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Thursday, February 02, 2006

Civil Disobedience in the Middle East... 


...or, more accurately, civil disobedience in the Middle East a long long time ago.

Over the past few hours I've made a couple of references [1] [2] to Daniel 6 as an example of civil disobedience:


Daniel 6:6-10 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

6 So the administrators and the satraps went as a group to the king and said: "O King Darius, live forever! 7 The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or man during the next thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be thrown into the lions' den. 8 Now, O king, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered—in accordance with the laws of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed." 9 So King Darius put the decree in writing.

10 Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.



Following in the footsteps of Jennifer, let's see how taking scriptures in isolation does not necessarily yield the whole truth. Compare Daniel 6:10 with Romans 13:1-5:


Romans 13:1-5 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

1Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.



What does "submission to the authorities" mean? Does it mean that Daniel was sinning by praying to God because he was not submitting to Darius' law? Or does "submission to the authorities" mean that if the penalty for action X is penalty Y, you willingly submit to penalty Y?

This is where I have a problem with some civil disobeyers in both the baby seal clubber and Communist camps - many people are willing to engage in civil disobedience, but, unlike Daniel, are not willing to suffer the consequences of doing so. Here's a quote about an Operation Rescue activity (emphasis mine):


Pastors Flip Benham & Mike Warren and both of the other two arrested in Charlotte are out of jail on bond. Flip & Mike posted bond Saturday. All will plead innocent at a trial date set in September.


And, from the other side of the political spectrum, we get this:


Four antiwar demonstrators are pleading innocent to federal charges of third-degree criminal trespass....


My question - why would you plead innocent after a protest of this type? If there's a law, and you violate it, you violated the law. Whether it's a good law or a bad law, you did knowingly violate it. Warresisters.org links to (but doesn't necessarily agree with) this statement by Michael Bloomberg:


Mayor Michael Bloomberg has something of a guilt complex when it comes to protesters arrested at the Republican National Convention - he thinks they're guilty and should simply fess up.

The mayor yesterday urged demonstrators not to fight their cases in court, despite the fact that many say they haven't done anything wrong - and out-of-towners who have pleaded guilty said they did so to avoid returning to New York.

"They might as well just plead guilty and go on," Bloomberg said.... "The truth of the matter is the city did what it was supposed to do. It protected the streets of the city and we did as good a job as we could, given the vast bulk of people who
came here to get arrested. They were all treated humanely."...

Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said, "The mayor's comment reflects a disdain for the principle that people are innocent until proven guilty. Hundreds of arrests are captured on film where people were doing absolutely nothing wrong, demonstrating on the sidewalk which is perfectly legal."...

About 600 demonstrators have accepted guilty pleas to quickly process their cases, citing the inconvenience of battling the city in court. Bloomberg seized on that figure yesterday.

"I think roughly half have already decided to plead guilty," the mayor added. "Some said because they didn't want to come here. I suspect that most of them because they know they don't have a case. They broke the law."



Here's another example:


Two Minnesotans pleaded guilty in federal court in Georgia this week to charges of trespassing stemming from a November protest at a military base there.

John Neis, 61, a retired Northwest Airlines captain and grandfather from Apple Valley, said he was sentenced Tuesday to 12 months probation, ordered to perform 250 hours of community service and fined $1,000.

Neis said after his court appearance that he was ready to go to jail and was "extremely surprised" with the relatively light sentence.

"I've been bragging about this for two months, but that's OK," he said.

Anika Walz, 19, of Stacy, a student at the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, got the same sentence when she appeared in the federal court in Columbus, Ga., on Monday, according to a spokesman for the School of the Americas Watch, which organized the protest....

Walz and Neis were the third and fourth Minnesotans to plead guilty to charges stemming from the protest.



ACT UP quotes from a guide to various court pleas, originally authored by Jerry Elmer when protesting the Vietnam War. As far as I can tell, no pro life organization has reprinted this material...


By entering a plea of guilty, a defendant is admitting her guilt, thereby forfeiting her right to a trial....Demonstrators engaged in civil disobedience sometimes feel that this is the proper plea to enter at the arraignment. By pleading guilty they are saying, "Yes I committed the act of which you accuse me. I don't deny it; in fact, I am proud of it. I feel I did the right thing by violating this particular law; I am guilty as charged." Mahatma Ghandi is one example of a civil disobedient who always pled guilty in court as a matter of principle....

If a defendant pleads not guilty, she must be tried and convicted before she can be sentenced. The burden of showing guilt lies with the state; you are presumed innocent unless the sate can prove your guilt beyond the shadow of a doubt. A defendant need not actually believe that she is not guilty in order to enter this plea....Civil disobedients often believe that this is the proper plea to enter at arraignment. By pleading not guilty they are saying; "Guilt implies wrong-doing. I feel I have done no wrong. I may have violated some specific laws, but I am guilty of doing no wrong. I therefore plead not guilty." Since this places the burden of proof on the state, charges may be dropped by the government before the case is tried. In rare cases a defendant may be acquitted (found not guilty) during the trial....

Nolo contendere is Latin for "no contest." If a person plead "nolo contendere: she forfeits her right to a trial and (as with a guilty plea) simply comes before the judge for sentencing. Some people feel that a nolo plea is a compromise between pleading guilty and not guilty. While not contesting the charges one is also not admitting guilt....

Some people will not answer at all when they asked by a judge how they plead. They are usually civil disobedients who refuse cooperation with other aspects of arrest and courtroom procedures. In such cases a plea of not guilty will usually be entered for the defendant by the judge....Such defendants fell that they should not have been arrested, do not belong in court, and only dignify the illegitimate proceedings by participating in them. Others may feel that the courts in this country, by their very nature, are oppressive institutions whose only legitimacy comes from the cooperation given them by the defendants; they therefore feel compelled to noncooperate with the proceedings....



And there's always this plea:


Acts 25:11 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

11If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!"



This is an interesting case. For one, Paul maintained that he was NOT guilty of the specific charges that were brought against him. He was certainly guilty of not worshipping the emperor, but he maintained that he did not bring Gentiles into the inner parts of the Temple. So for that reason he didn't plead guilty. In addition, he did not want to be handed over to the Jews for this crime that he didn't commit, since he knew that would mean certain death and the end of his ministry. (Paul had been to Stephen's stoning, remember, and was pretty sure he wouldn't get a fair trial.)

Yet, at the same time, he didn't plead innocent. If he had pleaded innocent and been released, he never would have made it to Rome, and it's possible that the entire history of Christianity would have been different.

Instead, he entered a plea that ensured that he would end up in a new mission field-Rome. Interesting way to use the courts to your (and God's) advantage.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

Comments:
BRILLIANT! Absolutely brilliant. You have hit the nail on the head, my friend.
 
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