Obama the Lawbreaker versus the Catholic Church
In response to the Obama administration mandate requiring Catholic institutions to pay for insurance covering contraception, U.S. Catholic bishops announced that they will not "obey" that "law."
The bishops have gotten it wrong and backwards, and in doing so have yielded the moral high ground that is rightfully theirs.
Catholic bishops and the Church's other clerical and even lay leaders have let this issue devolve into a debate about the right to use contraception when that is not even remotely accurate. Proponents of religious and economic freedom are on the defensive. Dictatorial authoritarians are defining the issue and defining their opponents as...well, dictatorial authoritarians.
However, it is the Obama administration that is refusing to obey the law. The administration is the trespasser on rights. Its people are, in fact, lawbreakers.
The law being broken is our Constitution. The Constitution is America's paramount law, meaning that not only does it trump statutory laws contrary to it, but it supersedes any Obama administration mandate in violation of it.
The Constitution, of course, creates a structure for how government makes, enforces, and adjudicates law. Government lacks authority to operate in contravention of the Constitution because the Constitution is the law that governs government.
In the months running up to the 2012 presidential election, the Obama administration has taken on clearly the largest and arguably the most powerful organization and network in the United States, the Catholic Church, with all its beneficent auxiliaries such as schools and hospitals, and all its adherents.
With such contempt for the law, and against such a broad swath of the electorate when his re-election is on the line, what makes anyone think that Obama won't go on an even grander, more unprecedented rampage if he is elected in 2012, and does not need to worry about another re-election after that?
Why does any lawbreaker believe in his invincibility after successfully evading the law?
No president in American history has ever taken a step so grand -- so egregious -- against religious freedom, because up until now no president has ever shown so much contempt for the Constitution as the law that governs government. President Obama promised in 2008 that he would transform America. He could not do that without gutting our paramount law, which otherwise would restrict him.
Obama's transformation of America is based entirely in what some have described as lawlessness. That, however, is an inapt term. One may be lawless without causing harm to others. What President Obama is doing is violating our paramount law and, in doing so, causing harm to our individual, religious, and economic liberties.
When someone violates the law in ways that cause harm to others or the rights of others, that person is a lawbreaker susceptible to society's punishment. The law is intended to prohibit one person from harming others, and to punish those who violate this basic precept of civil society.
Obama is a lawbreaker unparalleled in American history not merely by the number of times he has broken the law, but by the number of victims of his lawbreaking. While violations of our paramount law, the Constitution, do not come with the penalties of punishment like violations of other laws, that does not diminish the lawbreaking nature of Obama's actions.
Catholic leaders have failed to approach the situation the right way. Oh, sure, many have said that the contraception mandate is a violation of religious liberty. But by saying they will not "obey" the contraceptive mandate "law," they have acknowledged a false premise. The mandate is not law. It is a violation of law. You cannot disobey a violation of the law.
This is not a situation of "render unto Caesar." Caesar was the law. In the United States, we have the Constitution. From that paramount law, all other laws to be obeyed flow. But the Constitution is unlike all other laws governing the people. The Constitution was written to govern government itself.
Once we begin to approach all situations from that perspective, our outlook and our responses change.
Catholic leaders assuredly want to follow the law and the dictates of their faith and consciences. Many Catholic leaders are by nature non-confrontational. However, history has been unkind to Catholic leaders who failed to confront wrongdoing and address it in appropriately moral but tactically aggressive ways.
As a lawbreaker, Mr. Obama is unworthy even of disobedience, for that would imply a legal and moral authority that he himself has ignored. No, Catholic leaders must treat Mr. Obama as the one who has disobeyed the law.
Richard A. Viguerie and Mark J. Fitzgibbons are co-authors of The Law That Governs Government: Reclaiming The Constitution From Usurpers And Society's Biggest Lawbreaker, available at ReclaimtheConstitution.com.