Why a Bad Supreme Court Decision May Require Civil Disobedience

By Mat Staver Published on March 19, 2015

Civil disobedience has a long and noble history in Western culture, and we will need a primer on it if, as seems likely, the Supreme Court rules against natural marriage in June.

Of course, civil disobedience is not justified just because we disagree with a human law, but only when that law conflicts with a higher revealed or Natural Law. When he was jailed for violating a law used to stop him from protesting injustice, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote his famous Letter from Birmingham Jail. “A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God,” he argued. “An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law.”

He went on to say: “I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that ‘an unjust law is no law at all.’”

Such resistance is the very opposite of lawlessness. Dr. King set forth four steps to resist injustice: (1) gathering of facts, (2) negotiation, (3) self-purification and (4) direct action. We must learn more so we can see more. We have a duty to be informed. We must use all civil means to resolve the conflict. And, we must humbly seek the Lord before taking direct action.

Historical Precedent

Judeo-Christian history and the Western legal tradition agree with Dr. King. Sir William Blackstone wrote the definitive legal source used by British and American lawyers alike through the nineteenth century. In his Commentaries on the Laws of England, Blackstone wrote that “divine Providence” revealed His will through the “holy scriptures” and the “moral precepts” of revealed law. “Upon these two foundations, the law of nature and the law of revelation depend all human laws; that is to say, no human law should be suffered [permitted] to contradict these.” This natural law “is binding over all the globe in all countries, and at all times; no human laws are of any validity, if contrary to this.”

The Declaration of Independence refers to this same principle when it uses the words “laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” and declares that we are “endowed” by our “Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Merely because a legislature or a judge passes a law or issues an opinion does not make a law just. “To consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions [is] a dangerous doctrine indeed,” wrote Thomas Jefferson, “and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy.” To cite an extreme example, if you lived under the Nazi regime and the law required you to not hide or aid a Jew in any way, would you comply with Hitler or obey God? To obey Hitler, you would have to disobey God.

Biblical Precedent

Scripture is replete with examples of civil authorities colliding with revealed or Natural Law. The Book of Hebrews says Moses was hid for three months because his parents “were not afraid of the king’s edict” (Heb. 11:23). In Daniel, the three Hebrews refused to bow down and worship the King of Babylon, and they were thrown into the fiery furnace from which God rescued them (Dan. 3:16-30). Ditto for Daniel in the lions’ den. Daniel could have prayed silently in his closet, but he openly disobeyed an unjust law and prayed so he could be heard (Dan. 6).

Prayer and preparation is essential. When Mordecai asked Esther to plead with the King of Persia for the Jewish people, she knew approaching the King without being summoned was illegal. She asked for her uncle, Mordecai, and the Jewish people to fast and pray for three days while she would do the same with others in the palace. Only then did she engage in direct action.

The Supreme Court Has Gotten It Wrong Before

The Supreme Court was wrong when it denied Dred Scott his rights and said, “blacks are inferior human beings.” And the Court was wrong when Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, “three generations of imbeciles are enough,” thus upholding Virginia’s eugenics law that permitted forced sterilization.

In these earlier cases, the definition of “human” was at issue. Now the definition of “marriage” is at issue. The Constitution does not grant a right to same-sex “marriage” — which is nonsensical since marriage intrinsically involves a man and a woman. Nor does the Constitution prohibit states from affirming the natural created order of male and female joined together in marriage.

The U.S. Supreme Court could still come off the rails in their June decision and invent a newfound right to “same-sex marriage,” striking down state laws that recognize the reality of marriage. If the Court takes that disastrous step, we should view it the same way history views the Dred Scott and Buck v. Bell decisions. Such a decision would fly in the face, not just of the Constitution itself, but of the natural created order.

What We Must Do

The temptation for many will be to cave or compromise. The temptation even for the faithful will be to retreat into our churches and cloisters. In 2004, same-sex “marriage” came to Massachusetts. Contrary to the claim that such laws would usher in an age of “tolerance,” the law immediately became a legal club to beat unwilling participants. Catholic charities bravely refused to place orphans in same-sex homes, because it was contrary to their mission.

Unfortunately, they stopped doing adoptions in the state. This cannot be our precedent. What they should have done is to say, “We are called to place orphans in homes with moms and dads. We will not voluntarily surrender our calling.” Massachusetts might have used force to stop Catholic charities anyway, just as lone florists and bakers are being driven to bankruptcy in other states. But what would happen if, instead of quiet retreat, many thousands of individuals, agencies, charities, churches and schools all came together, prepared, prayed and peacefully refused to countenance a Supreme Court decision that violates not only our highest legal document, but the laws of Nature and Nature’s God?

Perhaps we would see our culture step back from the brink of insanity, or perhaps we would suffer in the face of injustice. Whatever the outcome, the hour is late. It’s past time for us to get ready.

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  • Andrew R

    “The Constitution does not grant a right to same-sex “marriage” — which is nonsensical since marriage intrinsically involves a man and a woman.”

    We’re always being told this definition comes from God. If so, it’s a First Ammendment issue – insisting that marriage cannot be two men or two women is a religious claim and therefore not legally enforceable. The Fourteenth Amendment then makes SSM as Constitutional and inevitable as inter-racial marriage was in 1967 in Virginia.

    I’m sure plenty disagreed with that decision – certainly polls at the time showed the majority of the public thought inter-racial marriage should have remained illegal, and plenty cited their Christian Faith to justify it. Public opinion slowly but steadily changed, just as we’ve seen it shifting towards supporting SSM in the past few years.

  • Topp Catt

    1Pe 2:18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.
    1Pe 2:19 For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.
    1Pe 2:20 For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.
    1Pe 2:21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:

  • Topp Catt

    Maybe the United States Supreme Court is going to overturn centuries of law and decide that engaging in purposeful self-pronounced and unnecessarily-published
    sinful behavior is a basis for finding a protected class
    (Vis-à-vis being born with an immutable
    trait, like race, gender, disability, a body that naturally ages,etc.
    And remember, if the Supreme Court does overthrow all past precedent and conclude that a marriage license is a constitutional right–mark these words we tell you: that will only be the beginning Because it is of little interest to the homosexual population in the abstract to have access to a marriage license. What they seek-indeed what they crave-
    is society telling them their sin is acceptable in the sight of God. It will be interesting to see how far the courts of this land are prepared to go in uprooting the entire form of government and its entire historical jurisprudence, and in plowing over others constitutional rights to accommodate that unholy mission
    (Marie v Moser, Marge Phelps)

    • Andrew R

      “Because it is of little interest to the homosexual population in the abstract to have access to a marriage license.”

      How do you know what gays want – in the abstract or otherwise?

      “What they seek-indeed what they crave-is society telling them their sin is acceptable in the sight of God.”

      Most I speak to simply want the same marriage rights you and I have, including hospital access rights, etc.

      As regards overturning past precedent – gay coupling hasn’t been illegal for some decades now.

    • Martin Rizley

      I agree with your observations. I would only substitute for the word “interesting” in the last sentence the word “appalling” or “horrifying.”

  • Dean Bruckner

    Unfortunately, such a decision would be one more step toward the dissolution of the Union. God save us from a civil war!

  • TheCountess

    I have just escaped the national healthcare act. Won’t go into the details. However…… just prior, I, in contemplating the fine and subsequent ‘mandated’ premium spent several days in writing a 4 page letter to those 9 judges. The content of which is all of our ‘unalienable rights’ as handed down by God. Rights that allow my free act of will, by conscience to choose. To choose what and who I will obey, as far as what is right and what is wrong. My conscience as freedom in movement what is the core of my beliefs. And to freely choose to obey God rather than man. That massive letter must still be published, though it does not apply to me, it’s base content does and does for any and all. I oppose abortion. I oppose any law mandated, rather than I get an opportunity to vote on. I oppose tiny fractions in the populace who can dictate to me my core beliefs. Lock up my will in a neat little package, which places a gun at my head to comply. I call that tyranny. I call it out for what it is. And if my final decision is to act in civil disobedience, my conscience towards God rendered, then so be it. Much of what is coming out of DC and all the surrounding states is nothing less than tyranny dictated by a bunch of hoodlums. Treasonist’s in their own right, towards both the Constitution and the American people.

  • Martin Rizley

    I believe Matt Staver is 100% correct on this issue from a biblical perspective, and I believe his exhortation as to what Christians must do in response to a wrong ruling by the Supreme Court on this issue is “prophetic.” Though Matt is not literally a prophet in like the biblical prophets– receiving direct revelations from God–, the Lord has given him prophetic clarity in seeing what must be done at this time in history by God’s people living in the United States. I hope many millions of Americans will hear God’s clear call to engage in civil disobedience as the only legitimate response to tyranny if the Supreme Court tries to exalt itself above God by rewriting the definition of marriage for all fifty states, thereby rendering God’s definition of marriage of no legal validity. At that point, our government would be promoting the doctrine of Antichrist and acting like the “man of sin” Paul describes in 2 Thessalonians, and to obey its lawless dictates by acting in defiance of God’s law, as the state would demand, would in essence be to receive “the mark of the beast” on our hand and forehead– that is, we would be allowing the ungodly world to stamp its own imprint on our thoughts and on our deeds, instead of bearing on our hand and forehead the Law of God, so as to glorify God alone. We must not allow that to happen. There can be no compliance with tyranny in this crucial matter if we wish to secure a blessed future of our country, our children, and
    Western Civilization.

  • Pat M

    GREAT ARTICLE !

  • Melanie Miller

    God, bible…it all seems so cherry picked. Applying Natural Law to adoption and same sex marriages is so dated. What is it about alt right Christian conservatives and their inability to move beyond their rigid ideals
    Of love and intimacy? We have plenty
    Of data collected to disprove that children raised in same sex marriage households are NOT adversely afflicted in any way. it seems the authors concern has to due with presercing some perverse ‘puritanical’ race Contrary to what our patriarchal religions would like for us to accept and believe Humans are not monogamous and like most species evolution includes dual sexuality. Old genetic codes are dying off because that is how a species survives – it’s demanded by our environments.

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