Rule of Law

A recent New York Times article said “The question in the Zubik case is a simple one: Do religious objectors get to disobey the laws they dislike, even when that places burdens on others?”

Wait a minute. Anybody can break the law, as long as they are willing to accept the consequences. There should be consequences of breaking laws or we have no rule of law. The question doesn’t make sense.

Accommodation of religious concerns requires a provision for exemption from the law, and when in place exercisers of the provision do not break any laws. This is what corporations do to accommodate diverse beliefs when they allow Jewish Sabbath observers to leave early on a Friday so they can get duties done before sundown. Someone else has to work the hours, and yes, the person did have to notify they were leaving.

When we break laws in civil disobedience we become criminals. Criminals do not usually notify the authorities of their crime. We may have good religious reasons to be civilly disobedience, as did Martin Luther King Jr. We may cause longer term change and be revered decades later. But we are intentionally breaking a law, and should expect consequences. We should want consequences, because we need laws enforced to keep a civil peace.

I cannot image the Supreme Court is going to give anyone the right to forgo consequences for civil disobedience, though it might require fuller accommodation in the law. I can imagine the Little Sisters of the Poor being completely serious in their intention to supply civil disobedience to draw attention if they still believe the outcome contains unjust law.

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