Friday, September 4, 2015

Kentucky Woman

This is nothing less than Calvin’s doctrine of the lesser magistrates (Institutes 4.20.22-32), which I would urge upon all and sundry as relevant reading material. And as Calvin points out, after Daniel — a Babylonian official — disobeyed the king’s impious edict, he denied that he had wronged the king in any way (Dan. 6:22-23).

John Bugay wrote the above on a blog that has helped me out in my thinking and writing:

    Now, this controversy over a Kentucky woman, who did the right thing in my estimation, is about being blamed for not issuing marriage licenses in her respective state. She had an issue of conscience that would not allow her to perform her duties, so she has been put in jail, I believe, over this issue of gender-blind marriage, which to me is nonsense.

    My question is: does the lesser magistrate, in this context the Kentucky clerk, have the right to not follow the law, if that law does not seem right in her estimation? If you do not think that a law is right, does that obligate you to disobedience? When is civil disobedience justifiable?

    Let’s say that there is a law that says that it’s lawful for persons to do evil. Now this is just a thought experiment, so do not object yet, you lawyers! There is a point to this thought: when the law says to perform an evil action, will you do it? Yes, that is what the law says, but what does your instinct tell you?

    So if there is a law that you feel has no binding authority on your behavior, should you not be punished for your crime? Yes, because you have decided that the law is useless in the sense that it has no authority over your conscience because you feel that it would not be right to follow such a law. Why follow an unjust law?

    Thus, if you are a lesser magistrate, and if there is, I hate to say it, an evil-law, then you should disobey that law because that particular law is unjust. So when a society becomes oppressed by evil-laws, then that society will become weak with ill rule, so that another one will take its place over time. This is a bleak conclusion that could be overturned with magistrates who follow this line of thinking.

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