Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Liberty and Justice for All--Even Suspected Terrorists

Imagine a suspected ISIS terrorist is caught in your neighborhood. Not only do the police find a van full of weapons and explosives, but there is evidence to suggest that he was going to go on his killing rampage the very next day. Your mind flashes to images of other attacks like those in San Bernardino or at Ohio State University, or the terrible attacks abroad like those in France or Sweden. It makes you sick to think that such terror could have happened in your own backyard.

You want this fear removed as far away from you as possible. You want this suspected terrorist to be dealt with swiftly--locked up for life, or even better, eliminated. That way you never have to fear that he will return to your neighborhood. You know how long the courts take to condemn someone. You can't imagine what the hold up could possibly be, though. The man is Muslim. He posts pro-Islam Facebook articles on his wall. And he had a van full of deadly weapons, for goodness sake!

A thought crosses your mind that you wish the lengthy court process could be skipped all together, and that this terrorist could be dealt with some good ole frontier justice. People strung up on a high tree don't have a chance at escaping custody, after all.

Believe it or not, though, I am thankful for that long court process.

Never before has a nation been built on such a fair judicial system. The balance between judge and jury and the rights of the accused to due process and equal representation was almost if not completely unheard of before America. I am incredibly thankful that if I am accused of a crime, I can't be secretly carted away and dealt with behind the scenes like victims of the German Gestapo were. And I am very, very wary of measures to remove those amazing checks and balances in our judicial system for anyone, even suspected terrorists.

Believe it or not, a lot of these privileges have been removed for suspected terrorists, thanks to the Patriot Act. They may be searched without a warrant, have their property seized as "evidence", and they may be detained without access to a lawyer, hearings, or any formal sentencing. Though I understand the importance of having legislation to allow for quickly neutralizing a terror threat, the Patriot Act clearly takes it too far in that it erodes deeply-seated principles in our constitution like the fifth and sixth amendments (right of due process and trial by jury).

No matter how guilty we think a person is, it is imperative that we uphold the fairness of our judicial system! What happens if the sentiments in our nation change (like they already have been) against conservative Christians?  What if it was deemed child abuse to homeschool your own children, or anarchy to own your own weapon? Wouldn't we want a fair trial, as opposed to our rights being immediately violated on the grounds that we are so dangerous or despicable as to be a "special case"?

If we start cutting the corners in our judicial system now, who knows where it might lead. This does not mean that our courts are coming to "moral" decisions all the time either. There are some crazy decisions our courts are making. Believe me, I am very aware of that. But at least those decisions were made out in the open, through a fair trial that can be reviewed and hopefully criticized. This post is not about the relativistic liberalism that has snuck into our courts, but the importance of the way our courts were established and how they should be upheld. We need to keep the idea of "innocent until proven guilty" in the forefront of our nations psyche, and we need to make sure that the process of proving someone guilty remains just and fair. Let's not let fear drive us to undermine the very system that protects us. Our nation has been founded on liberty and justice for all; let's pledge ourselves once again to protect those ideals! The integrity of the United States of America depends on it.