Ask Dr. Land: Is there a difference between the ‘letter’ of the law and its ‘spirit'?

Richard Land
(Photo: The Christian Post/Katherine T. Phan)

I don’t think I’ve ever thought as long or prayed more earnestly over an Ask Dr. Land column than I have this one. The question concerns the ‘letter’ of the law vs. its spirit.’ Jesus talked about this issue in the New Testament, informing the Pharisees they were terribly wrong and dangerously deluded in thinking that they were not sinners because they hadn’t committed murder or adultery. He informed them that in the spirit of the law vs. the letter, if you hate someone you have already murdered them in your heart. Also, if you lust after a woman in your heart you are already guilty of sexual immorality.

I understand that only Jesus can read the fine print of our hearts, and that we mortals can abuse the difference between the spirit and the letter of the law. However, I have been thinking intensely over the last few days about how this distinction might apply to the controversial action of Attorney General William Barr in withholding the information concerning Hunter Biden and his uncle Jim (Joe Biden’s brother), and possibly others being the subjects of a criminal probe by the FBI, the IRS and at least one U.S. attorney.

Bill Barr is a straight arrow’s “straight arrow,” a “by-the-book” guy. And he no doubt came back for a second term (2019-2020) as Attorney General (he served in that position from 1991-1993 under President George H. W. Bush) because he was scandalized by the unprecedented politicization of the upper echelons of the Justice Department under the Obama administration. President Obama’s first Attorney General, Eric Holder, proclaimed himself the president’s “wing man.” At the very least, this implies a shocking lack of the impartiality most Americans expect from their Justice Department.

I believe Attorney General Barr came back to purify and reconsecrate his beloved Justice Department. Consequently, Bill Barr was determined not to repeat the excesses of James Comey, who as head of the FBI, went outside the chain of command and took it upon himself to hold a press conference speaking about investigations of Hillary Clinton during a presidential campaign. In doing so Jim Comey once again confirmed his well-earned reputation for hubris.

So, Barr was predisposed to be painstakingly neutral and to follow the Justice Department’s rules and guidelines to the ‘letter’ of the law. And, by and large, he has helped to restore the Justice Department’s reputation. However, in having this mindset, Attorney General Barr was pre-programmed to make the same mistake the one-eyed mule made in trying to cross an open bridge – he was so concerned about the side of the bridge he couldn’t see, he overcompensated and tumbled over the side of the bridge he could see. I believe Attorney General Barr followed the letter rather than the spirit of the law in withholding from the American people information about the federal probes of the Biden family until after the presidential election.

It would undoubtedly have had an impact on the presidential election. Polls reveal that just under 10% of Biden voters said that if they had known about these investigations, they would not have voted for Vice President Biden.

Admittedly, it would not have been totally fair to Joe Biden. He, like every other American citizen, has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

However, when you run for president, you sacrifice many things personally, and one of them is the privacy protection other citizens get. As I once heard President George W. Bush explain in 1999, “I believe God wants me to be president. But if that doesn’t happen, that’s okay. I’m loved at home and that’s more important. And I have seen the presidency up close and personal, and I know it’s a sacrifice, not a reward. And I don’t need the presidency for personal validation.” I remember it so clearly because I thought at the time that’s about as healthy an attitude as someone can have who’s willing to make all the personal sacrifices necessary to become president. Your rights must be weighed against the rights of the nation’s voters to be informed voters, having been made aware of as many facts and issues as possible prior to casting their ballots.

In this case one should have been able to weigh Mr. Biden’s right to presumed innocence against the nation’s right to know whether the president’s son and brother (and I pray to God not the president-elect himself) are possibly going to be indicted for serious crimes and for nefarious activities with America’s chief competitor on the world stage, Communist China.

Already there’s enough evidence of intertwined relationships between the Biden family and members of the Communist party in China that if they weren’t the Bidens they would be denied security clearance. Just last year, before Democrats decided on Biden, Politico Magazine wrote an extensive expose, calling it “Biden Inc.,” laying out what many believe to be the president-elect’s pay-for-play tendencies.

When you consider this, along with the internet “technopoly” suppressing the New York Post’s stories on Hunter Biden’s “radioactive” laptop (effectively censoring the nation’s oldest and fourth largest newspaper until after the election), this disturbing question must be asked, “Why were the American people denied very relevant, time-sensitive information that could possibly influence their choice about who should be their president for the next four years?”

Reluctantly I have concluded that Attorney General Barr, a good and decent man, followed the letter of the law at the sacrifice of its spirit. The right of the country’s voters to know as many facts as possible should have trumped Mr. Biden’s and his family’s presumption of innocence.

I ask you to join me in praying genuinely, fervently, and sincerely, that this well-intended mistake doesn’t end up forcing the country to pay a terrible price. Afterall, it has often been said, “The road to perdition is often paved with good intentions.”

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