No provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience against the enterprises of the civil authority.
---Thomas Jefferson, qtd. in Eden Foods' complaint against the HHS

Sometimes those who want an easy way out of a substantive argument over the merits of a case such as that brought by Eden Foods against the HHS (or by EWTN, or by Hobby Lobby, etc.) will try to make a "slam dunk" argument by saying that a law, once having been passed, must be worked against through the democratic process, and in the meantime it must bind. We are bound to obedience, after all, to the just and legitimate Authority; and after all, isn't using "judicial activism" (appealing through the courts to undo legitimate laws) something unbecoming of so-called "conservatives", a tactic more fitting for those we'd call "liberals", and a tactic against which we frequently complain in other contexts?
To all of which I say, "Hogwash." And I'd offer as argument against such a claim this excerpt from a magnificent document penned by Pope Leo XIII in 1888 entitled Libertas Praestantissimum [all emphases my own]:
[T]he liberty of those who are in authority does not consist in the power to lay unreasonable and capricious commands upon their subjects, which would equally be criminal and would lead to the ruin of the commonwealth; but the binding force of human laws is in this, that they are to be regarded as applications of the eternal law, and incapable of sanctioning anything which is not contained in the eternal law, as in the principle of all law. […] If, then, by anyone in authority, something be sanctioned out of conformity with the principles of right reason, and consequently hurtful to the commonwealth, such an enactment can have no binding force of law, as being no rule of justice, but certain to lead men away from that good which is the very end of civil society.

Therefore, the nature of human liberty, however it be considered, whether in individuals or in society, whether in those who command or in those who obey, supposes the necessity of obedience to some supreme and eternal law, which is no other than the authority of God, commanding good and forbidding evil. And, so far from this most just authority of God over men diminishing, or even destroying their liberty, it protects and perfects it, for the real perfection of all creatures is found in the prosecution and attainment of their respective ends; but the supreme end to which human liberty must aspire is God.
Wisdom to live by, and which sadly looks like it will only become more relevant for us as the present administration's rule continues.
 


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