Charlie Lott, blind and 83 years old, was surprised when the Gratiot County Commission on Aging informed him and his fellow senior citizens they could no longer engage in voluntary prayer before lunch at the Senior Activity Building in Ithaca, Michigan. Charlie and his friends have a daily lunch provided for them under the Older Americans Act. Our client was informed that he and other participants could no longer voluntarily lead a prayer prior to a meal because one person objected to the prayer and the meals are funded by federal tax dollars. While we pride ourselves on the tenet that “justice is blind” in our country, it is disheartening to see justice being denied to a blind senior citizen under the guise of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. This case is symptomatic of battles being fought in the United States every day. Our progressive friends on the left are waging a relentless war that, if successful, will destroy our constitutional republic and the idea of the rule of law.
Samuel Rutherford wrote his groundbreaking treatise, Lex Rex (The Law is King), in 1644. He challenged the status quo of rex lex (The King is Law). Rutherford made clear that any legitimate head of a government was subject to the law and was not above the law. Our legal system is built upon this truth expressed by Rutherford. It became the foundation for our Declaration of Independence and our concept of the “rule of law,” i.e., that the true source of law is God’s will, not the will of the king. Government power is only derived from the “consent of the governed.” Any law passed by a government inconsistent with God’s revealed law is not true law. Some people refer to this as the “higher law.” This higher law concept was used to convict Nazi war criminals in World War II at the Nuremberg trials who claimed they were just following the law of the land when carrying out Hitler’s orders. Their defense was ineffective because of the concept of a “higher law” that should have been obeyed.
Rutherford taught that the sovereignty of the people was inherent in all free people. Therefore, government could only act within the authority put in place by the people. This concept is clearly delineated in our Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Government does not grant rights to the people; rather, government cannot interfere in the God-given rights inherent in each person. If the government is not empowered to act under the Constitution, then the area is to be left to the people. The Tenth Amendment states: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
There are many examples of the erosion of the rule of law in our culture today:
- Five Justices on the US Supreme Court breathe in the smoke emanating from the penumbras of the constitution to “discover” a new constitutional right to self-identity and personal autonomy and effectively overrule numerous state constitutions and statutes that define marriage as being between one man and one woman.
- Oregon Christian business owners are fined $135,000.00 by the government for “discriminating” against gay patrons by refusing to participate in a gay wedding ceremony in violation of their religious conscience.
- The IRS delays and obstructs the filings of many conservative, religious and non-profit organizations’ requests for 501(c)(3) status.
- Public universities cave in to demands to deny the free speech rights of conservative students and speakers at their institutions.
- New banking regulations designed to catch drug dealers and criminals are used to destroy legitimate small businesses by confiscating the cash in their business accounts and refusing to return the funds even after it is proven no criminal activity occurred.
- Criminal forfeiture statutes are sometimes used by law enforcement to confiscate the property of innocent people not involved in any criminal activity.
- Eminent domain laws are used to forcibly transfer the real property of one private owner to another private owner favored by the government.
- The former US Attorney General admitted her office considered whether “climate change deniers” could be prosecuted under federal racketeering statutes.
- Free Speech is no longer protected if it is determined to be “hate speech.” Hate speech is now being defined as any speech that disagrees with the progressive left.
- The English government exercises its power under its “free,” single-payer health care program to overrule the parents’ desired treatment for a child.
These are but a few of the examples of the break-down of good governance. The distrust and divide between the average American and the government is growing at a fast pace. Moreover, those in favor of all the above actions now routinely take to the streets and commit acts of violence against those holding to the ideal of lex rex and the rule of law. They label us as haters and bigots for simply disagreeing with their policies and they attempt to prohibit our participation in culture and government. Citizens whose policies and positions are informed by the sacred have a right to be involved and attempt to influence government action and to freely exercise their beliefs. Progressives promote “freedom to worship,” i.e., that people are free to think what they want inside their heads in some religious ghetto separate and apart from the “enlightened” culture. However, the Constitution protects the “free exercise of religion,” and that citizens have the right to act upon their beliefs.
The progressive left and large segments of our government no longer support the concept of lex rex. They have devolved and surrendered to the old idea of rex lex, that government is in control of the people and can, therefore, overrule such basic rights as praying before a meal. The only difference today is that there is no single king in control, there is just the government acting as king.
When government justifies forcibly taking the home of a widow and giving it to a millionaire so he can build a casino, it loses the trust of the people. When government attempts to coerce and force acceptance of alternative lifestyles, it loses the trust of the people. There is no longer any protection for property, reputation or life. Instead, the rule of law is directly attacked and subverted.
Consequently, good government is being undermined and destroyed before our very eyes. How is this relevant to senior citizens praying before meals? It is symptomatic of a government and culture that no longer believes in lex rex. Judges 21:25 states: “… everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” When government and culture no longer believe it is restrained by the Constitution or the rule of law, it will do whatever it believes is right at the time. This is why it is so important to act to protect our inherent, God-given rights against government intrusion. Rutherford’s teaching in “Lex Rex” was immediately banned by the government. Four years after publication of his great treatise, Rutherford was charged with high treason, however, he died before he could be put on trial.
We, at Great Lakes Justice Center, are compelled to sound the alarm and call on our fellow citizens to educate themselves and return to the sure protection of lex rex and the rule of law. To fail to do so will ensure that the principles of good governance will no longer protect the American people. It will ensure even worse results than senior citizens being denied the right to pray before a meal.
David A. Kallman, J.D. is Senior Legal Counsel at the Great Lakes Justice Center