No, the Law Isn’t Optional

Simon Maloy writing for Salon on some conservatives’ claims that religion protects them from following the law:

“I was not elected Governor of Arkansas to surrender all our rights as citizens to an all-powerful federal autocracy,” Orval Faubus declared in a 1958 speech resisting the Court-mandated racial integration of public schools. “It is my responsibility, and it is my purpose and determination, to defend the constitutional rights of the people of Arkansas to the full extent of my ability.” There’s an easy pattern to observe here: Social progress leaps forward as a result of federal action, conservative opponents assert individual liberty and states’ rights to defy the feds in a last-ditch effort to thwart change, and they lose because they lack moral and legal justification.

When we talk about civil rights, it’s good to look to the past to see how we handled things back then. Maybe religious conservatives aren’t who we should look to as competent judges of what is “right.” By their very nature, they cling to the past as some sort of idealized version of reality. Sure, if if you’re a straight white christian male in America who has literally never had a law passed that hindered your ability to do anything, then the past and present may not look too bad.

However, if you’re not in that group, then the history books read a little differently.

I’m not saying that you can’t have an opinion if you’re a straight white christian male, you certainly can (although good luck explaining to your kids/grandkids how you stood up for people’s right to discriminate). What you don’t have is the right to ignore the laws that you don’t like.