But if ye be led of the spirit, ye
are not under the law.
In future no official shall put anyone on trial merely on
his own testimony, without reliable witnesses produced for
this purpose. No freeman shall be arrested or imprisoned or
deprived of his freehold or outlawed or banished or in any
way ruined, nor will we take or order action against him,
except by the lawful judgement of his peers and according
to the law of the land. To no one will we sell, to no one
will we refuse or delay, right or justice.
Magna Carta 1215
Christians frequently claim that God's law over-rides
human law. When the two conflict, a Christian is bound by faith
to follow the greater law, God's eternal universal law.
Different denominations have wildly differing opinions as to
what God's eternal universal law actually is. Each has
its own version, so each is prepared to defy the law of the
land for different reasons, often citing Galatians 5:18 to justify
The privilege of sanctuary was abolished centuries ago (in
1623 in England) , but priests and ministers of many denominations
still harbour wrongdoers from the authorities, as though the
law had never been changed. These actions are reported frequently
by the media. Churchmen who do this are never prosecuted, as
others would be, for conspiracy, contempt of court, or perverting
the course of justice. Civil authorities simply turn a blind
eye whenever mainstream Churches break the law.
The Roman Catholic Church regards itself as above the civil
law and is quite prepared to defy the courts when the law of
the land is inconvenient to it. In 1986 in the USA both the
National Conference of Catholic Bishops and the United States
Catholic Conference were held in contempt of court by a federal
judge in Manhattan for refusing to turn over incriminating documents*.
In England Cardinal Basil Hume threatened in 1989 to defy the
court if it did not rule in his favour*.
In Mexico the Constitution of 1917 is routinely ignored and
its provisions flouted by the Roman Catholic Church. Like other
Churches, the Roman Church has provided sanctuary to criminals,
ranging from illegal immigrants to sex criminals and mass murderers.
Catholic priests routinely break the law by withholding information
about serious crimes. They do not enjoy legal rights of confidentiality
such as are extended to lawyers and journalists in Britain,
yet they behave exactly as if they did. In Britain, every citizen
has a duty to disclose treason to the authorities. To fail to
do so is to commit a serious crime. Yet members of terrorist
organisations can freely confess their crimes to Roman Catholic
priests in the certain knowledge that priests will break the
law of the land to protect them, as they are known to have done
in the past*. Throughout
the world priests withhold information from the authorities
if they come by it in the course of confession. It is more than
likely that a host of criminals are walking the streets today
because priests are withholding information from the police.
Priests are committed to do this even if a child rapist, terrorist
or serial killer is likely to repeat his crime or if (as in
the case of treason) the priest is himself committing a crime
by withholding information (canon 983). Roman canon law also
condones the secret celebration of marriage (canon 1130), even
though secret marriages are illegal in many countries.
Priests who are known criminals have routinely been moved from
one country to another by the Church in order to avoid prosecution.
War criminals like the Frenchman Paul Touvier have been protected
from the law by a succession of powerful Roman Catholic churchmen.
Touvier, head of the pro-Nazi militia in France, was tried in
1946 and 1947 and found guilty of war crimes. For 45 years he
escaped justice with the assistance of the Roman Church and
a chain of Roman Catholic sympathisers, who funded him and spirited
him from one monastery to another. Touvier successfully avoided
detection, crossing international borders between France, Italy
and Switzerland, while senior members of the French Church did
their best to obtain a presidential pardon for him*.
His protectors also presided over his illegal marriage. He was
finally tracked down to a Roman Catholic Priory in Nice in 1989.
During the "Troubles” in Northern Ireland Catholic Priests were widely believed (by both sides in the conflict) to have been involved in acts of terrorism. During this time the Roman Catholic Church conspired with the British government to protect Priests suspected of mass murder – the reasoning on the part of the British appears to have been that prosecuting a priest could precipitate further violence. In effect Catholic priests were licensed to carry out criminal acts with impunity. One such conspiracy was revealed by an investigation by the Police Ombudsman's office In Northern Ireland in 2010 (The Hutchinson's report, published on Tuesday, Tuesday 24 august 2010). The NI Police Ombudsman found that the police colluded with the government and the Catholic Church to cover-up the role of a Catholic priest in three bomb attacks in Claudy, County Londonderry on 31 July 1972, in which nine people died. The youngest victim was eight-year-old Kathryn Eakin. No warnings had been given by the bombers. The Priest concerned was Father James Chesney , an active member – in fact a leader – of the IRA's South Derry brigade when it carried out the bombing. The RUC knew that Father Chesney was the head of the IRA in South Derry and believed him to have been directly involved in the bombing. Intelligence information linked him to the Claudy bombing and confirmed that he was the "quarter master and director of operations of the south Derry Provisional IRA". As in other cases of criminal activity by priests Father Chesney was simply invited to move out of the jurisdiction of the country where he had committed his crimes – in this case to County Donegal just over the border in the Irish Republic. Northern Ireland secretary, Willie Whitelaw, met Cardinal William Conway and expressed "his disgust at Fr Chesney's behaviour". "… the cardinal said he knew the priest was a very bad man and would see what could be done." . The Cardinal "mentioned the possibility of transferring him to Donegal", which is exactly what happened - he was given a post at Malin Head in County Donegal. Police investigations into Chesney’s criminal acts had already been frustrated and were now dropped. No effort was made to stop his criminal activities and he "regularly travelled across the border" to Northern Ireland, presumably to continue his terrorist activities. The report confirms that even traces of explosives found in his car were not enough to get him arrested. No action was ever taken against Fr Chesney, who died in 1980. When the report was released Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson said that the British government was "profoundly sorry" that Fr Chesney had not been properly investigated. The Catholic Church issued no such apology.* Indeed the Church was prepared to allow priests who were convicted terrorists to continue their ministry in Holy Orders.*
Many religious sects are known to harbour paedophiles and other
sex offenders. One sect, the Children of God, gained
an international reputation for child abuse in the 1980s, and
conducted a recruiting campaign by offering free sex to potential
recruits. As they said "Unto the pure all things are pure"
(Titus 1:15). Their recruiting campaign was called "Hookers
for Christ". A few members of this sect were prosecuted,
but this was exceptional: sex criminals within the mainstream
churches still generally escape prosecution. Cases were almost
never brought against them until the 1990s. The Roman Church
has concealed numerous cases of child abuse from the civil authorities,
even though serious crimes have been committed (see Clerical
Celibacy on page 477). If abuse has been going on worldwide
at the rates revealed by police and social workers over the
last decade, then over the centuries hundreds of thousands of
priests have sexually abused millions of children without a
single case having been reported to the secular authorities.
The founding fathers of the USA were well aware of how divisive
the mixing of politics and religion had proved in the Old World.
They were also aware of the consequences of the symbiosis between
Church and State, even in England where the secular crime of
treason and the ecclesiastical crime of heresy were almost indistinguishable.
They therefore established the principle that religion and politics
must be kept separate, and that the legislature must stay clear
of penalising or supporting religion. This principle is under
daily attack from Christians throughout the USA, and has already
been subverted. President Eisenhower added the words "under
God" after "one nation" in the US Pledge of Allegiance
in 1954. The phrase "In God We Trust" appears on currency
and official seals*. It
even became the official national motto of the USA in 1956.
President Ronald Reagan declared 1983 to be "The Year of
the Bible". But it is not just a matter of words. Churches
are exempt from property taxes. Christian sects have been granted
other legal privileges that are clearly contrary to the intentions
of the founding fathers and to any straight reading of the Constitution.
For example the government funds parochial schools, despite
the clear intention of the First Amendment that all state education
should be secular*.
Despite the provisions of the Constitution, Christians have
discovered numerous ways to introduce religion into state schools.
Biblical accounts of creation were taught as literal fact until
the Scopes "monkey trial" in 1926 (see page 454) and
are now being taught again in the guise of "creation science"
(see page 276). In 1986 a judge in Tennessee ruled that children
should not be exposed to material that violated the religious
convictions of their parents. This may sound reasonable enough
until one looks at the sort of material that had offended the
plaintiff in the case, a certain Mrs Frost. She had not liked
a story about Leonardo da Vinci, because it mentioned Renaissance
humanism. She had not liked the witches" chorus from Macbeth,
because of the implications of black magic, nor pictures of
children dancing in the moonlight for the same reason. She had
not liked The Wizard of Oz because in it the lion is
told that courage comes from within (and by implication therefore
not from God)*.
As in Europe, many religious groups in the USA routinely ignore
the law of the land. As they have in England and elsewhere,
Quakers have withheld a portion of their taxes corresponding
to the amount used for military purposes. When Mormons were
obliged to abandon polygamy officially, many continued the practice
unofficially, as some still do so. Except in the most exceptional
circumstances, they are no longer prosecuted for bigamy, as
anyone else would be.
Christian ministers escape prosecution because of their religious
office, even when they are self-appointed. Preachers frequently
encourage followers to hand over money with promises that they
have no intention of fulfilling for example promising
that the money will be returned tenfold. If a non-religious
con man did the same thing he would certainly be prosecuted
, but religious con men are not. Pastors are able to call for
the assassination of pretty much anyone they dislike, from doctors
to politicians. If anyone else did this they would be charged
with a crime, but Christian leaders are free to incite murder
at will.*. Again, Christian
judges are able to break the law and flout the Constitution
with impunity. For example Judge Roy Moore of Etowah, Alabama,
continued to insist on reciting prayers with lawyers and juries,
and displaying the Ten Commandments on the wall of his court,
despite superior court rulings that this was unconstitutional.
When instructed to remove the commandments in 1997, the judge
simply ignored the legal authority that he was sworn to uphold*.
The phenomenon is not specifically American. In Germany in 1995
a Constitutional Court confirmed that it was illegal to display
crucifixes on Bavarian classroom walls in state schools. Christian
teachers and Bavarian officials simply refused to enforce the
law. If atheists had insisted on fixing graphic representations
of a tortured, bleeding, dying man on schoolroom walls they
would undoubtedly have been prevented from doing so. If they
had persisted they would have been found guilty of contempt
of court and eventually locked up. But Christians doing the
same thing were able to over-ride the law of the land with impunity.
non-believers, the danger is that there is no limit to what
God's law might be. In the past Jesuits worked out that God
required certain people to be murdered. Fundamentalist Christians
have used similar arguments to justify the murder of physicians
who carry out medical treatments of which they do not approve.
The idea of God's law being superior to human laws is inherently
dangerous as the history of all mainstream Churches,
and their different, and ever-changing, versions of God's eternal
universal laws clearly demonstrate.