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Chapter 2

The Rights and Limitations of Government 

 

GEORGE Washington declared that,

Government is not reason; it is not eloquence; it is force! Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master. Citizenís Rulebook, Whitten Printers, p. 62

Clearly, George Washington was not an anarchist who believed in the elimination of all government, but his wisdom and experience declared that the citizens of any nation must be ever vigilant in guarding against the development of dangerous and oppressive measures by those in governmental authority. Rarely through the chronicles of human history have we been able to achieve the ultimate goal of government of the people, by the people, for the people.

There is naturally resident within the unconverted heart of men and women the desire to rule over others; to assume that the position of authority they have attained gives them the right to oppose and oppress those who are not in agreement with them; to assume that the right of authority gives a superior wisdom that others do not possess. Christ understood this fact and observed it among the heathen and the secular leaders of His day; it was contrary to His manner and He warned His disciples against following such a policy.

But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. Matthew 20:25Ė28

All governments have the responsibility to acknowledge the natural God-given rights of their citizens: the right to life, liberty, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and the right to assemble peaceably together. Thus any legislation which violates these rights is inimical to the proper role of government.

It is the responsibility of citizens to be ever vigilant, to make sure that government operates within its rightful parameters. The surrender of liberty, be it ever so little, will nevertheless open a path, the end of which may not be seen by those who have turned a blind eye or preserved a silent voice to that which has taken place.

Perhaps the greatest weakness of the citizens of any nation is that so many have "short sight." They see a little erosion of their freedom but judge that it is not significant, for it appears to scarcely affect them personally. They have no concept of the danger inherent once such a pathway has been sustained by silence and inaction. Nor do they possess the insight to recognize that, inevitably, the next step will be taken, and the ultimate end will be that of bondage and servitude. One step away from the principles of freedom is to place individuals and society as a whole upon the pathway of unlimited danger.

Sir Winston Churchill understood the principle that the granting of a small erosion of liberty inevitably leads to ever greater erosion of our freedoms. On October 5 1938, he stated, in addressing the weak failure of the European nations to halt Adolf Hitlerís deprivation of the liberty of the Czech nation,

Do not suppose that this is the end. This is only the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year unless by a supreme recovery of moral health and martial vigour, we arise again and take our stand for freedom as in the olden times. Winston Churchill, Into the Battle, p. 53

It is God who provides the inalienable rights of humanity. Righteous leaders exercise their God-given role without the infringement of human liberty. Leaders and other citizens alike have a God-given responsibility to be subject to Godís power and to uphold it.

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Romans 13:1

Above all else, government has the responsibility to protect all citizens from oppression and persecution. To accomplish this, the particular purpose of government is to protect the weak from the strong. The weak normally are the poor; the less educated; the racial, religious, and political minorities. In an essay on the subject of trial by jury, Lysander Spooner wrote,

Government is established for the protection of the weak against the strong. This is the principal, if not the sole motive for the establishment of all legitimate government. It is only the weaker party that loses their [sic] liberties, when a government becomes oppressive. The stronger party, in all governments are free by virtue of their superior strength. They never oppress themselves. Legislation is the work of the stronger party; and if, in addition to the sole power of legislation, they have the sole power of determining what legislation shall be enforced, they have all power in their hands, and the weaker party are the subjects of an absolute government. Unless the weaker party has a veto, they have no power whatsoever in the government and . . . no liberties. Citizenís Rulebook, Whitten Printers, p. 10

Indeed, the lone right of government in the arena of religion is to protect the religious liberty of each citizen of the nation.

Enlightened British Prime Minister William Pitt, addressing the British House of Commons, stated,

The poorest man may, in his cottage, bid defiance through all the forces of the Crown. It may be frail, its roof may shake; the wind may blow through it; the storms may enter; the rain may enter; but the king of England may not enter; all his force dares not cross the thresholds of the ruined tenement. Ibid. p. 61

The home of a citizen is his citadel; and right of authority, privileged power does not give right for government to intrude upon his premises without a search warrant except under three emergency circumstances:

1. Imminent danger (e.g. sounds of violence against a person)

2. Threat to public safety (e.g. odors of methamphetamine lab)

3. Hot pursuit (e.g. someone being chased enters a home)

In all other circumstances, only if there is overwhelming evidence of a major crime do the peopleís representatives have the right to seek legal authorization to enter and search private property. Even under those circumstances, that search has no validity unless the tenant of that home, and a witness chosen by him, are able to witness the search. Efforts to send teams of searchers unwitnessed into other parts of the house, are against all principles of freedom. Such acts encourage the planting of false evidence. A citizen has the right to know that no false evidence has been planted in his home by the searchers.

It is not the prerogative of government to seek to determine religious truths. Rather, that is the responsibility of each individual. The right of government is to provide laws that permit the freedom of men and women to seek and to search for truth. This principle was well understood by Thomas Jefferson, who said,

It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself. Ibid. p. 12

The United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights were written to protect the natural rights of all citizens. Seeking to forestall legislatures from destroying these rights, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were also written in such a way that it was clearly possible for the citizens of the nation to compel the government to remain within its constitutional bounds, and this even by force. Thus the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights gave citizens the right to bear arms and, if necessary, form a citizensí army. While we do not favor the use of force by the citizens against the government, any more than we favor the use of force by government against the citizens, nevertheless it was the concept of the founders of the American nation that, should a government arise which was oppressive in nature, the citizens could arm themselves and fight that oppression in order to overthrow such a government.

One might reflect, however, that two hundred years ago it was indeed possible for the citizenry to have the same equipment and fire power as the government in order to pursue such a war. Today the second amendment of the Constitution has been made virtually obsolete, for it would almost be impossible for the citizens of the nation to arm themselves with the rocketry, the helicopter gun-ships, the smart bombs and the nuclear weapons that are at the disposal of governments, unless the entire military machine of the nation united with the citizens against the government. However, the Vietnam War did demonstrate the effectiveness of a guerrilla type operation against a mighty military force.

The only other ways in which the citizens could compete with the government would be, a violent take over of governmental installationsóa tactic not likely to succeed, or by guerilla warfare or terrorism, neither of which tactics are viable or proper alternatives for responsible citizens. Thus one of the most cherished protections provided in the Bill of Rights is no longer effectively operative. This permits governments today to be far less concerned about the intent of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights than in past generations. Therefore an even greater vigilance must be exercised, not only by responsible legislators, but also by concerned citizens, to ensure that the freedoms that have been guaranteed to the citizens of their nation be not eroded or lost. One of the reasons why today a number of situations have arisen, where the agents of the federal government have alarmingly violated every principle of human rights, with resulting deaths of innocent citizens, is due to the fact that citizens and legislators have not performed their duty to protest the erosion of liberties. This fact has provoked violent elements in society to adopt their own dangerous courses of redress.

The only way a government can oppress its people is through the ignorance or the indifference of the majority of its citizens. If, by ballot and by jury, oppressive laws are repelled, the government stands impotent to deprive the people of their God-given freedom unless it declare war on its own citizens. Realistically, the only hope for continuing freedom is the decided use of the ballot and the proper function of the jury system.

Unfortunately, in frustration and retaliation, some citizens are resorting to terrorism. We categorically oppose such measures. Terrorism results in the maiming and death of many innocent citizens, and provokes the government to enact increasingly oppressive laws.

The U. S. Constitution provides for the impeachment of those who would abuse their authority. Section three of the United States Constitution provides that,

The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments.

Such an impeachment can be sustained only by a two-thirds majority of the members present in the Senate. There is no avenue by which the citizens as a whole may exert the power to impeach. They are wholly dependent upon the authority of the Senate for such impeachment.

Abraham Lincoln sought to define the citizensí right to overthrow those who would attempt to violate the Constitution. Too often, those seeking to redress the abuses of a leader are accused of attacking the institution where the leader serves. In other words, if someone were opposing a corrupt president, it would not be surprising for him to be accused of subversion against the government. But Abraham Lincoln observed tható

The people are the masters of both Congress and courts, not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow the men who pervert it! Ibid., p. 17

Thus citizens have no right to overthrow the Constitution, but have every responsibility to take what decided action is necessary to overthrow those in office who would seek to pervert the Constitution. In nations where the Constitution contains unjust articles, it is the duty of the citizens to peacefully work to rectify such a constitution; and it is the duty of juries, if such a legal system prevails, to ignore such unjust articles in reaching their decisions.

It is crucial that religious organizations be forbidden to interfere in the constitutions of the nations. Such interference inevitably leads to persecution of dissenters. The 1885 encyclical of Pope Leo XIII, therefore, is a most dangerous one. It states, "All Catholics should do all in their power to cause the constitutions of states, and legislations to be modelled on the principles of the true church and Catholic writers and journalists should never lose sight, for an instant, of the view of the above prescription."

One of the most difficult decisions that the U. S. Congress has to face today, is the protection of its citizens while preserving the right to privacy. Often, political leaders and government officers have sought to encourage the belief that too much freedom results in chaos. In so doing, they have not always clearly delineated between freedom and license. Thus it is urged that citizens should freely surrender their rights for the higher good of community as a whole. It is never advantageous for citizens to surrender any rights to produce a better society. Every renunciation of rights produces a poorer society. It is unlikely that more laws will result in less criminals. It was British Prime Minister William Pitt, who, addressing the British House of Commons, decidedly rejected the concept that rights must be surrendered to provide security and safety.

Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human liberty; it is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves. Ibid. p. 9

In the wake of increasing terrorism in the United States we can sympathize with legislators who are seeking to balance the issues of individual rights and public security. But we must constantly ask the question, "How far can government intrude to protect society without encroaching upon the individual freedoms of its citizens?" The tide of security at airports, government buildings, and other public institutions, presents a challenge. Legislators of today and vigilant citizens demand that almost every terrorist act be followed by a review of security measures by Congress. Not government alone, but the courts also have thought to restrict some of the civil and religious freedom in the United States. This issue is addressed in chapter 21 entitled, "Judicial Confusion and Inconsistencies Regarding Sunday Laws." If the citizens fail to monitor the actions of the government, it will lead to tyranny. Only when there is mutual and earned trust of the citizens in their government, and the government in its citizens, will true liberty be retained.

Editorís note: This oft-quoted book, Citizenís Rulebook, is available from Hartland Publications, Box 1, Rapidan, Virginia 22733, USA.


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