The broad scope of jobs based on “law” illustrate its priority in society. Consider the number and variations of attorneys and the countless other careers related to law enforcement, legislation, courts, government administration, and corrections…. The scope forces an acknowledgement of its importance to mankind. The list of various potential law-related careers seems endless.
Try to compose a comprehensive definition of “law” and you will rediscover its aspects are deep and broad. Pondering on it somehow causes self-examination.When considering the “what?” and “why?” of law, you cannot avoid clearly philosophical or religious thoughts, even if you presume you have a secular perspective!The 1828 version of Webster’s Dictionary is searchable online, and it lists 26 variations for the meaning of the word “law”. A ten-minute reading of the list teases and stimulates any curious mind. Modern definitions likewise reveal the depths of the topic.
Without some “noodling” on the variety of meanings and scope of “law”, you simply cannot appreciate our precious “rule of law” and the resulting value of “justice”. Amazingly, their significance somehow seems to get lost in popular thought. Maybe this is because honest contemplation leads to the consideration of whether or not God exists – an uncomfortable consideration for some.Theories on the source and quality of “law” and “justice” are meaningless unless the existence of “Supreme Judge” (Declaration of Independence) with a permanent and pure standard (“law”) to judge by is honestly dealt with!
Among the various aspects of law, is the concept of “common law” or “Natures Law” which is somehow “written on our heart” in spite of our education or any government court or legislative fiat.The work of legislators and judges are “good” or “bad” based on this higher standard. For example, killing, lying, stealing, and enslavement are moral “givens” in our laws… They are not made so by mere government authority. Predictably, self-important jurisdictions view of “common law” is limited to what their particular jurisdiction concurs to in its court (case law). In any case, common law supersedes newly minted legislation. Ultimately, we rely on a standard predating 1776. If the standard for justice were limited to only the application of modern, secular law, then pure justice would simply not be available!
Judging by the sprouting yard-signs, we are heading into another campaign season. In my opinion, it is absurd and ridiculous to not demand full disclosure by any candidate regarding his or her theories on the source of “law”. It is foolishness for any seeker of public office to declare the right to privacy on this topic! It is the responsibility of every candidate to go beyond a simplistic declaration regarding their faith in God and provide their conclusions regarding the source and value of law.If candidates and voters don’t see the value of the “laws of nature, and nature’s God” as referenced in the Declaration of Independence, it escapes me how justice will be preserved. If a candidate happens to prefer a secular outlook on life, he or she needs to say so clearly. This way voters can make informed decisions and will know if they will be fairly represented. The implication of our national motto, “In God We Trust”, goes beyond the superficial to include a trust in His standards of right or wrong!
Consider the symbolism in the allegorical “Lady Justice”:
- The scales suggest the need for justice to weigh the validity on each side of a conflict as determined by an indisputable standard (gravity).
- The blindfold suggests that justice must submit to denial of any factor other than the standard to ensure impartiality.
- The sword represents authority… the dominance of the standard… the “rule” of law.
Consider the Symbolism of the monument on the East Pediment of the US Supreme Court Building in Washington DC. In describing his work, the sculptor, Hermon A. MacNeil wrote, “Law as an element of civilization was normally and naturally derived or inherited in this country from previous civilizations…”. The central focus of the sculpture is Moses holding the Ten Commandments!
These philosophical perspectives on law are not original. The topic has been coined “sociological jurisprudence”. I contend it is actively avoided and even often censured for inadequate reasons. Thankfully, Lady Justice and the Supreme Court building monument confirm the foundation our nations laws were built upon.
This was also submitted as an article to The People’s Paper.