June 15, 2012
Hey Hey, Ho Ho, Western Civ has got to go! That was the chant that Rev. Jesse Jackson led at Stanford University some years ago. Too bad. Were going to miss Western Civilization. I agree with Mahatma Gandhi. When the great Indian independence leader was asked what he thought of Western Civilization, the puckish little man in the dhoti said: I think it would be a good idea.
Winston Churchill ably defended Western Civilization. This brave, embattled non-churchgoer often referred to his struggle with Nozzie tyranny as a fight for Christian Civilization. And for millions of Christians and Jews groaning under Hitlers terror, that gave them great encouragement. We had no bread, said a Pole imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp, but we had Churchill.
And Churchill had England. With England, he had Magna Carta. That was the Great Charter of English liberties signed this day in 1215. King John of England signed it at the field at Runnymede. His barons twisted his arm. They threatened to depose him by force if he refused to sign. (Before Jesse gave Western Civ the old heave ho, it was something we all had to know.)
There is a copy of Magna Carta at the National Archives in Washington. Its the 1297 version but its still the real thing. The revisions incorporated into Magna Carta by the end of the Thirteenth Century made it the guarantee charter of English liberties. It was to this version of Magna Carta that King Edward I and all succeeding English Kings and Queens bound themselves before God in their coronation oaths.
Which is not to say that all the kings and queens of England religiously obeyed Magna Carta. King Charles I violated Magna Carta in his attempt to round up opponents by invading the House of Commons. Charles, as the Cockney tour guides in London tell us, was Englands shortest monarch at 411. An `e was made shorter still when they chopped off `is `ead in 1649
King James II, son of the foreshortened Charles I, was charged with violating Magna Carta and was chased off the throne in 1688. He was supplanted by his own daughter and her Dutch husband. William & Mary became joint monarchs of Englandand bound themselves to respect Magna Carta and parliamentary rule. (They also gave their names to a fine college in Virginia.)
Its worth our noticing today that religious freedom was the first freedom guaranteed by Magna Carta.
First, We have granted to God, and by this our present Charter have confirmed, for us and our Heirs for ever, That the Church of England shall be free, and shall have her whole rights and liberties inviolable. We have granted also, and given to all the freemen of our realm, for us and our Heirs for ever, these liberties underwritten, to have and to hold to them and their Heirs, of us and our Heirs for ever. ?
Magna Carta enshrined the idea that government could be limited. It was surely not yet a peoples government. Those were powerful barons and high-ranking churchmen who forced King John to sign Magna Carta. The 1215 version of the Great Charter was drafted by Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury. Still, the idea that the King was not an absolute ruler, that he could not issue mandates and have them instantly obeyed, was something new. And very important.
Our U.S. Supreme Court is currently considering the lawsuit of scores of state governments against President Obamas unprecedented assumption of power in the takeover of health care. The recent HHS Mandatewhich would be but the first of a long train of mandatesis an unprecedented threat to religious freedom.
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees free exercise of religion, but under ObamaCare, Americans religious rights are confined to their homes and their houses of worship. Anywhere outside these cabined precincts, it is the State alone that rules in all matters.
Thus, Sec. Sebelius can mandate that religious schools must provide their employees access to drugs that can cause abortions. And the minor children of those employees can gain access to these death-dealing drugs through the insurance that Sebelius has forced upon their parents. The parents will receive no notice that their own children have been receiving such a federally-mandated service. All of this violates the churches' religious freedom, the schools, and that of the employees as well.
From 1215 until 2010, in the English-speaking world at least, everyone acknowledged that government could be limited. And should be limited. If the Supreme Court upholds ObamaCare, and if the people confirm that grant of illimitable power with their votes, then there is nothing future Presidents and Congresses cannot mandate.
In addition to housing the Magna Carta, the National Archives recently hailed a new discovery: They announced that they had found an earlier version of Americas own Great Charter, the Declaration of Independence. In it, Thomas Jefferson struck out the word subjects and penned in the word citizens.
This was something new in the world. No longer would Americans claim their rights merely as Englishmen abroad. No longer would they appeal to an unhearing monarch to respect their inalienable rights. No longer would we be subjects of a distant king.
Henceforth, we would be citizens and we would be the ones who freely determined the powers that We the People granted to the government. Citizens are free to assert their rights. Subjects have only to obey mandates. Which will we be?