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Monday, October 24, 2011

What about civil disobedience?

A few days ago, Jewels Green, who is a former abortion center employee turned pro-lifer, contributed a blog post entitled "Pro-life and committed to ending abortion: but NOT by any means necessary." In it, she expressed her opinion that the pro-life movement should refrain from any violence or unlawful activity, which she says "provides our pro-abortion opposition a speedy on-ramp to the high road and fosters a 'comrades-in-arms' mentality that unifies their ranks and galvanizes public opinion in their favor."

Although no one disagreed with her point about violence, some objected to her statement that "Even humorously suggesting a return to the era of blockading entrances to clinics or 'occupying' the waiting rooms of abortion clinics leads down the slippery slope to further lawlessness" and violence. But this did not adequately address activity that is both peaceful and illegal-- i.e. non-violent civil disobedience, in the tradition of Martin Luther King, Jr. and other social justice leaders.

Civil disobedience may or may not be appropriate, depending on the time and circumstance. This is a matter on which reasonable people can disagree.

In the interest of fostering open discussion, here is a pro-civil-disobedience response, by Stand True president Bryan Kemper:

In a recent article written by Jewels Green, she asks the following question to open her article:

“Should breaking the law be advocated to advance the cause for life? Should violence be encouraged, condoned, or celebrated to further the cause for life? No, and no.”

What we see here are two totally separate questions that should not be asked together; this is done to try to tie the two things together, which is unfair. Of course we should not condone violence or celebrate it. The problem is that later in the article you see the author try to tie the civil disobedience in Question 1 with the violence in Question 2.

So lets talk about Question 1: “Should breaking the law be advocated to advance the cause for life?” I want to rephrase this question to go past abortion, as it does say “cause for life”. The question would then read, “Should breaking the law ever have been advocated to advance causes like the Underground Railroad, hiding Jews during the Nazi Holocaust, the sit-ins during the Civil Rights Movement, rescuing young girls trapped in sex slavery, and rescuing children from abortion?”

When we rephrase the question and don’t try and tie the action of civil disobedience to violence, it shines a whole new light on the situation. The fact is that there are way too many times in the history of the world when corrupt governments passed evil, unjust laws that lead to the death, imprisonment and torture of our fellow human persons. There were also courageous men and women who peacefully broke those laws in order to save lives and change the world.

Continue reading...

3 comments:

Jameson Graber said...

I agree with Kemper that civil disobedience should be kept open as an option. We simply have to judge on a case by case basis what message we will send and/or what we will gain by a given act.

Nest of Salt said...

I am not a religious person, but I am interested in understanding rational pro-life arguments (against abortion without religious dogma). I discovered SecularProLife and have been drawn to Jewels Green’s articles because they offer a convert’s view from “inside the sausage factory” which makes for a good read. I’m intrigued by her story and it has made me re-examine some of my assumptions.

I have always been pro-choice* and secular. Call me an agnostic, atheist, skeptic, godless heathen – I really don’t care. Just don’t call me a “secular-humanist” or a “naturalist” as I do not drive a clown car, vote Democratic, or draw birds. If something requires a supernatural explanation, I’m not buying into it, or trusting the salesman.
Sometimes the best policies make the best politics and Green’s article has it right- morally and politically. Reviewing reader comments such as: “The Magisterium vs. Catholic “common teaching” on lying, Bishop Chrysostom vs. Saints, the entire Body of Christ” and poster’s who sign off “God Bless” or “In Christ” has reinforced my belief that whatever a pro-life group calls itself, you are really a religious faction with or without a nom de guerre.

I understand that (but not how) many good people hold heartfelt religious views that equate abortion with murder. This is intrinsically dangerous as one can justify almost any action to prevent murder. I believe there is a very fine line between civil disobedience and mob rule. Fortunately, Americans have due process and democratic political outlets as well as countless legal ways to express our opinions. If you are really winning hearts and minds, (and according to the poll Ms. Green quoted in her article and the links to this website, you have already won) why not just wait for the next election and send abortion back to the alleys where it belongs!

Violence, which is the only possible outcome of what Kemper advocates, is not justified in a free society when we have peaceful alternatives, like state and national elections every 2 years.

Kemper says “many times in the history of the world when corrupt governments passed evil, unjust laws that lead to the death, imprisonment and torture of our fellow human persons” The same could be said about corrupt churches. Our government is not perfect, but I prefer it to mob rule, or a theocracy. Nazi references will not endear many people to your cause and chaining yourselves in a door way is not the moral equivalent to hiding Anne Frank.

*I do not support late term elective abortions or public financing and I am re-examining my position based on scientific evidence.

Kelsey said...

Hi Nest of Salt,

Anyone can comment on this blog, and non-members are sometimes led here by links on pro-life religious sites. To get a better idea of SPL's membership, I hope you'll check out our facebook page. You'll find a link in the top left-hand corner.

I do not believe that violence is the only possible outcome of what Kemper advocates. History gives us many successful examples of peaceful civil disobedience. Nevertheless, it may not be right for this time and place. Like I said, this is open for debate.

I'm glad you've enjoyed Jewels' insights, and that you're keeping an open mind based on the scientific evidence. We hope you'll stick around.