Letters to the Editor

Letter: Theocracy, anyone?

September 9, 2013


To the editor:

There is a growing interest in what one Kansas judicial appointee has called “a higher law” and “forcible resistance” to valid court orders. There is a “higher law” – in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, China and Cuba. The U.S. Constitution is the highest law here. The Supreme Court settles disputes regarding it. Judges and elected officials are sworn to uphold the Constitution, not higher law.

Higher law arguments are ancient and include Augustine and Aquinas. They presumed a static political order and human nature needing coerced moral uplifting. Aquinas claimed civil society cannot create moral virtue and itself must be judged by a higher standard to which all human action must conform. Biblical texts justified these ideas which played out with fateful consequences with Luther, Calvin and Hooker. With them the state was obliged to enforce the outward observance and profession of religious doctrine. This split otherwise stable social orders into intolerant and warring factions. It was one of the main reasons our forefathers abandoned Europe for America and is responsible for our founding fathers insistence on the separation of church and state.

Representative democracy can tend toward regression (rapacious plutocracy) or dogmatic systems (high-minded higher law). Higher law proponents are the obverse of Marxists; they would replace philosophical and economic ideas with ancient theological ones with the same negative outcome for democratic free inquiry and personal development. Defunding education and the arts further restricts critical thought and experimentation necessary for innovation and enterprise. Restricting free, democratic life reduces citizen opportunities and their liberties.


Brock Masters 4 years ago

I firmly believe in the Constitution as being the supreme law of our country and also support separation of church and state.

It seems the LTE writer and I are in agreement in that respect, but I think we'd disagree in that I want the Constitution to be strictly followed. Where in the Constitution is the authority for the federal government government to have a dept of Ed? There isn't. That power should rest solely with the states.

Where is the power to provide health care? And so on and so on.

I am all for following the Constitution, but lets follow it fully and not selectively.

Maddy Griffin 4 years ago

I'm glad our forefathers had enough sense to know that as time goes forward, so does public opinion.People change. The constitutionleft itself open for that. They are called "amendments".

Liberty275 4 years ago

Which amendment mentions health care?

tomatogrower 4 years ago

Try the preamble.

"We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

Liberty275 4 years ago

I'm not sure it is constitution proper, but even so I don't see health care mentioned. It does contain the word "liberty" though.

jafs 4 years ago

Also the words "justice", "domestic tranquility", and "general welfare".

Brock Masters 4 years ago

Which amendment authorizes the federal government to provide for public education?

jafs 4 years ago

Depending on interpretation, the preamble and another part (I can't remember which right now) mention the "general welfare".

If interpreted broadly, this can easily include things like public education.

If not, then it won't.

Brock Masters 4 years ago

jafs, as one of the founding father's wrote that if the general welfare clause was interpreted broadly then it would give the federal government unlimited powered. This would be contrary to the desire to limit federal powers.

jafs, I don't think anyone should hope for it to be interpreted broadly because then it could be used for anything. One could argue morality is good for the people so let's pass a law under the general welfare clause establishing a morality code.

If the Constitution doesn't authorize an act and it is worth doing then amend the Constitution.

Lewis Thomason 4 years ago

I am not 100% sure but I think that the governments reasoning can be found in the preamble....We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. The "promote the general welfare" clause is the specific thing used. There is a lot of controversy about this being a legal justification but as long as the SCOTUS doesn't rule it unconstitutional it will stand.

Brock Masters 4 years ago

And what is general welfare? Do you believe the federal government has the authority to do whatever it wants if in the general welfare of the people?

Brian Hall 4 years ago

No, but making sure the federal government doesn't overreach is exactly why there are three branches of government. How come when it comes to the 2nd Amendment it means EXACTLY what it says but when it comes to "general welfare" that's all open to interpretation and every definition is questioned? General welfare should be interpreted to mean that every citizen has the best chance at life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness which means education, jobs, shelter, food, health care--you know, things that help keep people alive.

Peacemaker452 4 years ago

So it doesn’t bother you that in order to provide the “education, jobs, shelter, food, health care”, the government must take from someone else?

Is there any limit to your taking? Or would you just prefer we keep taking until everyone has an equal share? Would that be enough "general welfare" for you?

Brock Masters 4 years ago

What do you mean the second amendment meaning isn't questioned? It is debated and challenged constantly. Please do a little research.

All of the amendments are challenged and question. Google the first amendment and see how many times its interpretation has been challenged.

You don't make any sense about the three branches of government keeping it in check. If , under your interpretation as long as it is for the public good then it is Constitutional. Anything can be considered to be in the public good cant it? Give me an example of where you'd draw the line.

jafs 4 years ago

The check on legislative and executive actions is the SC.

So, whether there is constitutional justification for various programs or whether the government is over-reaching is a question for the SC to decide. For example, there was recently a case about the ACA, and the SC decided (basically) that it was not in violation of the constitution.

Brock Masters 4 years ago

Duh really jafs?

Try to follow the conversation. I didn't ask you, but I will now.

Give me an example of a government program that isn't for the public good? All programs may not be good, but it can be argued that they are for the public good so if the general welfare clause is limitless how will the scouts find it unconstitutional? Answer that for me.

jafs 4 years ago

Well, yes, fred.

You argued that the 3 branch system doesn't provide a check on government over-reach, and that's exactly what it does.

The SC gets to decide how to interpret the general welfare clause, and thus acts on a check against that over-reach.

I'll give you one easy example - we're spending over $300 million dollars on renovating the state house in Topeka - I find that not to be for the "public good", especially right now.

Many other government programs benefit one group, but not necessarily the entire society.

Public education, on the other hand, seems to me to in fact benefit our entire society, either directly or indirectly.

Lisa Medsker 4 years ago

None of the amendments authorize the federal government to provide law enforcement, roads, bridges, national parks or museums, either. Or vacation days for Congress. But they are provided nonetheless. Should we wait for an amendment to be written for every single law and public program already in existence? I mean, since the Constitution doesn't mention murder, specifically, it must not be bad, right?

Cait McKnelly 4 years ago

"As a reminder, Mr. Speaker, I do believe this has been forgotten entirely by many of my colleagues today: Each of us put our hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. We did not place our hands on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible."
Brian Sims, PA Representative

verity 4 years ago

Matthew 5:33-37 (Sermon on the Mount) KJV

33 Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths:

34 But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne:

35 Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.

36 Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.

37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

I find it very odd that people swear on the Bible when the Bible says not to swear at all. So how can one speak of obeying higher law, when they are so obviously disregarding it?

For better or for worse, we, as a society, decide what is right and what is wrong. That is what happens in the end anyway. Nobody is completely obeying "higher law"---people can't even agree what it is and often advocate that which benefits them or allows them to control other people.

That's what us atheists have been trying to tell you, but because we don't believe in your higher power, you feel that we must be morally inferior.

I have noted that too often people want the simple answer and appealing to a higher power for right and wrong appears to be simple. Critical thinking and coming to some sort of consensus is much more difficult.

Armstrong 4 years ago

An atheist quoting the bible, I see no contradiction there.

Seth Peterson 4 years ago

Because their isn't one.

The contradiction comes between the actions of many christians and the 'beliefs' of many christians. That is the contradiction, and this was an excellent example.

Lewis Thomason 4 years ago

There are enough contradictions in the Bible itself,adding the ones made by Christians to the list is beating a dead horse.

Lisa Medsker 4 years ago

Atheists aren't "allowed" to know what is in the Bible? We can't quote it in order to point out discrepancy and irregularity, and get some accountability out of people who desperately need it? It's a book. If you can read and comprehend, you can probably use quotes from it.

You sound like my ex husband.

Liberty275 4 years ago

That's just being mean to the god-believers. Argue that they are wrong, but you don't need to prove it and rub their noses in it.

Isn't it enough for you yo know gods don't exist without trying to talk others out of their beliefs? How do you feel when the Mormons come around? You are doing the same thing they do. LOL, an Atheist missionary.

Lisa Medsker 4 years ago

Holy cow, (yes, that was on purpose! Heehee!), Do you KNOW my ex? "Stop it with that 'logical stuff'!"

jayhawklawrence 4 years ago

When I get to read letters like this I always wonder if I should pay someone for the privilege.

So good.

purplesage 4 years ago

The civil disobedience which propelled the American Civil Rights movement made an appeal to a higher law. The human system was imperfect, corrupt and immoral. That can only be said if it is recognized that a higher and more perfect example exists outside of the realm of mere human endeavors, all of which are flawed. Those who do not recognize such an authority have no place to turn in the face of injustice and imperfect human constructs.

Satirical 4 years ago


Don't try to convice liberals they they too appeal to a "higher law" when it suits their political ends. The government has no affirmative obligation to provide healthcare coverage to the poor or legalize polygamy. It is based on the idea of fairness and justice and equality and/or taking care of the less fortunate. Those are Platonic ideas based on set of morals or ethcis.

Liberals hear a term like "higher laws" used by a conservative and they assume a right wing christian theocracy is under the cloak. But when a liberal makes a similar comment invoking higher values, all they see are good intentions and liberty and justice for all.

Just remember the next time a liberal uses "equality" as a basis for a law, tell them you disagree with them because you don't want to live in a theocracy (rather then discussing the merits).

purplesage 4 years ago

I'll give tht a try! Thanks. It is interesting how many of the very things eschewed by the liberals when they see them in conservatives are practiced regularly. For comparison and contrast, if you think Gov. Brownback has been heavy-handed in his government of the state of KS, see how President Obama has functioned. And remember, Brownback's margin of victory was the larger. That is not a prediction of the next election.

jayhawklawrence 4 years ago

It is a fact of life that human beings tend to overreach. What I think of as the Dunkin Donuts problem.

Religious groups are no different no matter how righteous they believe their cause.

Politicians naturally target churches and try to use them for political advantage and I would emphasize the word '' use''.

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