Carol Platt Liebau

Friday, March 25, 2005

There is little to add to Hugh Hewitt's discussion of judicial abstention in the Terri Schiavo case. Actually, what's been done is much worse than judicial abstention -- it's been a dazzling display of judicial arrogance. How else can a federal court's refusal to grant de novo review and interlocutory relief in the case, despite the explicit legislative injunction for the former and the clear legislative intent for the latter, be characterized? Indeed, as interpreted by the federal court (and then upheld by the appeals court and the Supreme Court), the legislation passed by Congress last weekend would be meaningless -- and courts are not supposed to interpret laws in such a way as to make them meaningless.

What the courts have done is profoundly wrong, infuriating, even heartbreaking, as Terri Schiavo slowly dies of hunger and thirst. But we live in a nation of laws. Extralegal activity is never the answer. Some (like Alan Keyes and Michael Savage) are arguing that Governor Jeb Bush should simply take custody of Terri. What misguided thinking -- and how sad it influences some to go too far (like the man soliciting a hit man for Michael Schiavo and others over the internet, as reported here). People who are behaving that way are very, very wrong. And although they don't represent 99% of people of faith, they nonetheless sully the reputations of all.

In America, when we don't believe in the law as passed or interpreted, we take steps to change it -- we don't defy it. That's a recipe for civil war.

Taking the law into our own hands in any but the most extreme and threatening circumstances is not only morally wrong. It is a betrayal of the trust of the Founding Fathers, who produced for us a system that provides for the peaceful reform of arrogant or unaccountable government. And even on the crassest, most practical level, it would be a dumb tactical move for conservatives and people of faith, for it would legitimize tactics that the secular left -- heedless of the restraint and guidance generally inculcated by religious faith and much more effective, frankly, at producing anarchy and chaos -- would not hesitate to adopt.


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