Cyberground Railroad Archive

Cyberground Railroad Archive

Killing the disabled

In Nazi Germany, Adolph Hitler killed 100,000 disabled or chronically ill persons before he killed six million Jews. Today, the Right to Die movement is pressing toward a slippery slope that can lead to the involuntary euthanasia of people because they are disabled or chonically ill. News reports indicate that this is already beginning to happen in places such as the Netherlands and Oregon, where assisted suicide is legal.

Although conflicting reports are coming out of Pinellas County, Florida, in the highly controversial case of Terri Schiavo, one wonders whether this is in fact a case of involuntary euthanasia of a minimally conscious disabled person. A judge who has never seen Mrs. Schiavo has sentenced her to death by deprivation of food and water at the request of her husband, Michael, who has been living with another woman and fathering children by her for years. This mode of slow, painful death would not be done to a dog or a convicted felon, but the adulterous husband says that this is what Terri would want. Blood relatives and friends disagree.

According to news reports, Florida campaign contribution records show that the judge in the case, George Greer, received a $250.00 contribution to his political campaign last year from Felos and Felos, the law firm representing Michael Schiavo in the case.

For more information, see the following sources:

Liberty, justice, the rule of law, and the U.S. presidential election

The government of the United States of America is a republic, based on separation of powers and the concept of the rule of law. The following letter, forwarded by permission of the letter's author, was sent to Vice President Al Gore by E. Calvin Beisner, Associate Professor of Historical Theology and Social Ethics at Knox Theological Seminary.

Subj:   The legitimacy of this election and my duties as a citizen
Date:   11/23/00

November 23, 2000
Thanksgiving Day

The Honorable Al Gore
Vice President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

By Fax to: 202-456-2461

Dear Mr. Vice President,

Let me introduce myself. I am a husband and the father of seven and an elder
in the Presbyterian Church in America. I am also a professor of social ethics
at a theological seminary. And I am a Ph.D. candidate in the history of
political thought, focusing particularly on the development of
constitutionalism in seventeenth-century Britain. I am not an ignorant,
disgruntled American but a political philosopher (not a politician or
political scientist) deeply troubled about the state of our nation.

For the last two weeks, I, like many Americans--Republicans and Democrats
alike--have experienced growing concern about the survival of American
constitutional government and the rule of law. Yesterday, in responding
positively to your supporters' appeal to allow manual recounts to continue in
three Florida counties and to require the Secretary of State's office to
include those results in the final, certified election results for the State
of Florida, the Florida Supreme Court exercised a breathtaking violation of
the constitutional principle of the separation of powers, sweeping aside
statutory law adopted by the legislature and the lawful and prudent exercise
of administrative duties by the executive branch. No doubt their decision was
to your liking. But it is extremely alarming to me as a political philosopher
and historian of political thought. It brings us to the brink of an
extraordinarily dangerous situation: the installation in office of someone
whose claim to that office is not simply doubted but vehemently rejected by a
huge and well-informed part of the citizenry.

I know the argument that all you want is to ensure that the voice of the 
people is heard. The Bush campaign played into your hands on that line by 
insisting all along that it trusts the people and you don't. But, in 
agreement with our founding fathers--who, because they believed in the 
sinfulness of man, set up a constitutional order designed to preserve the 
rule of law in a system of separation of powers, checks and balances, and 
federalism--I trust neither the people nor the government completely. 
Instead, I trust God, who reigns over all, and I recognize that our founders 
established a prudent system that would minimize the harm to be expected from 
the sinfulness of both the people and their governors. Recall that John Adams 
called the American system "a government of laws, not of men."

Our constitutional system carefully provides for the expression of, and 
consideration of, public opinion. It includes a system for electing 
government officials. It is important that the people's voice be heard in 
that system. It is, however, also important that the system work according to 
the rule of law, the concern of which is for impartiality of process, not for 
attainment of specific ends. Among the hallmarks of the rule of law 
enumerated by the late Nobel Prize-winning economist and political 
philosopher Friedrich A. Hayek are predictability (the rules of the game must 
not change in midstream) and impartiality (rules must be adopted whose 
particular effect on particular people cannot be foreseen). Those hallmarks 
reflect a Biblical standard of justice as well: "You shall do no injustice in 
judgment. You shall not be partial. . . . But in righteousness you shall 
judge your neighbor" (Leviticus 19:15). "You shall not show partiality in 
judgment; you shall hear the small as well as the great; you shall not be 
afraid in any man's presence, for the judgment is God's" (Deuteronomy 1:17).

Those principles are endangered by the strategy your campaign has pursued in 
the Florida election: a strategy that has sought--and now obtained--the 
neglect of laws, duly passed by a legislature, whose impact on specific 
competitors in specific elections could not be foreseen and was therefore 
utterly impartial; a strategy that has included intentionally singling out 
heavily Democratic counties for recounts and neglecting others; a strategy 
that has sought the disqualification of overseas ballots, contrary to Federal 
law, because it could be foreseen that including them in the count would be 
more to your opponent's advantage than to yours, while seeking to qualify 
other ballots, contrary to Florida law, because it could be foreseen that 
including them in the count would be more to your advantage than to your 
opponent's; a strategy that entrusts to biased hand counters the 
responsibility to divine the "intent of voters" when all the evidence they 
have before them is a "dimpled" or "pregnant" chad--which could as easily be 
explained as a voter's last-second decision not to vote for someone as it can 
be explained as a voter's intention to vote for someone. That your attorneys 
have managed to get a court comprising six Democrats and one independent, all 
appointed by a Democratic governor, to endorse your strategy does not negate 
the cold, hard facts of the case.

So I find myself facing a great moral dilemma. As a Christian, I believe that 
the Bible is the Word of God and that it instructs me in my duties. Among 
other things, it commands me to "be subject to the governing authorities. For 
there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are 
appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the 
ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves" 
(Romans 13:1-2). What will this entail for me should you manage, through 
legal legerdemain, to gain the presidency now? On the face of it, it would 
seem that it would require me simply to submit to you as my president merely 
because you hold the office. But it is not that simple.

First, the Constitution, not the president (or any other officer) is the 
supreme earthly authority in this country. This passage, therefore, requires 
me to submit to the Constitution more than to any officer.

Second, merely holding an office is not by itself proof that one is an 
"authority" as the word is used in this text. One who attains an office 
illegitimately is not an authority but a usurper. Consider this: In many 
countries, an election situation like what we are enduring at present would 
have resulted in intervention by the military, brushing aside whatever the 
election results might be, and installing someone chosen by the military. We 
who believe that government depends for its legitimacy in part on the consent 
of the governed would without hesitation conclude that the new president in 
that situation was illegitimate and that the people were not morally 
obligated to submit to him. I thank God that we have not seen that happen in 
America--although, with your intentional disenfranchisement of overseas 
military voters, it would be understandable (though still wrong). But my aim 
here is simply to drive home the point that merely holding an office does not 
entail legitimate authority.

Third, the text of Romans 13 itself goes on, after those first two verses, to 
define what it means by an "authority" to which "every soul [must] be 
subject." Such "rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you 
want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have 
praise from the same. For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do 
evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's 
minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore 
you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience' sake" 
(Romans 13:3-5) That is, a real "authority" punishes those who do evil, not 
those who do good; he is a minister of God; and the reason for submission is 
not mere fear of punishment but conscience--a conscience that testifies to 
the citizen that submission is the right and good thing, because the 
authority is legitimate.

Mr. Vice President, presently you hold office legitimately. But--having 
carefully followed the details of this twisted election recount process; 
having carefully listened to the attorneys' presentations to the Florida 
Supreme Court on Monday and then read them later; having carefully considered 
the relevant state election laws (which are not, despite claims to the 
contrary, self-contradictory); and having carefully read the Florida Supreme 
Court's decision handed down November 21--I am convinced that if you are 
declared the winner after all of this, you will have stolen this election. 
You will not be a legitimate authority should you be inaugurated President of 
the United States.

And that, Mr. Vice President, puts me in a terrible situation. It puts me in 
a situation of having to denounce the authority of the titular president of 
this nation; of having to approve of others who do likewise; and of having to 
admit the legitimacy, in principle, even if not in prudence, of attempts to 
supplant you. (I do not say usurp, for only legitimate authority can be 

But, Mr. Vice President, I have some consolation. First, I would be doing no 
more than what the founders of our country did when, in the Declaration of 
Independence, they renounced a king and a parliament that had forfeited their 
legitimate rule over the colonies by violating the transcendent "laws of 
nature and of nature's God." Second, I would be doing no more than what the 
opponents of James II did when, convinced of his intention to overthrow the 
British constitution, they sought and attained his removal from the throne 
and his replacement by William of Orange. Third, I would be doing no more 
than what David did in ancient Israel when, King Saul having forfeited his 
legitimacy by disobeying the commands of God through the Prophet Samuel, he 
resisted Saul's rule until at last God removed Saul from office and installed 
David, whom He, through Samuel, had previously annointed king.

Mr. Vice President, I am sure there are many, many thousands, even millions, 
of Americans who find themselves facing the same dreadful choice I am facing. 
Few will have approached that choice in quite the same way I have approached 
it. Perhaps they will not enlist the same line of reasoning. But what is 
crystal clear is that they will approach it. And many--not only Republicans, 
but even many Democrats who voted for you (Thus November 22nd's New York 
Times on-line edition includes a story titled "Gore Voters in Chicago Say 
it's Time for Him to Concede." A brief excerpt appears after my 
signature.)--will conclude as I have concluded. Then we shall have you to 
blame for the most serious undermining of the constitutional order this 
country has ever suffered.

I love America, Mr. Vice President. I love its Constitution and its 
Declaration of Independence. I love its amazing system of separation of 
powers, of checks and balances, of federalism--so wisely constructed by men 
who knew their own sinfulness and knew that it affected all others. Please, 
for God's sake, do not sweep those things away.

Concede the election now, Mr. Vice President. You may then be able to run 
again four years from now not only with the high esteem of the American 
public, which will recognize that you have chosen the good of the country 
over your own ambition, but also with a clear conscience.

I pray that God will give you wisdom and humility.

E. Calvin Beisner
Associate Professor of Historical Theology and Social Ethics
Knox Theological Seminary, 5554 N. Federal Highway, Ft. Lauderdale,

I write solely in my capacity as an American citizen, not as a spokesman for
my denomination, my employer, or any other institution.

Excerpt from New York Times story "Gore Voters in Chicago Say It's Time for
Him to Concede":

"Among more than two-dozen Gore supporters, a majority said the vice
president was tarnishing his image by continuing to wage a fight for the
presidency more than two weeks after Election Day. To be sure, some
Democratic voters say the presidency is surely worth a fight.

"But for many of the dispirited Gore supporters, the turning point came when 
the vice president turned to the courts to challenge the Florida vote count, 
a move some scorned as the ultimate litigious gambit in a lawyer-weary 

For complete story, see Click here: The 2000 Election .

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