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Pro-abortion violence and officials noncompliance: A dagger aimed at the heart of the rule of law

A person holds up a sign reading 'Ruth Sent Us' as pro-choice activists gather outside the U.S. Courthouse to defend abortion rights in downtown Los Angeles on May 3, 2022.
A person holds up a sign reading "Ruth Sent Us" as pro-choice activists gather outside the U.S. Courthouse to defend abortion rights in downtown Los Angeles on May 3, 2022. | Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Every freedom-loving American should be appalled at the violence and threats of violence against U.S. government employees. We have witnessed the chilling sight of a potential assassination of a sitting Supreme Court Justice at his personal residence.

We have had to witness through national media film clips hundreds of American citizens protesting in front of the justices’ homes.

Around the country we hear and see spreading reports of acts of violence against crisis pregnancy centers (whose only aim is to save the lives of the unborn and to minister to their mothers).

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Circulars and posters have popped up, declaring: “Call to Action night of rage.” These “woke warriors” declare: “TO OUR OPPRESSORS: If ABORTIONS are not SAFE, THEN YOU’RE NOT EITHER.” Some crisis pregnancy centers have been targeted with firebombs.

Now we have the even more dangerous specter of thousands of elected officials, openly declaring that they will not enforce abortion-related laws.

First, most of these protestors, or recalcitrant public officials, have been whipped into a frenzy by political operatives (including mass media) that have misinformed them that this is true. Thus, they proclaim “if Roe is overturned, democracy dies!”

Nothing could be further from the actual truth. If Roe is overturned, democracy is restored in America. The citizens of each state will decide for themselves when and under what circumstances abortions would take place — a decision taken out of their hands by an imperial Supreme Court 48 years ago.

Given the current mood in the country, it is critically important to know the facts.

I cannot think, however, of a greater threat to our nation’s rule of law, the bedrock of our entire legal system, than having public officials exercise a self-proclaimed “right” to disobey and ignore laws with which they are in disagreement — laws which they have taken an oath to enforce.

It is bad enough when private citizens refuse to obey the nation’s laws. When elected officials refuse to fulfill their oath of office, society has descended into a dark and dangerous place. The other day a very disturbing headline appeared in newspapers, “If Roe falls, some DAs won’t enforce abortion ban."

In both red states and blue states, you have District Attorneys and other public officials who are openly declaring that they will not enforce laws they have taken an oath to uphold.

As I said earlier, I cannot think of anything more destructive to the rule of law (a precious and fragile thing that Americans too often take for granted since it has always been part of the “furniture in the room” ever since the ratification of the Constitution in 1789).

Once the rule of law is imperiled, it is a swift descent into oligarchy and then insurrection and chaos.

Back in 1960, during one of the most intriguing presidential elections in our entire history as a nation, one huge issue was the fact that the Democrat candidate for president, Sen. John F. Kennedy, was a Roman Catholic and a Roman Catholic had never been elected to the presidency.

This was a big deal! You must remember that you are dealing here with a pre-Vatican II Roman Catholicism, which could give formidable pause to your average American Protestant. Would the pope tell the president what to do under the threat of excommunication?

So on September 12, 1960, a memorable weekday night during that hot and very contested campaign, which in the end would be decided by less than 100,000 votes (less than one vote per precinct nationwide), then Sen. John Kennedy came to my hometown of Houston, Texas, to answer the question of whether his Catholic beliefs would compromise his oath of allegiance if he were to be victorious.

I was in my 14th year and new to all things political. Democrat presidential candidate John F. Kennedy was going to address the Greater Houston Ministerial Association (made up of Protestant ministers, including my pastor) on the question of his Catholicism — and he was going to take questions. Trust me, it was a big deal!

I have seen the video of the event several times and I have read the transcript at least 50 times. I deemed the speech important enough historically to have it reprinted as part of “Appendix D (Presidential Addresses)” in my book, The Divided States of America? What Liberals AND Conservatives are Missing in the God and Country Shouting Match! 

JFK was clearly miffed that he was having to address the issue at all. Near the beginning, he says, “because I am a Catholic and no Catholic has ever been elected President, … it is apparently necessary for me to state once again what kind of America I believe in!”

JFK then observes,

“Contrary to common newspaper usage, I am not the Catholic candidate for President. I am the Democratic Pary’s candidate for President who happens also to be Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters — and the church does not speak for me.”

Then the president gets down to the heart of the issue. Having declared his allegiance to religious liberty as defined in the First Amendment, JFK states:

“Whatever issue may come before me as President…I will make my decision…in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be in the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to do otherwise.”

In other words, his Roman Catholic faith informs his conscience, and he would be guided by his, not the Roman Catholic hierarchy’s, conscience. The “no power or threat of punishment” undoubtedly refers to the threat of papal excommunication.

Then JFK, in my opinion, “threads the needle” perfectly by saying:

“If the time should ever come…when my office would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office. I hope any conscientious public servant would do the same.”

JFK was laying down a fundamental marker. He would not violate his conscience or his oath of office in which, if elected, he would, “solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of the President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution…so help me God.”

This should be an example for every elected official in the United States. You have sworn an oath to uphold the law as it is, not as you would like for it to be. If you cannot in conscience do so, resign and then protest the law as a private citizen. Just ignoring the laws you have sworn to uphold is not an option — and some might legitimately call it treason.

Dr. Richard Land, BA (Princeton, magna cum laude); D.Phil. (Oxford); Th.M (New Orleans Seminary). Dr. Land served as President of Southern Evangelical Seminary from July 2013 until July 2021. Upon his retirement, he was honored as President Emeritus and he continues to serve as an Adjunct Professor of Theology & Ethics. Dr. Land previously served as President of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (1988-2013) where he was also honored as President Emeritus upon his retirement. Dr. Land has also served as an Executive Editor and columnist for The Christian Post since 2011.

Dr. Land explores many timely and critical topics in his daily radio feature, “Bringing Every Thought Captive,” and in his weekly column for CP.

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