Oath of Office

September 10th, 2015 8 Comments

liberty kissing justice

 

I’ve been following the Kim Davis saga on the news. In case you live in a country that doesn’t air American news stories, Kim Davis is the county clerk in Kentucky who went to jail rather than issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

On all the news channels I watch (in descending order of priority that would be Fox, CNN, CBS, ABC, and PBS), the hue and cry being raised is that, regardless of her religious convictions, as a government official she has taken an oath to obey the law and—like it or not—same-sex marriage “is now the law of the land.”

(I have put that in quotes because it is in fact not the law of the land. Contrary to what so many people believe, no ruling by the Supreme Court is anything other than a ruling on the constitutional interpretation regarding a specific case. So, same-sex marriage is not the law of the land and will not be a law until congress writes it up and passes it as such, and—just as a reminder—only congress can pass a law, no matter what President Obama seems to think to the contrary. However, since most people erroneously think of every syllable that comes out of the Supreme Court’s mouth as law of the land, and since that is how most of the media are talking about it, and because I don’t wish to get enmeshed in a lengthy constitutional legal argument, I will it pretend it is law.)

I have no particular feelings about same-sex marriage beyond the sort of vague, universal I’d-like-everyone-to-be-happy sentiment that most people feel about topics that do not directly affect them. But I do happen to think the “oath of office” argument is a very valid point and one with which I happen to agree. But my issue is not with Kim Davis so much as it is with the media. No news organization, conservative or liberal, has ever, until now, as far as I know, felt that the laws of the land and the oath of office to uphold those laws were significant enough to merit the condemnation of elected officials who chose to ignore them.

Case in point: When Gavin Newsome was mayor of San Francisco, same-sex marriages were against the law in California, yet Mr. Newsome, an elected official, was ballyhooed for very publicly ignoring his oath of office, flouting the law he had sworn to uphold, and personally issuing marriage licenses at city hall to same-sex couples from all over the state.

Case in point: In 2014, then Attorney General, Eric Holder, the top law enforcement officer in the nation, chose to ignore his oath of office and gave a speech to the states attorneys general in which he praised state prosecutors who declined to defend their states’ bans on same-sex marriage. He also gave a wink-and-a-nod to state legalization of marijuana, even though that drug remains illegal at the federal level.

Case in point: Four states have taken former Attorney General Eric Holder at his word and legalized the possession, sale, transportation, and cultivation of marijuana, even though all those activities remain illegal at the federal level, the elected officials of those states thereby ignoring both their oath of office and the “preemption doctrine” expressly laid out in Article VI, clause 2 of the constitution they swore to uphold and defend.

Case in point: President Obama himself correctly stated twenty-two times that he could not legally amend immigration law by himself, yet he then turned around and did precisely that through executive action.

Case in point: Currently, the elected officials at various levels in over two hundred cities, counties, and states across the country have decided to ignore federal law and their oath of office and have declared themselves “sanctuaries” for illegal aliens.

I could go on.

It makes no difference what your opinion is of any of these laws. It makes no difference what your conscience may dictate. If you are an official, at any level, from county clerk to president of the United States, you take an oath to “uphold” or “protect” and “defend” (the precise wording various somewhat with the level of the position and the location of the office held) both the constitution and the laws of this country and/or the state in which the oath is being given.

Since the President and the former Attorney General both saw fit to ignore and violate their oath, and since multiple officials at multiple levels of government all across this country have seen fit to follow their example, why is everyone getting wrapped around the axle because a country clerk sees fit to do what so many others above her have done? After all, it’s just a violation of her oath of office, and clearly no one at any level these days pays much attention to anything as quaint and old-fashioned as taking an oath.

In fact, I think we all ought to forget all about all laws of the land and just do what we personally think is right, and let the devil take the hindmost. And if there is one thing I can guarantee, it is that if our elected officials don’t see fit to honor their oath of office, the devil will take the hindmost.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I like your excellent summation of the issue JP.

    Since an official could object to doing anything or override the law as they see fit the potential for chaos is limitless. For example, if her job included issuing dog licenses (yes, I know, a silly example) and she objected to that then could she could refuse do that on some religious grounds (I have no idea what that might be, but my point is conceivably anything could be objected to for any reason). What if she objected to everything her office did and then did nothing at all? Would that then be grounds to remove her if everything grounded to a halt?

    Could we have a complete breakdown of our system? PBS is reshowing the Ken Burns Civil War series this week (new HD remastering) and there is much to learn in the history of the reasons for the civil war and the events of legal breakdown on both sides which pushed radicals to war instead of finding a way to end slavery without destroying the country. Yes, racism was a huge part of slavery but at some point other reasons kept that system going beyond just that and this is why for the South it WAS a State’s Rights issue. For example, the whole plantation economic system collapsing without it, fear of most free-men that the slaves would rise up and kill them or take over the political system if they could vote (or do other unspeakable acts as the plantation owners often told the non-slave holders to increase fear), compete with the poor free-men for the few paying labor jobs, etc. It came to a breaking point that exploded into war. Just as continuing slavery was wrong, not having a way out to address those fears of the State’s Rights advocates made war inevitable.

    Interestingly many of the earliest gun control laws were clearly created to prevent slaves or ex-slaves from being armed for fear of a rebellion. As such some of the current gun control laws are racist in their origin.

    Could we be headed for another civil war if this sort of thing keeps up? Maybe it’s still a far off and unlikely scenario, but the more these abuses continue the more it sure seems possible at least to me.

    I would have a hard time if I were a clerk refusing people the right to carry a gun just because someone above me decreed that they don’t like that right and want to nullify that. But that nullification has happened often there in CA. For example, that case down in San Diego that the court overturned and ordered the county to issue CCW permits. Last I heard the county was trying to impede/legally fight that, but I haven’t paid as close attention as I should to know the current status—guess I need to check the Cal Guns website.

    Anyway, back to the topic of a legal breakdown. We are polarized in this country and if it continues we could split. But this time the split isn’t easy to divide geographically. It will be ugly if it happens.

    Unless the clerk can show that issuing those marriage licenses is in violation of the laws of the County, State and Country then I don’t see a way out but her issuing them or quitting her job (the latter is the only option if she believes it is strictly a violation of “God’s law”). It will be interesting to see if her legal team (funded by various groups) will be successful in challenging the law. Doesn’t seem likely Congress will take this up anytime soon or ever and without a larger majority by either side they won’t get far.

    Personally I don’t have a dog in the fight of SSM. I also don’t think it alone is the kind of thing that will lead to a civil war. Just that it is systemic of this larger breakdown in our system as those other examples you included show.

    Everyone seems to be happy with violating the law if they don’t like the law or forcing others to do the same when they want it their way regardless of how that legal precedent is set. But we also know that laws can be morally wrong to. Trying times for men and women of liberty!

  2. Anonymous says:

    This all me make wonder why Hillary Clinton is not in jail.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Yeah, I kinda don’t understand this whole deal. Whenever I objected to anything an employer did, I just got FIRED, not JAILED! Take it from someone with a LOT of experiences gittin’ fired! Freedom of speech is guaranteed us by the U. S. of A. Constitution, but NOT by yer employers, I can guarantee you that!! So how is it they just didn’t sack this lady, instead of arresting her? I’m not agreeing with her view, but incarcerating her sounds, well, kinda totilatarian. Perhaps I always got fired rather than jailed, because trying to feed me would have been far too expensive! Which is why I is college eddicated. My parents told me it was cheaper to send me to college than to feed me at home…..L. B.

  4. Anonymous says:

    http://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/peter-roff/2015/06/26/supreme-courts-gay-marriage-ruling-will-have-unintended-consequences

    The unintended consequences of the Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling.
    I have mixed feeling about gay marriage. On the one hand it really has nothing to do with me. On the other hand I am concerned with the unintended consequences and there are going to be untended consequences. A bakery run buy Christians was put out of business because they did not want to bake a cake for a gay wedding and this was before the court ruling. I wonder if the government is going to go after the tax exempt status of churches if they refuse to perform same sex wedding. What if a church preaches that homosexuality is wrong? Will they be sued? Indiana just prohibited Christian ministries from ministering to prisoners if they taught that homosexuality is a sin. They told them they could no longer come in to the prison. In Europe it is against the law for any one to preach against homosexuality in the streets. I suspect that this will become the law in the United States. If you don’t think that religious liberty is going to be attacked then you are wrong. It will be. Free speech is going fast and you better believe that soon you can be punished for saying that same sex marriage is wrong. These things are already happening. It will be labeled hate speech and people could be jailed. It is inevitable.

  5. Anonymous says:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-w-whitehead/give-me-liberty-or-give-m_2_b_8103262.html?utm_source=Alert-blogger&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Email%2BNotifications

    I posted this blog before, but I thought that it would be worthwhile to post it again. Yesterday was the 14th anniversary of 9-11 and the 228th anniversary of the Constitution. This article details some of the way that the Bill of Rights are being stripped away from us.

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