We are at a crisis moment in our nation. There are a growing number who reject the legitimacy of our Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
Conservatives are in disarray.
I wrote the following essay about a decade ago. As I study it, it may require revisions and additions to speak to issues arising in the interim.
But it is perhaps a good starting point for a conversation about the way forward.
I hope it is helpful to many of you.
By Michael Farris, JD, LLM
Today, many do not understand the key discovery of the founding generation. If we want a nation that is free and good, we should employ processes for making political and legal decisions that will yield these results systematically. The ends do not justify the means. The principles of self-government, rule of law, checks and balances, federalism, and the supremacy of the Constitution of the United States, are utterly essential for the preservation of a nation that is free and good. Tyrannical methods of government, even if they yield a result that we would prefer on the short run, will result in a nation that is neither free nor good in the long run. Virtue, liberty, and self-government are inextricably intertwined. We dare not forget the importance of having the right processes of government in order to achieve the right results.
In short, it is essential to declare what we believe about moral government, the rights of the people, and the principles of self-government if we are to work together toward a nation that is free and good.
If we are not clear on what we believe, we will have no clear sense of direction. Activity is no substitute for purposeful leadership.
For these reasons, we endorse these principles of liberty, self-government and virtue. We will act and vote in accord with these principles. We will endeavor to promote these principles as we teach, lead, write, and speak.
“All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”The Declaration of Independence
We embrace the truth that we are created by God. We believe this literally. This is the reason that we are entitled to inalienable rights.
We embrace equal standing before the law for all. We especially reject racism in any form.
We embrace the right to life as the foremost of our inalienable rights. We reject the claims of a legal right to terminate the life of the unborn, the disabled, the ill, or the aged. We also reject the use of cloning or the use of human beings (which includes human embryos) for medical research that is designed to result in their death.
We embrace the historic principles of liberty—freedom of religion for all people of all faiths, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and freedom to petition the government for redress of grievances.
We embrace the historical practice of publicly recognizing God as the author of liberty, human rights, and morality. Because we embrace the principle of religious liberty, we reject the notion that any individual can be coerced to participate in such recognitions.
“If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.”Supreme Court in West Virginia v. Barnette
We embrace freedom of conscience for all, which prohibits any form of government coercion of belief. We reject the implicit coercion that comes from using the power of government to promote a single viewpoint on the origins of life or other central matters.
We also reject the explicit coercion that comes from politically correct speech codes, whether on a governmental campus or in legislative enactments of so-called ‘hate speech’ laws.
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”The Second Amendment
We embrace the importance of the fundamental and individual right of owning, possessing, and using weapons as central to the preservation of peace and liberty. We reject the notion that the Second Amendment confers only a collective right.
“To secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”The Declaration of Independence
We embrace the principle of the absolute necessity of the consent of the governed for a morally legitimate government. Accordingly, we reject judicial law-making in the guise of constitutional or legislative interpretation. We reject the use of bureaucratic law-making that enacts regulations to bind private people or private property. We also reject any form of world government, whether legislative or judicial, as an egregious violation of the principle of self-government.
We embrace retaining the sovereignty of the United States as utterly essential for maintaining our precious right of self-government. We reject the use of international law for any domestic purpose whether by treaty or by judicial imposition.
We embrace the system of checks and balances within our national government, and the principle of federalism that divides power between the national and state governments. We reject the misuse of the Commerce Clause, the General Welfare Clause and other theories that have expanded the power of Congress and the national government far beyond the enumerated powers granted by the founders who wrote and ratified the Constitution.
“The diminution of public virtue is usually attended with that of public happiness, and the public liberty will not long survive the total extinction of morals.” Samuel Adams
We embrace the principle that the law may promote the common good by encouraging moral virtue and punishing serious breaches of public morality. We reject the view that laws may only be justified by the showing of harm to some individual. Thus, we reject the view that laws against drug use, prostitution, pornography, and the like are outside the proper scope of government. Finally, we reject the view that law may not impact or regulate moral choices, since all laws impose some moral choice.
We embrace the view that liberty and virtue are inextricably intertwined. We reject the view that moral anarchy is the equivalent of liberty.
“Marriage, while from its very nature a sacred obligation, is nevertheless, in most civilized nations, a civil contract, and usually regulated by law. Upon it society may be said to be built, and out of its fruits spring social relations and social obligations and duties, with which government is necessarily required to deal. In fact, according as … marriages are allowed, do we find the principles on which the government of the people, to a greater or less extent, rests.” Supreme Court in Reynolds v. United States
We embrace the sacred union of one man and one woman as the sole form of legitimate marriage. We reject any attempt to create other legitimate unions, whether called same-sex marriage, civil unions, or polygamy.
We embrace the importance of honoring the sacred bonds of marriage as a true commitment. We reject the perversion of the sexual relationship whether in the form of adultery, homosexuality, prostitution, or through pornography and related industries.
We embrace marriage as the best foundation for a healthy family which and the well-being and development children.
“The law's concept of the family rests on a presumption that parents possess what a child lacks in maturity, experience, and capacity for judgment required for making life's difficult decisions. More important, historically it has recognized that natural bonds of affection lead parents to act in the best interests of their children.”
“The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the state to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only. The child is not the mere creature of the state; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.” Supreme Court, Pierce v. Society of Sisters; Parham v. J.R.
We embrace the view that the right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children is a fundamental right. We reject the notion that the government may substitute its view of the best interest of the child for that of the parents’, absent proper proof of harm to the child.
We embrace parental choice in all matters concerning education. We reject the notion that parents who choose to have their children educated in the public school should lose any meaningful control over the direction of their child.
“The moral foundations of a society do not extend only to its political system; they must extend to its economic system as well. America's commitment to capitalism is unquestionably the best example of this principle. Capitalism is not…an [intrinsically] amoral system based on selfishness, greed, and exploitation. It is a moral system based on a biblical ethic. There is no other comparable system that has raised the standard of living of millions of people, created vast new wealth and resources, or inspired so many beneficial innovations and technologies. The wonderful thing about capitalism is that it does not discriminate against the poor, as so often has been charged; indeed, it is the only economic system that raises the poor out of poverty.” Margaret Thatcher
We embrace the principles of freedom with respect to economic matters. Therefore, we reject any form of socialism or communism. We specifically reject any socialistic intervention in the economy to promote business as well as any form of redistribution of wealth.
Just as we reject the idea that other freedoms are absolute, we reject the notion that economic freedom has no limits; but we also reject the notion that economic freedom is anything less than a fundamental right.
We embrace the view that property rights should be recognized and protected as fundamental to our liberty. We reject the view that private property may be taken by the government, only to be transferred to other private owners in the name of economic development.
“Man is not free unless government is limited.”
“The problem is not that people are taxed too little, the problem is that government spends too much.” Ronald Reagan
We embrace limited government. We reject the idea that low tax rates are the end-goal; rather, low tax rates are the mechanism to ensure that we pursue only those functions of government that are both constitutionally sanctioned and actually necessary.
We embrace faithful adherence to the original meaning of the Constitution as the single most important principle to ensure that government stays within its proper bounds.
“The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil constitution, are worth defending at all hazards; and it is our duty to defend them against all attacks.” Samuel Adams (1722-1803) Father of the American Revolution in an article he wrote to the Boston Gazette, October 14, 1771
“I do not believe any policy which has behind it the threat of military force is justified as part of the basic foreign policy of the United States except to defend the liberty of our own people." Robert A. Taft, 1951.
We affirm the right of the United States to defend itself against all threats without the necessity of consent from any other nation or any group of nations.
We affirm the right of the United States to use its power, in a proportionate manner, to counteract the actions or policies of other nations or groups when there is clear and convincing evidence that such intervention is necessary for the defense of our people or our liberties.
We reject the use of American tax dollars for the support of nations or institutions hostile to the ideals of free and virtuous government.
We reject the use of military force for the purpose of planting a democracy in a nation which poses no direct threat to the United States. Freedom and self-government cannot be exported by the exercise of might.
We affirm the duty to fulfill our treaty obligations for mutual defense for those who have been faithful to their obligations to us. Our participation in such matters should be as limited as possible given the exigencies of the situation and never undertaken without the request of our treaty partner.
We hope and believe that all Americans of good faith can embrace these ideals. We invite all to examine the history of this great nation and test these ideas with a long-range view. We believe that the facts reveal that the goals of freedom and justice that we all seek have been best served whenever our nation adheres to these ideals.
However, we note that the Founders’ belief in freedom of speech and the right of political participation for all people has been fundamental to the success of this nation. We remain steadfastly committed to the full protection of the constitutional rights for any who differs with our views in whole or in part.