wrong decisions will be corrected only when right-minded judges are placed in position to correct them.

This makes the appointment of judges the critical issue of our day.  Because presidents nominate judges, we need to know the candidates’ views regarding the role of judges in interpreting the Constitution.  In a speech to Planned Parenthood (a tip-off if there ever was one), Barrack Obama expressed his views.  Unlike his opponent, he wants judges who share his “broader vision” of the Constitution.  That’s legal-speak for wanting judges who will use the Constitution to create their own social order.  According to Obama, his view prevents the courts from being the rubber stamp of the powerful.  But just check out the math.  The president nominates a judge. Only 51 senators are needed to confirm him.  Only five judges are needed to create bad law.  A mere 57 people can create a virtually unchangeable policy governing over 300,000,000 citizens.  So just who is powerful?  And who is powerless?   Ironically, the signers of the Declaration broke from King George because he “made Judges dependent on his Will alone.”

Over the next four years, two judges favoring abortion may leave the Supreme Court.  The next president will nominate their replacements.  He will set the wheels in motion to either end legalized abortion as we know it or continue it for years on end.   So far, the “right” to abortion has caused the death and suffering of millions.  Come next election we, the people, will decide the fate of millions more.

America, America, God mend thy every flaw.  Confirm thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law. For all its flaws, America is the freest country in the world.  If we vote as citizens faithful to God and our Constitution, it will remain that way.  For all.

Paul V. Esposito is a Catholic lawyer who writes on a variety of pro-life topics.  He and his wife Kathy live in Elmhurst, Illinois, where they raise their six kids.

© Paul V. Esposito 2008.  Culture of Life.  Permission to copy and distribute for pro-life purposes is granted.

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