Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said on Friday, February 20th, that he would “never do anything to disobey a federal court ruling” when asked about the legal fight over same-sex marriage in the Deep South state.
“We are a nation under laws,” Bentley told POLITICO. “We may not always agree with them, but we obey them.” The governor’s comments are in response to various courts redefining marriage and forcing states to comply with the redefinition contrary to the Federal Constitution and Alabama’s state constitution.
Is Gov. Bentley serious? Does he really mean that there is nothing that would stop him from obeying a federal court order? Nothing?
Does this mean that if a federal court ordered the National Guard to round up all the children who are being educated by their parents at home, he would follow that order?
What if a federal court ruled that gun ownership is no longer permitted in the United States and all guns must be confiscated? Would Gov. Bentley comply?
I’m sure you could come up with your own list.
I was watching the 1961 film Judgment of Nuremberg the other day. It stars many well-known actors of the era: Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark, Maximilian Schell, Werner Klemperer, Marlene Dietrich, Judy Garland, William Shatner, and Montgomery Clift.
It’s a powerful film that deals with events related “principally to actions committed by the German state against its own racial, social, religious, and eugenic groupings within its borders ‘in the name of the law.’”
“Judgment at Nuremberg centers on a military tribunal convened in Nuremberg, Germany, in which four German judges and prosecutors stand accused of crimes against humanity for their involvement in atrocities committed under the Nazi regime. Judge Dan Haywood (Spencer Tracy) is the Chief Trial Judge of a three-judge panel that will hear and decide the case against the defendants. Haywood begins his examination by trying to learn how the defendant Ernst Janning (Burt Lancaster) could have sentenced so many people to death.”
What reason did the defendants give for their actions? They were only following orders that has become known as the “Nuremberg Defense”:
Adolf Eichmann: “I cannot recognize the verdict of guilty. . . . It was my misfortune to become entangled in these atrocities. But these misdeeds did not happen according to my wishes. It was not my wish to slay people. . . . Once again I would stress that I am guilty of having been obedient, having subordinated myself to my official duties and the obligations of war service and my oath of allegiance and my oath of office, and in addition, once the war started, there was also martial law. . . . I did not persecute Jews with avidity and passion. That is what the government did. . . . At that time obedience was demanded, just as in the future it will also be demanded of the subordinate.”
I’m not saying that Gov. Bentley is a Nazi. I am saying that his statement is dangerous. If judges will “never do anything to disobey a federal court ruling,” we all should be worried.
Then there is the constitutional issue. The Constitution does not say one word about marriage, therefore, it doesn’t have jurisdiction over defining or redefining it. The state of Alabama is in full compliance with the Constitution and the laws of its state.
It would have been nice to have heard Gov. Bentley to offer a vigorous defense of the nature of law, the Constitution, the Tenth Amendment, and the dangers of judicial supremacy.
Here’s what Thomas Jefferson had said on the subject:
- “The question whether the judges are invested with exclusive authority to decide on the constitutionality of a law has been heretofore a subject of consideration with me in the exercise of official duties. Certainly there is not a word in the Constitution which has given that power to them more than to the Executive or Legislative branches.”1
- “But the Chief Justice says, ‘There must be an ultimate arbiter somewhere.’ True, there must; but does that prove it is either party? The ultimate arbiter is the people of the Union, assembled by their deputies in convention, at the call of Congress or of two-thirds of the States. Let them decide to which they mean to give an authority claimed by two of their organs. And it has been the peculiar wisdom and felicity of our Constitution, to have provided this peaceable appeal, where that of other nations is at once to force.”2
- “To consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions [is] a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy.”3
- “This member of the Government was at first considered as the most harmless and helpless of all its organs. But it has proved that the power of declaring what the law is, ad libitum (at one’s pleasure], by sapping and mining slyly and without alarm the foundations of the Constitution, can do what open force would not dare to attempt.”4
How is it possible that we have come to a point in time that five unelected judges are making laws for more than 300 million people? Why not disband Congress and nullify every state constitution to make it official that law is what five justices say it is and one president who creates fiat law through executive action.
Martin Luther King, Jr.: “One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”
- Thomas Jefferson to W. H. Torrance, 1815. [↩]
- Thomas Jefferson to William Johnson, 1823. [↩]
- Thomas Jefferson to William C. Jarvis, 1820. [↩]
- Thomas Jefferson to Edward Livingston, 1825. [↩]