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Does God's law trump civil law?

July 27, 10:06 PM · Harold Shuckhart - Sioux Falls Atheism Examiner

Dr. George TillerMichael Busch writing in the Op-Ed pages of the July 27th Sioux Falls daily paper, The Argus Leader, says that the murder of Dr. George Tiller, was what Dr. Tiller deserved, since Dr. Tiller had violated God’s law.

Dr. Tiller was a Kansas doctor who performed legal, late-term abortions. In March, Dr. Tiller was acquitted of charges that he had broken a Kansas law requiring a second doctor’s affirmation that the abortion was necessary. Dr. Tiller was 67 and served as an usher at Reformation Lutheran Church. It was in the foyer of this church, this house of God, as it were, that Dr. Tiller was shot and killed.

The suspect arrested for the crime is Scott Roader, 51; of Merriam, Kan. Court records show that a man named Scott Roeder has a criminal record and a person by that name has made anti-abortion postings on sympathetic Web sites.

Whoever shot and killed Dr. Tiller is a Christian vigilante defying the law by placing religious statements above civil law.

Dr. George Tiller was doing what was legal; he was not breaking any civil law. Mr. Busch, in his letter, argues that since Dr. Tiller violated Mr. Busch’s interpretation of the Bible, Dr. Tiller’s murder was justified.

A vigilante is a member of a group organized to suppress and punish crime summarily when the processes of law are viewed as inadequate. A vigilante is a self-appointed doer of justice. Vigilantism is wrong. Mr. Busch, not satisfied with civil law, sets Biblical law as a higher law and condemns Dr. Tiller for that violation. The shooter went further – acting as judge, jury, and executioner, he went to the church Dr. Tiller attended, to the service where Dr. Tiller would usher, and shot Dr. Tiller. The shooter is reported to have pointed his weapon at some bystanders who attempted to detain him. Fortunately, no one else was injured.

The point of this article is not to look into the shooting, but rather to consider the point of view of those who think the shooting was justified by some higher law, some law that trumps civil law.

Mr. Busch seems to believe that America needs a form of Christian Sharia. Sharia is a form of law that evolved following the death of Muhammad. It is law based on the Qur'an and the Sunnah. Because the Qur'an and the Sunnah were written 1400 years ago, many of the ideas are outdated. It may have made sense for nomadic desert dwellers only recently raised from the Iron Age, but much of it does not make sense today. In a society where there was no work for women other than housework and raising children, it may have made sense that a daughter would inherit half as much as her brother – men had more need for the assets, and women would marry and be cared for by their husbands. Applying those rules today, when, even in Muslim countries, women are starting and successfully operating businesses, is not appropriate.

Christian Sharia would be even more dated. Many of the laws the Christian vigilantes would elevate above civil law date from the time of Moses, 3000 years ago. Jesus negated some of these Hebrew Bible laws. Matthew 12:11-12 … "If any of you has a sheep, and the sheep falls into a ditch on the Sabbath day, then you will take the sheep and help it out of the ditch. Surely a man is more important than a sheep. So the law {of Moses} allows people to do good things on the Sabbath day.” (ERV)

Under Christian Sharia wearing clothing made from more than one fabric, for example, a shirt made of cotton and polyester is punishable by death. Having a garden including variety of crops, such as potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, lettuce and squash is also a crime punishable by death. Is a man clean-shaven or has he ever had a haircut? Death, again. These crimes and others are listed in Leviticus.

This is the problem of using the Bible or Qur'an, written millennia ago as a definitive guide for today’s society. Not only do the Christian vigilantes selective apply the Bible, choosing the passages that they agree with and ignoring those that would inconveince them, they want every one else to live by the rules they selected.

We have moved beyond law based only the Bible, at least in most Western nations. Law should be determined based on what will yield the maximum good for the maximum number of people. Those laws change with time – something the Bible and the Qur’an do not do.


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Harold Shuckhart is an Examiner from Sioux Falls. You can see Harold's articles at: ""

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