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Letter: Howard is obliged to uphold the law

Howard is obliged to uphold the law

This country is based on a social contract between its citizens and their government. Basically, in exchange for physical and legal protections from the government, the citizens agree to give that government their support. If the government fails to live up to its obligations, then the people choose a new one. This was the argument for our independence as put forth in a declaration by the founders.

We have a democratic republic, a government of representatives chosen by its citizens and based on the rule of law. That law is the Constitution. Besides paying taxes, the citizens show support for their government by obeying the laws it passes. All the laws, not just the ones they “agree” with, unless and until the laws are repealed or declared unconstitutional by the courts – not by individuals, especially those individuals who swear to enforce the law.

It has been said that President Dwight D. Eisenhower did not especially like some of the decisions of the Warren Court. But when Gov. Eugene Faubus of Arkansas openly defied a unanimous ruling by that court – that the segregation of Little Rock schools was illegal – Eisenhower did his duty as chief executive and enforced that ruling by nationalizing the Arkansas National Guard and sending the 101st Airborne Division to Little Rock.

If Sheriff Timothy Howard feels so strongly that he cannot bring himself to enforce a state law, he should demonstrate his feelings with his resignation. He, like any citizen, is not above the law. Civil society begins to unravel when people decide they don’t need to obey the law. Especially well-meaning individuals who seem to think their interpretation of law supersedes that of elected representatives or the courts.

We already have too many citizens who feel they can ignore laws with the rationalization that they can decide what determines constitutionality of law. This civil disobedience used to be greeted with the understanding that they might go to jail. But when a sheriff, sworn to uphold the law, encourages such belief, civil society is in real trouble.

Mark Cassidy